As a 9-year-old I waited for a glimpse of Indira Gandhi and waved to her

Indira Gandhi 

Etched in memory: As a nine-year-old I waited for a glimpse of Indira Gandhi and waved to her

Word had spread that Indira Gandhi would be driving past our house .  I ran out from the Wesley Church Musheerabad premises, where our family stayed. I stayed put on the road. The cops were all over for her security. Why would a nine-year-old’s mind have the inclination and the interest to go out there and wait for her?

Indira Gandhi was to take the road beside Rahat Mahal theatre (now Raja Deluxe) and proceed towards Ramnagar. This was part of the Musheerabad assembly constituency falling under the Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency purview. She had come campaigning for the Congress party in the 1977 general elections.

As a child, I would read the newspapers every day. Perhaps this was because my father Chilkuri Samuel, would engross himself in following the day’s news with much interest. From January 1966 to March 1977, Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India. I was born in January 1968.  So, reading about her in the newspaper was an everyday affair.

The nine-year-old that was me waited for Indira Gandhi standing on the other side of the road where Sagarlal hospital is located. When she arrived in an open top jeep, I caught a glimpse of the Iron Lady. There were several other leaders with her.

While writing this, I confirmed with my second brother-in-law M Anantha Rao, if he remembered Indira Gandhi’s 1977 visit to Hyderabad. His family stayed at Dayara market on the way to Ramnagar. He pointed out that actress Vyjayantimala Bali was also there along with Indira Gandhi. 
A photograph that I saved from the internet, confirmed this.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came out a strong woman from the reports that I had read about her in the newspapers. That admiration stuck.  So when she passed by on the road across the place where we stayed, for me, it was a  feeling of achievement.

Having lost the 1977 polls, in October 1978, the then regime arrested her and put her in jail. After her release from the prison, she only grew in strength. The iron-will she had got her a resounding victory in the 1980 elections bringing her back as Prime Minister.

In the 1980 elections, Indira Gandhi chose to contest from Medak Lok Sabha constituency. She had won from Chikmagalur in Karnataka earlier in a by-election in 1978. In 1977, the strong woman that she was, Indira Gandhi was defeated from the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh. I still remember Raj Narain being hailed as a hero for trouncing her.  Raj Narain in headgear as I saw him in photographs remained vivid.

When Indira Gandhi chose to contest from the Medak Lok Sabha constituency, she arrived at the Begumpet  airport. At that time, I was studying in class 8 at Wesley Boy’s High School, Secunderabad. I was also in the Wesley hostel for about a year. This was opposite Anand theatre (which does not exist now). The hostel premises is now a degree college. This was my chance to see Indira Gandhi again. I waited on the road for her. There were scores of people on both sides of the road to welcome her.  This time around, there was more sympathy for Indira Gandhi. 

She had been put in jail by her opponents. It did not quite matter to the aam janta as to why she was sent to jail. It did not go down well that a woman who was Prime Minister was imprisoned. The caged tiger, as they say, unleashed herself again after she was set free.

Not long after, Indira Gandhi’s motorcade arrived from the Begumpet airport. This time too, she was standing in an open top jeep and waved back to the crowd cheering at her with enthusiasm. I was among the crowd which had lined up along the road.  I was happy to see her.  Indira Gandhi went to Medak.  She won from there and became Prime Minister again in 1980.

October 31, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed - in her own house by her security personnel in Delhi. Only two weeks before the incident, she had visited Hyderabad and consoled the victims of communal violence.

The news of Indira Gandhi’s death was difficult to take. The tragic loss was almost personal. The following year on a visit to Delhi, I saw the place where she was gunned down by her guards and remembered her. Today, is the Indira Gandhi’s 34th death anniversary.  My brother Ch Shyam Rao, an advocate, has more vivid memories of her. As a student, he went to her house in Delhi and has a picture taken with her. 

As for me she’s in my memory.
She is a leader who cannot be forgotten and whose memory cannot be erased.


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