Remembering a Prime Minister and a brutal death

“…I had no love for politics. I treasured the privacy of my family life.”

It was late night on 21st May 1991. General elections were around the corner. Election campaigning was in full swing. We knew that Rajiv Gandhi was going to be at rally in the South of India. In those days there was no 24-hour television and no live coverage of all the political events. We’d hear about campaigning only on Doordarshan news at the appointed hours, and in the newspapers the next day. Dad and mom were watching some program on television. Engineering exams were not far away so I was studying. And then the news was broken. The Prime Minister had been killed in a bomb blast.

Rajiv Gandhi newspaper clipping

I had written to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi after finishing the Std X ICSE exams in the summer of 1986. Writing to people of importance was one of my pastimes. I’d been doing it since I was 9. I would request for the person’s autograph, apart from writing about other things that were relevant to the person. And then I would forget about it. You know, sometimes people reply and sometimes they don’t.

I was not at home when the postman brought the letter. As you can imagine, the postman was very excited to be delivering an envelope from the Prime Minister. That’s all it said about the sender – Prime Minister. It had the “On India Government Service” rubber stamp, and the government Ashoka Pillar stamps affixed for 70ps instead of the normal postage of 50ps (abundant precaution so that it didn’t get returned). And it had the official PM’s seal at the back – the red sealing wax that you melt and then apply to make the envelope tamper proof, and where you forcefully stamp your credentials with a metal engraving before the wax dries and hardens.

Rajiv Gandhi envelope 1986

Well, the Prime Minister did not disappoint. He had signed the letter himself, so I had got the autograph I desired.

He wrote…
“I think age 15 and grade X is the right time to start an acquaintance with current affairs. In fact, the roots of every social problem are invariably embedded either in political or economic factors, and so are the solutions to them. General knowledge will stand you in good stead, especially as you will be pitching into the national effort in a few years.”  

Rajiv Gandhi letter 1986

The roots of every social problem are invariably embedded either in political or economic factors, and so are the solutions to them. – How true this is, especially today.

One thought on “Remembering a Prime Minister and a brutal death

  1. Sanjay M May 22, 2020 / 4:08 pm

    wow really touching letter – very nice of him to reply to your message


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