He once asked: 'Why is there so much bloodshed in Gandhi's country?'

Published: Dec 07, 2013, 03:21 IST | Debasish Datta |

In 1996, as a journalist covering India's tour of South Africa, I expressed my desire to interview Nelson Mandela to some high-ranking South African cricket officials.

A brief meeting was fixed for 6 am at Terminal 4 of Johannesburg airport where Mandela would board a flight to Zambia.

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

It was pouring and soon I noticed a car approaching the Terminal gate. A tall gentleman in a long raincoat came out of the car. I realised it was him when a volunteer sprinted out with an umbrella.

Mandela sans any security, waved to us where we were waiting. Without much fuss, he obliged me with his views and expressed relief that South Africa was free from apartheid. He hoped that the black and white people would live in harmony and build a new South Africa. “I hope the dark days won’t hit South Africa again,” he said.

He gave me the impression that he was well informed of what was taking place in India. “Why is there so much bloodshed in Gandhi’s country?” he asked. “Have the Indian people forgotten Gandhi’s principles? He was the ideal man for the new born India.”

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