Gyan Patnaik,wife of the legendary Biju Patnaik,was 89 and is survived by her two sons,Prem and Naveen and writer-daughter Geeta Mehta. Naveen,who stayed with his mother until he entered politics in 1997,was with her bedside when she died. Naveen had flown to Delhi on Monday to discuss the annual plan of Orissa with deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Though she used to come to Orissa and spend time with Naveen during winter every year,she could not come this time due to illness. Only last month Naveen’s mother was admitted to a Delhi hospital after she was diagnosed with acute pneumonia. Naveen,known as ‘pappu’ by his parents,was more attached to the mother since childhood.
Biju,who was a pilot with the Royal Indian Air Force during World War II,married Gyan,a Punjabi from Lahore in 1938. The flamboyant Biju took the baraat by plane to Lahore for the wedding. She flew with her legendary husband during World War II to rescue Indonesian leader Suharto from Dutch-besieged Java. Though she used to stay in Orissa for a long time,she later restricted herself to their Aurangzeb Road house in Delhi only coming to Orissa in winter. Biju sometimes jocularly referred her as “my winter wife”.
Incidentally,Biju Patnaik never went to the Aurangzeb Road house for the last 20 years of his life till he died in April 17,1997. He breathed his last in the Delhi residence of former union minister Dilip Ray,who was later expelled by Naveen Patnaik from BJD.