Mandela saved letters from Delhi school students

Students,teachers recall interactions with iconic leader who visited in early 90’s.

Written by Shikha Sharma | New Delhi | Published: December 7, 2013 1:14 am

While lodged in the Robben Island prison,Nelson Mandela would often receive greetings from well wishers across the world. But the ones he cherished the most were always from children.

So,when students from Bluebells school,East of Kailash,sent letters,paintings and poems to the great revolutionary in the 70’s,Mandela not only saved each one of them,but made sure that every one of them was replied to — individually.

And,when he visited India in the early 90’s,it was these children he visited first. As the anti-apartheid hero breathed his last in the early hours of Friday,it was this undying love and affection he had that students and teachers he interacted with still remember him.

“I remember how he ‘requested’ us to meet the students. He said he wants to thank them in person. And how when we went to Rashtrapati Bhavan,he not only accepted every student’s gift and thanked them separately,but also carried the gifts himself,” says Suman Kumar,Principal,Bluebells School,recollecting Mandela’s first visit in the 90’s.

Over the course of the years,children from the school would also visit South Africa at the leader’s insistence. “I’ve not seen so much humility in one person. I remember when we visited Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet him,the children were standing at the back because all the adults had occupied the front seats. He told the adults to sit at the back,so the children could sit right next to him,” Kumar recollects.

And even though it has been many years since the meeting,students and teachers still hold fond memories of the interaction. “At a lavish banquet in the capital,our students sang songs in Zulu for him. He shook hands with every student he met that day,” recalls Jyoti Bose,Principal,Springdales Dhaula Kuan.

“It’s been so many years,and I have met so many people,but it’s not every day you meet someone who shapes your thinking. Meeting him was a special moment,one that changed me for the better,” says Arindam Basu,an alumnus of Springdales Dhaula Kuan.

“Sometimes,I wonder if the trajectory of my life would have been different had I not read ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’. I’ll always owe that much to him,” says Sudekshan Pillai,now a lawyer by profession.

It’s no surprise then that as the world mourns the iconic leader’s death,those whose lives he touched also mourn the loss. So,while the annual day at Springdales,Dhaula Kuan,started out with a 2-minute silence,Bluebells School is scheduled to have a memorial service in his honour soon.

President may attend funeral on Dec 15

NEW DELHI: The government on Friday was exploring the possibility of President Pranab Mukherjee attending Nelson Mandela’s funeral on December 15. PM Manmohan Singh’s attendance was also being considered,but it is unlikely that he will go as the winter session is underway,sources said. The Ministry of External Affairs said India will be represented by a “very high-level” delegation. ENS

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