Monday, September 19, 2011

Tiff with Kiran Bedi

Tiff with Kiran Bedi
Sunday, August 01, 2010 AT 06:44 PM (IST)
Tags: Kiran Bedi, Goa
I was a cub reporter in 1983 when Kiran Bedi was posted at Goa as deputy superintendent (traffic). Goa was then chosen as the venue for the Commonwealth heads of governments meeting (CHOGM) retreat. In those days, Goa had very little vehicular movement. Portuguese-built Potto Bridge was the only spot in the Union territory where a constable monitored traffic. Bedi's task was to monitor traffic during the three-day Goa visit of 39 heads of states including Margaret Thatcher, Robert Mugabe, Bob Hawke and the host -- Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Our newspaper had only three reporters -- chief reporter, a senior reporter and I. Crime was one of the many beats I handled. Bedi was among the police officers I met every evening at the police headquarters. Sometimes, she would take me along in her Gypsy for conducting rehearsals, with instructions flowing on a walkie talkie set from Panaji to Dabolim airport and to Fort Aguada beach resort, the CHOGM venue.
CHOGM being a very, very high security event, government offices were to be closed for three days to minimise people's presence on streets. One day, Bedi gave me a press note regarding traffic restrictions during the retreat. As a routine affair, I published the press note. Next day, Bedi asked me to repeat the same press note on three consecutive days. I laughed at her suggestion and told her that newspapers never publish the same press note twice. I told her the same press note can appear umpteen number of times but only as an advertisement.
Bedi pondered for a minute and said she would have a word with my editor. Despite my protests, she almost pushed me into her jeep and took me along to visit the editor. 'Ki khabar,' my editor asked her in Punjabi as we entered his cabin. I was left astonished and sulking when he, without any hesitation, agreed to repeat the press note for three days.
Later, when I protested, he said, "Come on, have a heart! It's not very often that Mrs Gandhi, Thatcher and several other presidents and premiers come for a retreat in Goa. Besides, in your journalist career, you would very rarely find an officer as charismatic as Kiran Bedi. Let's give her some concessions!”
Three decades after the incident, I believe my first editor was very right in his statement as also his judgement.

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