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Rediff.com  » News » Farewell Pranabda! India bids adieu to its 13th President

Farewell Pranabda! India bids adieu to its 13th President

July 25, 2017 08:46 IST

As Pranab Mukherjee steps down as President of India, we remember the man, the politician, the Rashtrapati.

IMAGE: A young Pranab Mukherjee...

The future President was called Poltu by his father and elder sister Annapurna Devi.
The story that goes that as a boy in Class 3 or maybe 4, Poltu, on rainy mornings, would bundle his clothes in paper, tuck them under an arm and march off to school bare feet through the fields of his village in Bengal.
'It was perhaps because the schoolboy's mannerisms resembled that of a marching platoon (polton in Bengali), that one of India's most respected politicians acquired his childhood nickname.

IMAGE: Pranab Mukherjee, then finance minister in Indira Gandhi's Cabinet, walks into Parliament to deliver the Budget in 1984.

He began his career as a clerk in the deputy accountant general's office in Calcutta.
He has also worked as a teacher in a Birbhum college and as a journalist for Desher Dak, a Bengali publication.

IMAGE: Pranab Mukherjee tucks into some chicken. Like most Bengalis, he prefers fish.

The quintessential Bengali, Pranabda's favourite meal is fish curry.
Not one for eating out, he eats fish curry almost every day, except Tuesdays.
He is also known to be exceptionally fond of posto or poppy seeds that are ground and cooked with vegetables.

IMAGE: Pranabda is a tireless worker, but knows how to have fun.
In 2014, nearly 80, he visited the Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi in Finland.
What a sight! The Rashtrapati with Father Christmas...
Photograph: Kaisa Siren/Lehtikuva/Reuters

According to his daughter Sharmishta, he works for almost 18 hours a day and hardly takes any leave, except for his visit to Mirati, his hometown, during Durga Puja.

IMAGE: Over the years, President Pranab has met several world leaders.
In 2013, he met Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Photograph: Arthur Edwards/Pool/Getty Images

After his appointment, President Mukherjee rejected 31 mercy petitions including that of Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab.

IMAGE: Barack Obama's 2015 visit as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade may have been all about his bonhomie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the then US president made sure to spend some time with his Indian counterpart at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

The President -- who has reportedly the most prodigious memory in Indian politics -- made history when he taught school children about the nation's political history on the occasion of Teacher's Day, September 5 in 2016.


IMAGE: His love for pipes may not be known to the current generation.
His first pipe was gifted to him by Devkanta Borooah, Congress president during the Emergency, the man who declared that 'India is Indira'.

After he was asked to quit smoking for health reasons, he would keep the pipe in his mouth, without any nicotine, and chew its stem, just to get the feel of it, remembers veteran Bengali journalist Jayanta Ghoshal who has known Mukherjee since 1985.
Mukherjee, who owns over 500 pipes gifted to him by different dignitaries, has donated the collection to the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum.

IMAGE: In 1982, after he delivered the Budget speech, then prime minister Indira Gandhi said of him, 'The shortest finance minister has delivered the longest Budget speech.'
The speech lasted 1 hour, 35 minutes.

In his memoir The Turbulent Years 1980-1996, Mukherjee wrote, 'In much of the post-Emergency period, Sanjay Gandhi has been characterised as a villain, devoid of any good qualities.'
'This animosity and venom against him was to a large extent the result of the euphoria surrounding the Janata Party's creation, a wave of anti-Mrs Gandhi and the divisions in the Congress.'
'Every human being is a mixture of good and bad. However, no one can fault the intentions of guiding Sanjay's decisions whether these pertained to population control, tackling illiteracy or afforestation.'

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