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Granny then, little girl now

Garbeta, Sept. 16: Twenty-six years ago, her grandmother had seen Rajiv Gandhi when the Congress leader visited Midnapore while on a tour of Bengal.

Today, Nilima Sen’s granddaughter Puja, 9, caught a glimpse of Rajiv’s son when he landed in West Midnapore’s Garbeta. A pair of binoculars in her hands, Puja, a Class IV student, had scanned the skies for three hours as she waited with thousands of others to see Rahul. Her uncle, Shankar Sen, had told her Rahul would arrive by helicopter.

“I hurried back from school after classes. I had lunch and then rushed here (Garbeta College Road) at noon to see Rahul,” Puja said.

As the day wore on and the crowd swelled, the little girl grew impatient. Unable to see anything in front of her because of the crowd, she crawled under the barricade and requested policemen to let her cross to the other side of the road where nobody was being allowed to stand as Rahul’s helicopter would land on an adjoining field.

The policemen were initially reluctant but gave her permission seeing she was on the verge of tears.

Around 3pm, the sound of helicopter rotors was heard and the crowd began to cheer. “Rahul Gandhi eshey gachhey (Rahul Gandhi has arrived),” the crowd roared.

“As soon as I heard the sound, I focused through my binoculars and saw a green chopper in the sky. However, Rahul was not in it. But after five minutes, I heard the sound of a second helicopter. After it landed, its orange doors swung open and some people came out. One of them waved at the crowd. It was Rahul. I recognised him as I have seen his pictures in papers,” Puja said.

She said her grandmother had encouraged her to go and see Rahul. “My grandmother had travelled 70km from Garbeta to Midnapore town in 1984 to catch a glimpse of Rajiv Gandhi. Today, she told me to go and see our future Prime Minister,” Puja said.

On October 31, 1984, Rajiv, then a Congress general secretary, was touring the erstwhile undivided Midnapore when he received the news of the assassination of his mother, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.

“My grandmother told me that both Rajiv and Indira had been assassinated. I sincerely pray to God that Rahul remains in good health for ever,” Puja said as Rahul’s helicopter melted into the horizon.

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