All the prime minister's men had kept the schedule "completely free" for PM Manmohan Singh for a little family time in the Big Apple, a day before his birthday yesterday on the plane back home from the US. But that was not to be.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee came calling at 11 am Sunday to brief the boss on the 2G issue or the World Bank-IMF meetings in Washington as both of them would have the world believe.

It was just about noon when Mukherjee left after almost an hour. But then finally it was time for the workaholic statesman, who turned 79 yesterday, to indulge in a bit of celebration with Gursharan Kaur, his wife of 53 years, and two of his three daughters -- Upinder and Amrit. Upinder, a professor of history at Delhi University, who has written six books, had gone out for a spot of shopping with one of her two sons, as dad talked with his finance minister, returned to Manhattan's New York Palace Hotel for the family gathering. Amrit Singh, senior legal officer for national security and counterterrorism, known for her human rights work as staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union earlier, too joined the family for dad's birthday party.

Then it was time for pack up for the flight back home next morning with an overnight halt in Frankfurt after a rare sojourn abroad.

Those who have worked at the PM's Office thought it was rather unusual for Singh to take such a break. If he had his way, he would have left Saturday evening itself after his address to the UN General Assembly that morning.