New Delhi: on a visit to Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh after her re-election in 1980, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stunned the administration by seeking jalebee and mathri for breakfast.
Then District Magistrate Prashanta Kumar Mishra, who later became Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary, says in his just released autobiography that Gandhi visited Mirzapur three or four times during his tenure there.
“Her first visit was absolutely a private one which was communicated to me only in the morning and she was to land in the evening,” says Mr Mishra in the book “In Quest of a Meaningful Life” (Konark Publishers).
“The time was short but nonetheless we succeeded in providing her presentable accommodation at the Asthabhuja Inspection Bungalow. My wife took pains to do the decor of the room where the Prime Minister was to stay.”
According to the author, Ms Gandhi performed a long “puja” at night at the Ashtabhuja temple and then returned to the bungalow.
The next morning, she expressed a desire to have a hot jalebee and mathri with pickle for breakfast.
“I was surprised as I was not prepared for such a demand,” says Mishra, a 1972 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre who has held several prominent positions both at the Centre and in the state during a career spanning 41 years.
As he felt helpless, his tehsildar volunteered to come up with the jalebee and mathri from the Vindhyachal area. “Sir, don’t worry about such a small thing,” he told the perplexed District Magistrate.
“He rushed and procured hot jalebee prepared in desi ghee, mathri and pickle. I heaved a sigh of relief. I was told later that the Prime Minister was happy with the desi (local) breakfast.”
Once when Mr Mishra was going towards the Asthabhuja temple, a “sadhu” (holy man) praised him for ensuring good roads, power connection as well as drinking water facility for pilgrims.
“You are doing good work and I am sure one day you will be the chief of the Uttar Pradesh administration,” he told the District Magistrate.
“I did not take his words seriously and in the din and bustle of administrative life, I entirely forgot about it.
“When in July 2007 I became the UP Chief Secretary, I suddenly remembered the remarks of the ‘sadhu’ which took 24 years to materialise.”
Mr Mishra’s book is packed with anecdotes from his professional life including run-ins with the haughty and corrupt and how he was summarily transferred out of Noida when he cracked the whip on those who had broken the law to grab plots.