New Delhi: It was early morning one day in the mid-seventies at the IIT Bombay campus that a student was sprinting down to catch a train.
Manohar Parrikar was in a tearing hurry to reach Dadar Central. His mother was coming to visit and he had to reach the station to pick her up.
But the connecting bus from Vikhroli had left already, and Parrikar’s only option was to change trains from the less well-connected Kanjur Marg station outside the campus.
Parrikar reached the station and discovered there was no one at the ticket window. Left with no option, Parrikar was forced to travel ticketless. As luck would have it, a ticket checker caught up with him at Dadar. No amount of explanations worked, and the IITian had to pay a penalty of Rs 10 as well as the ticket fare.
“An incensed Parrikar vowed to take his revenge,” says his then hostel mate, Arun Kaul. “Parrikar used to say that it wasn’t his fault and yet he was penalised.”
For the next few days, Parrikar travelled ticketless, till he had made up for the Rs 10. “But he did a back-of-the-envelop calculation and realised he had exceeded that amount by Rs 1.25. So, Parrikar actually bought a ticket for that amount and tore it up,” says Kaul.
His revenge against the railways was complete. The former defence minister had a squeaky clean reputation that went back a long way.
He could hold his liquor
The Goa Chief Minister who lost his battle to cancer Sunday was just another student at IIT-Bombay, who would make a beeline for the only restaurant outside the campus that served beer till late at night called RK’s.
His campus mates swear by the fact that Parrikar could drink six bottles of beer till 1 am, walk into the proctor’s residence, and hold a perfectly lucid discussion for hours.
“We once drank 42 bottles of beer between seven of us at RK’s. And Parrikar was the only one who could hold his drink and ring the proctor’s door bell, while we lay sozzled by the Powai lakeside,” says Kaul.
The proctor was a sport and gave a patient hearing to the inebriated Parrikar. He then drove the would-be engineers back to the hostel in his Fiat car.
Considered charming and affable, Parrikar perhaps owes his political career to a hostel rebellion that he once led against the ubiquitous sabudana pakoras served for tea without variation. The obtuse mess secretary brooked no opposition when Parrikar confronted him and insisted on serving them, as was the routine.
Parrikar decided the mess secretary had to be ousted. He drummed up support, asked fellow hostellers to stand for the mess election against the general secretary, and when no candidates were forthcoming, decided to contest the first election of his life.
When Parrikar became defence minister, I accosted him outside South Block with the story. Parrikar chuckled in his characteristic style and, before walking off, said, “I don’t like sabudana pakoras.”
Parrikar could fight the good fight, against pakoras and politics, till cancer outwitted him.
Meetu Jain is a freelance journalist.