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State of Emergency (1975-1977): Witness to an episode
Mr K joined our company as an editor of our staff magazine, having earlier worked with Dock Workers Union, Bombay. A well read man and a free thinker, he brought to our company, sensitivity towards our underdogs, the peons, drivers and workers.

His approachability and outgoing nature endeared him and cut through the entire hierarchy of the firm. He was also a passionate Sunday painter. He rose to be General Manager and later Director, Human Resources.

He never fitted the stereotype of a union leader, nor had he the gloss of a corporate executive. He was his own man and was a compulsive sketcher. Whether talking one-to-one with an employee or attending serious board meetings, he was quietly penning away at his note pad. Not that he did not partake in the discussion actively, but came out with his own valuable out-of-the-box insights. At the end, he would tear out the page from his pad, and present you with your sketch, duly autographed. All of us had been presented with our caricatures!

In the company, it was not widely known that he had been a school mate of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Gwalior and also his roommate at the college in Kanpur. He had also been a close colleague and friend of George Fernandes, the fiery socialist leader, when both worked at Bombay Port. George Fernandes hit the national headlines, as 'George the Giant Killer', when George defeated the Congress strongman, SK Patil.

I had gone on work to Bangalore and was staying at the Ashoka Hotel. When I woke up on the morning of 25th June 1975, I found no newspaper at the doorstep. Usually when going down for breakfast, we would stop by at the Press Trust of India's teleprinter in the hotel lounge, to see the news as it rolled in. I couldn't comprehend what I was reading! In the coffee shop all guests were in animated discussions, speculating what would happen next!

Soon we found out, that:

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had declared Emergency across the country because of 'internal disturbances'. Election results had been suspended. Civil liberties were curbed. Among other horrors, forced mass-sterilisations became order of the day. 'Vijayaraje Scindia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Raj Narain, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, JB Kripalani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Arun Jaitley, SN Sinha, Gayatri Devi (the dowager queen of Jaipur) and other protest leaders were immediately arrested. Organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Jamaat-e-Islami along with some political parties were banned'.

On my return to Bombay, I was aghast to learn, that our dear colleague Mr K had been arrested. There was a midnight raid at his residence in Bandra's Land's End. He was guilty of sheltering the popular socialist leader, Mrinal Gore. She had become very popular in the thirsty slums, as 'paani wali bai', for having captured the popular imagination with her success in bringing water connections to some slums in the suburbs.

Our company not only kept Mr K on the payrolls for the entire period of Emergency, but also continuously reached medical supplies, books and rolls of drawing paper and paint material, to him.

In the meanwhile, George Fernandes also went underground. Eventually, George was arrested in Calcutta and tried in the Baroda Dynamite Case. He had been moving around like a Sikh, with turban and beard! When in Tihar jail, George taught Bhagavad Gita to the inmates.

While his friend George was teaching Gita in the prison, our Mr K was busy getting to know murderers, dons and pickpockets. He gained deep insights into the minds of criminals and their family backgrounds, etc. He produced a rich collection of sketches of prisoners, and the sombre moods of prison walls, shadows and prison bars. The way he had seen prison life, possibly no one else had!

Perhaps, Mr K was the only senior executive of an MNC, who was put behind bars during Emergency. His only crime having been of harbouring Mrinal Gore at his home!

Of course, Viren Shah, MD of Mukund Iron and Steel, was also put behind bars, charged with smuggling dynamite and blowing up tracks. He later became Vice-President of BJP. And later, Governor of West Bengal!

Mr K was set free when the Emergency was lifted in 1977. Thereafter, he held a one-man show of his sketches, titled 'Prison bars' at the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, Bombay.

Though he had been supplied all sorts of paint material, he chose to sketch only with charcoal, to evoke the 'darkness' of prison life and sometimes its glimmer of hope, when for a moment or two a few beams of sunlight steal over the prison walls and cross the prison bars!

When he retired, he presented me one of his paintings of Mother Teresa.

Today, at 90 plus, he retains his freedom of choice. A spirit, which could never be shackled by convention! In a blog in 2013 he wrote:

"I detested the way they (Tehelka) treated George Fernandes when he was Defence Minister. George was my friend. We worked together in the Dock Workers Union when he was 19 and I was 25. We shared a room. I didn't like his politics but continued to like him personally."

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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