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A puny news item, tucked in an inside page, concerning the outcome of the Lok Sabha poll in a particular Bihar constituency, releases a floodgate of memories for Ashok Mitra, writing in the Telegraph:
...a brash young man — he too hailing from South Canara — arrived in Bombay in search of a future. He did not do very well in the examinations. Still, he was a voracious reader and had gulped down gallons of socialist literature. His natural gift of the gab apart, he had an astounding flair for picking up languages. Within a year of his arrival in Bombay, he was heard haranguing assorted crowds, consisting mostly of the working class, in Kannada, Tulu, Konkani, Marathi, Hindustani, Gujarati and English. The young man, George Fernandes, was gathered in by Placid D’Mello, who taught him the rudiments of trade union grammar. George was a fast learner. D’Mello died within a couple of years. By then George had not only taken charge of Bombay’s dockside, he was also eyeing other areas where his skills as an eyeball-to-eyeball negotiator could be expected to fetch dividends. The message spread across the metropolitan city: here was a whiz-kid who was going to usher in a paradise of bargaining benefits to the workers.
Read the full piece at the Telegraph