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Posted at: Nov 5, 2017, 1:24 AM; last updated: Nov 5, 2017, 1:57 AM (IST)

Crown Prince of Bhutan melts hearts in India

From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to President Ram Nath Kovind, none could keep away from Prince Jigme’s charm
Crown Prince of Bhutan melts hearts in India

By K. Natwar Singh

The visit of their Majesties, the King and Queen of Bhutan, would have largely gone unnoticed, but for the enchantment provided by the 20-month-old Crown Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck. He appeared confident and sure footed in his national dress, black socks and tiny black shoes. First he entranced Shushma Swaraj, the Minister for External Affairs, at Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Next he called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his parents. Modi could not take his eyes off the Prince, who was not overawed by the PM who gave him a rubber football. The PM bent down to greet the Prince with closed palms. The Prince reciprocated by putting his princely closed palms together. Next came his meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind. By that time Prince Jigme got tired and got into his father's lap.

During his busy schedule, not once did he threw a tantrum or hide behind his mother as most children of his age do. His sangfroid was amazing. Here we saw a future king in the making.

His parents are an exceptionally good looking couple. I first met Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in Oxford, nearly a dozen years ago. He was a student and stunningly handsome. His father gave up the Bhutan throne to place his son on the throne.

Bhutan is the ultimate Shangri-La in the Indian sub-continent. Do visit Thimpu, the capital. You will not be disappointed.

One of most enjoyable, honest and beautifully written biographies is Sarvepalli Gopal's biography of his philosopher father, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. In the first paragraph of the first chapter of the book, Gopal writes with exceptional forthrightness about his father's parents - Sarvepalli Veeraswami and his mother Sitamma…. “More important is the doubt whether Veeraswami's father-parental responsibility lay, according to a village rumour, with an itinerant Vaishnavite official. Sitamma's brother, who served in the local administration, was thought to have arranged the rendezvous to oblige a superior official. Credence is lent to the story by the difficulty in believing that Radhakrishnan and his four brothers and sister belonged to the same genetic pool. Intellectual endowment and physical appearance both suggested that Radhakrishnan belonged to a different stock. Radhakrishnan himself accepted this version and critical of his mother's conduct, throughout her long life, kept het at a distance. But he was attached to the man who posed for his father.”

Through Gopal, I had the privilege to come close, but not too close to his father. In July 1961, I was operated to get rid of my appendix in the safdarjung Hospital. On the third day, to my utter surprise I saw Vice-President Dr Radhakrishnan walking into my room, accompanied by Gopal. The visit bucked me up. More importantly, to this day I recall that visit with pride. Here was the great Radhakrishnan coming to look up an undersecretary in hospital.

S. Gopal and I became lifelong friends. He was the most admired and respected historians of his time. He passed away in 2002, a few months short of his 80th birthday. In 2013, his collected essays were published. The editor of the book was Srinath Raghavan.

Next week, Himachal Pradesh goes to the polls. Virbhadra Singh is to take on the BJP. He has been Chief Minister six times - a record. Inevitably there are hectic speculations about who will win. Much as I would like Virbhadra to win, I am afraid the odds are against him. I hope I am wrong.

It appears that the ruling establishment is allergic to “family planning.” I don't recall anyone in the Modi set-up ever emphasing the crucial and vital importance of family planning. We are also at the mercy of two major communities. The Scheduled Castes and the Muslims are against family planning. The other day, a thoroughly outrageous suggestion was made by Shri X that the Hindus should have more children to keep the minorities in their place. The likes of him sit on a conveyor belt which is in reverse gear.

On October 31 was Indira Gandhi's death anniversary. A function is held each year at her Samadhi at Raj Ghat to remember her. The attendance is, unfortunately, shrinking. At this year's Samadhi function, Sonia Gandhi was absent. How ill is she?


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