miércoles, 30 de enero de 2019

Bye George | The Indian Express

Bye George | The Indian Express

Bye George

George and I have lived our lives in politics. Though we ended up in opposing camps, our camaraderie of more than half a century, forged in the blood and iron of peoples’ struggles, was impervious to partisan affiliations.

Bye George Fernandes
George Fernandes during a rally (Express Archive)
My tryst with George, the giant killer, took place in the BEST union office, Bombay, in 1960. The mystique of George would be born there with his victory in 1967 over the Congress czar, S K Patil. It seems ironic that our first encounter should be on my return from the University of Cincinnati. I was a socialist, initiated at 16 by Jayaprakash Narayan, in the presence of my father, Padmaprabha Gouder. But it was only after meeting George that I joined the socialist party of Ram Manohar Lohia.
My last meeting was a couple of months ago, in the presence of his wife, Leila. Unfortunately, he was beyond recognising anyone. I would rather dwell on more pleasant memories. Usha, my wife, and I, were among the few to attend his marriage. They spent their honeymoon in Ananda Mandiram, Puliyarmala, my ancestral home in Wayanad. A fond memory is of a dinner hosted for me by George in Delhi where a woman was present. Towards the end, he revealed that Leila, Humayun Kabir’s daughter, was his fiancée.
George had a sharp tongue. When we met our communist comrades, including General Secretary P Sundarayya in September, 1973, in Delhi to discuss a radical alternative, M Basavapunniah remarked: “George, you are all very young, and we are all too old”. Pat came George’s rejoinder: “The generations are meeting.”
Promode Dasgupta, then West Bengal State Secretary, P Ramamurti and EMS were the other delegates. Prem Bhasin, Madhu Limaye, Ramanand Tiwari, Surendra Mohan and I were those who attended this dialogue. Our contemporaries included Karpoori Thakur, N G Gorai, Madhu Dandawate, Mrinal Gore, G H Patel, Gopal Gowda among others. The aura of George, surpassing all of them, reached its apotheosis with the 1974 railway strike. I remember the response to his motorcade in Kerala. A K Antony had remarked to me: “Are you storming Kerala?” The late socialist Arangil Sreedharan and I translated his speeches. I still recollect the way people used to approach George just to touch him.
At Benares, the Socialist Party of India and the Praja Socialist Party merged. Karpoori became the chairman and George the secretary of the new Samyukta Socialist Party. George offered me the post of treasurer, which I accepted. In 1975, the Emergency was clamped. As convenor of the Left Front in Kerala, I went underground as directed by AKG. George held a clandestine meeting in the late M S Appa Rao’s house in Chennai. I recall George with a beard grown as disguise. Suddenly we were informed that the police was going to surround the house and George was smuggled out on the underside of a car.

George was in charge of the campaign in the Chikmagalur by-election in 1978. Mrs Gandhi was pitted against Veerendra Patil of the Janata Party. In a firing by the police of the Devraj Urs government in Belthangady, Gayathri, a young girl, was killed. George’s eyes were brimming when he bade her a public farewell in an emotion-choked voice.

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