Rajen Garabadu is Chief Executive Producer - IBN18 Network.
While returning to Delhi from Goa yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to find the chief minister of Goa, BJP's Manohar Parrikar, on the same flight. No, this isn't the first time I was on board with a CM, a senior minister or a politician. But what I saw - right from the time he boarded the aircraft till the moment he exited the airport building at New Delhi - impressed me so much that it has stayed with me till now and has made me write this piece.
I tried to remember when was the last time I saw a CM or a senior political leader of Mr Parrikar's stature queuing up like a common man to board a flight. No flunkeys, no security, no attendant, carrying his own luggage - and he was flying economy on a low-cost carrier, not first-class on a full services airline. He wasn't the last to enter the flight nor was the flight held up for him to arrive.
He walked into the Go Air aircraft like any average passenger, almost unnoticed, and well in time. Like everyone else, he queued at the gate, boarded the bus, and climbed into the plane when his turn came. He didn't sit in the first row which has become the exclusive preserve of the high and mighty on flights that have no first class. He quietly slipped into row three (or was it row four) and sat there without any fuss. I think most people on the aircraft didn't realise who he was and therefore no attempt was made to mob him or try and catch his attention.
The cabin crew spent no more time attending to him than they did to any other passenger.
When I shared this with a colleague who was travelling with me, he said, "I am sure the airline would have left the seat next to him unoccupied or his office would have booked two seats so that he is not disturbed." But when I went to attend to nature's call, I realised on my way back that this was not the case. All seats in his row were occupied and absolutely no special privilege seemed to have either been demanded or offered. Yes, he did have an aisle seat - as did two people in every row.
When the flight landed in Delhi, he wasn't the first to get off it. Usually, it is only when the VIP is ushered into a special car waiting for him at the tarmac (with a suitable red light mounted on the roof of the car), that the other passengers are allowed to deplane. In this case, neither was he the first to disembark, nor was there a car waiting. Nobody came to receive him on the tarmac and he boarded the same bus which took all other passengers to the airport terminal. Again, he carried his own luggage (two pieces) right up to the car which came to fetch him.
While in the bus, a couple of co-passengers did recognise him and began to chat with him. The conversation which followed left me in no doubt that he was not just a gentleman but very understated in his demeanour. Dressed in a simple but formal shirt and trousers and black sandals, he didn't look or sound like a typical politician. Having worked in the news business for a while, I did know that he is the first IIT-ian to head a state government in India. I had also heard that he was trying to clean up the murky world of Goa politics. But what I observed first-hand left me pleasantly surprised.
I am not a resident of Goa and therefore not in a position to cast my vote for Mr Parrikar - in a political sense. But purely from a personal standpoint, he has my vote for the kind of person he seems to be.
I had gone to Goa to attend the Network18 Leadership Meet and I learned my last lesson of leadership this weekend watching Mr Parrikar from a distance.
Mr Parrikar, take a bow!