Man And Moment
At Calcutta international airport, while we wait for the much-delayed Bangladesh Biman flight to take off, my mind goes back to my first-ever encounter with Dr Manmohan Singh—which was at this airport. I was a junior external affairs officer charged with ensuring relief supplies to Bangladesh to enable them to take back their refugees. Over the next few months, I found myself increasingly drawn into the architecture of our economic relationship with our newly liberated neighbour. One of the steps I took was the establishment of a joint study group on jute and since the economic advisor to the commerce ministry had made his name with his doctoral thesis on international trade in jute, I had asked Dr Singh to kindly head the team from our side. I had not, however, personally met him; so was quite excited about making his acquaintance in the transit lounge while we awaited our connection to Dhaka. With the enthusiasm of youth, I enquired whether he had seen the brief I had delivered to his home in Model Town on the outskirts of Delhi University. With that look of sour annoyance I was to get to see so often in later life, he said, No, he had not. I realised then that I had delivered the top-secret brief to the wrong Manmohan Singh—refugees of that name being rife in Model Town! So when my immediate boss, Peter Sinai, and I returned to Delhi, we rushed out to Model Town and a very old man came out doddering and shaking, the envelope unopened, proclaiming his innocence and wondering who was conspiring to get him involved in “gorment bijness”.