#blog

For Me He Will Always Be The VIP Next Door Who Never Behaved Like One

VIP Next Door

“I am glad I had the opportunity to have a peek in to an important aspect of a man who is held in awe, admiration and respect by so many,” writes Dr A L Sharada on how our late PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee touched the lives of people in small ways with genuineness and humbleness.

In a country where you are fined for not giving way to a VIP’s motorcade on a narrow road where there is no scope for two vehicles to pass, any experience of a VIP showing sensitivity and humbleness is bound to remain etched in memory. It was in 1993 that we shifted to La Place in Hazratganj, Lucknow. We were told by our neighbours that Mr Vajpayee has a flat in the next block in the same complex. We were thrilled to be his neighbours and then we were ….petrified imagining the nuisance of having a VVIP as a neighbour. The thought of VIP security and restrictions was scary.

Then one day he came to stay in his flat for a few days with a big retinue of security personnel. We all ran to the balconies to see him.  He was clad in his typical Dhoti and looked so unassuming. However, in spite of the security people being all around the complex never were we stopped from taking our cars and scooters out. Often the children would go and talk to the security personnel fascinated by their big weapons. Mr Vajpayee was not a hero for them but the security personnel definitely were.

He was clad in his typical Dhoti and looked so unassuming. However, in spite of the security people being all around the complex never were we stopped from taking our cars and scooters out.

One evening as we were taking a walk in the complex the current went off and we saw Mr Vajpayee entering the complex with his entourage. We were expecting him to leave immediately as the lift was not working and it was dark. To our surprise, he got down without any fuss and started strolling slowly in the car park making conversation with  children playing in the open space. No security running here and there to get him a chair or whisk him away to a safe place. The image of him talking to the children on a dark night, leisurely strolling in a middle-class neighbourhood, like any grandfather would do, was so precious we all talk about it even today.

The image of him talking to the children on a dark night, leisurely strolling in a middle-class neighbourhood, like any grandfather would do, was so precious we all talk about it even today.

I was tempted to go and talk to him but I hesitated because I was not a child who did not know who he was. I regret it till today. I don’t know how the conversation would have gone if I really had the courage to go and speak to him. But I am glad I had the opportunity to have a peek in to an important aspect of a man who is held in awe, admiration and respect by so many.

Today, when we are bidding a final adieu to him, maybe it is time for all of us to remember that we need to be rooted and connected with people irrespective of where we have reached in our professions and lives. Touching people’s lives in small ways with genuineness and humbleness leaves memories which are cherished. He may be remembered by others for his oratory, poetry statesmanship, etc. but for me, he will always be VIP next door who never behaved like one.

Dr A L Sharada is the Director of Population First. The views expressed are the author’s own.