This happened in Dec 2006
What struck me most when I first heard Governor S S Barnala speak at a ‘Face to Face with the Governor’ organised at the Raj Bhavan for the members of the Duchess Club a couple of months ago, was his simplicity and humility. He began his address by relating his humble background, his education and career thereafter and how he was inspired to join the freedom struggle, and his days of imprisonment. When one of the members asked how he felt during his confinement, he said, since he had no one to talk to, he would talk to himself – he would say, “Hello Barnala, how are you, have you had your lunch?” and so on. That conversation with himself would humour him and keep his spirits high. He said he was interested in painting and writing.
The second time I met Shri Barnala was a few days ago when he inaugurated the dance and music festival at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore. After the inauguration was over and before the performance on saxophone by the artistes began, I had an opportunity to snatch a few moments with the Governor when I said I was an alumni of the Bhavan’s college and that I had written a book titled ‘Madras Mosaic’ and that I would like to give him a copy. Come to the Raj Bhavan, he said, and when I gave him my visiting card, he had one look at it and placed it in his pocket. (This was in contrast to my experience when I had met a few Governors earlier to Shri S S Barnala, where I was asked to give my card to the ADC.)
Having fixed an appointment for the first December, I met Shri S S Barnala during the forenoon. I showed him the press clippings of my book launch and the reviews and I was happy to notice that he went through some of them. There was also a letter written at the instance of Mrs Galbraith thanking me for sending her a copy of my book (she had sent her book to me years ago). Probably that prompted the Governor to ask whether I had read his book, ‘Quest for Freedom’. When I nodded my head, he said a Tamil translation was available in the book shops but I said I cannot read Tamil. He asked one of the staffers to bring a copy in English and autographed it and gave it to me. He said it was always nice to keep writing.
Do you want a photograph? he asked. I felt delighted and said I would be happy. When he thought I was done, I said I wanted another photograph where he was giving me a copy of his book and he smiled. Click went another and I took leave of him thanking him for sparing his time. Please read my book, I said as an afterthought.
Yes, if there is time, he said.
Here was a Governor, who was both an artist and an author and a personification of simplicity, I thought. I came back hoping that he will be able to find some time to go through the slim volume of mine.
N Meera Raghavendra Rao