Saturday, 1 September 2007

Meeting with Sonia Gandhi

Sonia on the left, and a clean-shaven Bob on the right

"Life is meeting," wrote Sir John Hunt. When you work for a major humanitarian organisation, you get opportunities to meet famous people. Some you remember vividly, others you forget. The four that stand out in my mind are Indira Gandhi, Bill Clinton, Sonia Gandhi and President Karzi, President of Afghanistan.

I met Bill Clinton in Ahmedabad, India after the huge earthquake that affected Gujarat. He was in a very relaxed mood when he joined a group of us to discuss how his new organisation could help the affected people. His inquiring mind, pithy questions and ability to quickly distill the key facts from a barrage of people trying to impress him, were the qualities I remember.

Purely by chance, I met Indira Gandhi in March 1975, as a young man en route to Nepal from Vietnam. I had a 24 hour stop in Delhi and sadly, Padmaji Naidu died just before my arrival. She had been a mentor to Indira Gandhi and had a huge influence on her life. As Padmaji was President of the Indian Red Cross, Indira wanted someone from the Geneva headquarters to attend. As I was coincidentally passing through Delhi, I was met and whisked away to buy white clothing, the colour for mourning in India. A few hours later I arrived at the funeral service and Indira Gandhi took me by the hand, thanked me for coming, and I was next to her throughout the ceremony.

Sonia Gandhi was different from her Mother in Law. More reserved and part of a dynasty which has fascinated India and the world for over 75 years. I met her on the 10th of May 2005.

It was with a sense of awe I waited with my colleagues in the ante-chamber that had photos of Sonia's late husband Rajiv Gandhi, his Mother Indira, and her father Nehru. There was a touching family photo of Sanjay and Rajeev Gandhi wearing shorts with their Mother Indira, and Grandfather Nehru. The only photo that was not part of the dynasty, but a key figure in Indian history, Mahatma Gandhi.

We were invited into a huge library and this very attractive lady, immaculately dressed in a blue Shalwar, warmly welcomed us. Books lined every wall and there were four large models of sailing ships on top of the book shelves. I recognised one as an "East Indiaman" which carried tea from India to Great Britain. My good friend Murli Deora, the then Vice President of the Indian Red Cross and now Minister of Petroleum, told her about the extensive work the Red Cross had done for those affected by the earthquake in Gujarat some years earlier, and the work we were doing then for the victims of the Tsunami. She showed deep knowledge of the Red Cross. After a group discussion with her, I had a one to one talk with her about the work her daughter was doing with a young Afghan friend of mine, for slum dwellers in Delhi. She smiled, as only a mother can, with pride, when hearing about her daughter. She came cross as caring, deeply concerned and warm.

I met her daughter Priyanka twice. She is a remarkably strong and focussed young women. We were discussing ways she could help promote the work of the Red Cross in South Asia.

Hamed Kazai, President of Afghanistan is another man that leaves a strong impression on you. I met him in mid 2003 in Kabul. A humble man with a huge responsibility on his shoulders as he tries to bring some semblance of stability to a war-torn country. Tall, handsome, dignified and sharp, he speaks with conviction and clarity on the future of his country.


oakleyses said...

nike free, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet store, tory burch outlet online, coach outlet store online, longchamp handbags, michael kors outlet online sale, polo ralph lauren, michael kors handbags, louis vuitton, prada outlet, ray ban outlet, burberry outlet online, nike air max, coach purses, coach outlet, nike outlet, chanel handbags, true religion outlet, christian louboutin shoes, red bottom shoes, gucci handbags, coach outlet, louis vuitton outlet online, tiffany and co jewelry, michael kors outlet online, oakley vault, cheap oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton handbags, nike air max, prada handbags, true religion, louis vuitton outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, longchamp outlet, louis vuitton outlet, tiffany jewelry, kate spade outlet, burberry outlet online, christian louboutin outlet, jordan shoes, christian louboutin, kate spade outlet online, longchamp outlet online, michael kors outlet

oakleyses said...

air max pas cher, hollister, longchamp pas cher, converse pas cher, ralph lauren, nike air max, air jordan, sac vanessa bruno, abercrombie and fitch, scarpe hogan, sac michael kors, louis vuitton uk, michael kors canada, new balance pas cher, ray ban pas cher, nike roshe, hermes pas cher, true religion outlet, ralph lauren pas cher, tn pas cher, nike free, vans pas cher, north face, nike roshe run, nike air force, nike air max, hollister, sac louis vuitton, burberry pas cher, oakley pas cher, michael kors uk, ray ban uk, mulberry uk, north face pas cher, chaussure louboutin, guess pas cher, louis vuitton, nike blazer pas cher, air max, barbour, lululemon outlet online, lacoste pas cher, timberland, longchamp, louis vuitton pas cher, true religion jeans, nike free pas cher

oakleyses said...

bottega veneta, ugg boots clearance, north face jackets, herve leger, wedding dresses, insanity workout, jimmy choo shoes, soccer jerseys, ugg outlet, mcm handbags, beats headphones, canada goose outlet, chi flat iron, ferragamo shoes, ghd, ugg, canada goose outlet, uggs outlet, asics shoes, giuseppe zanotti, nike trainers, longchamp, soccer shoes, vans outlet, p90x workout, valentino shoes, north face jackets, mac cosmetics, mont blanc pens, nike huarache, babyliss, abercrombie and fitch, replica watches, uggs on sale, celine handbags, new balance outlet, reebok shoes, canada goose outlet, nike roshe, marc jacobs outlet, ugg boots, hollister, ugg outlet, birkin bag, canada goose, lululemon outlet, ugg soldes, instyler ionic styler, nfl jerseys

oakleyses said...

iphone 6 case, timberland shoes, louis vuitton canada, nike air max, moncler outlet, toms outlet, hollister, air max, moncler, canada goose, pandora charms, pandora uk, hollister canada, oakley, louboutin, converse, ralph lauren, wedding dress, ray ban, swarovski jewelry, baseball bats, parajumpers outlet, pandora jewelry, canada goose, gucci, moncler, thomas sabo uk, ugg, montre femme, canada goose pas cher, vans, uggs canada, swarovski uk, juicy couture outlet, canada goose, lancel, converse shoes, hollister clothing, coach outlet, links of london uk, moncler outlet, replica watches, karen millen, moncler, supra shoes, moncler, juicy couture outlet, moncler