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3-min read

The Day Strong Winds, Rain Tried Playing Spoilsport But Couldn’t Deter Arun Jaitley From His Resolve

Indian Parliament and politics will be poorer without Mr. Jaitley. It's a void which can never be filled.

Rajen Garabadu | CNN-News18GarabaduRajen

Updated:August 26, 2019, 12:17 PM IST
The Day Strong Winds, Rain Tried Playing Spoilsport But Couldn’t Deter Arun Jaitley From His Resolve
Illustration by Mir Suhail.

Rarely do we witness such outpouring of grief and lavish words of praise and admiration across leaders of political parties towards a politician as we did when news broke that former Union Minister Arun Jaitley has passed away.

He seemed to have connected with people in a manner very few do. It is said he is not a mass leader given that he never won an assembly or Lok Sabha election. As a student leader, he had successfully contested polls and became the President of the Delhi University. His leadership qualities, demonstrated over decades in public life, were next to none but he was still not perceived as a mass leader.

Everyone has a Jaitley story. I had the opportunity to watch him both on and off-camera several times but there are two occasions which remain firmly etched in my slowly depleting memory.

The first was when Mr Jaitley visited the TV18 office as part of the Friday Guest Speaker series where our network invited an inspiring leader for a freewheeling chat off-camera. Usually, this interaction was recorded but never televised. Mr Jaitley was visiting us as an opposition leader and was unhesitantly candid in answering questions, however tough they were. In an era when anything can be shared on social media instantly, he could have diplomatically ducked the questions if he wished to but he didn't. He came across as someone who could defend the indefensible and that's how I will always remember him.

The second incident was in the summer of 2019 after he had returned from the US where he was being treated for a serious medical condition. It was the first episode of Network18's general election special series, Rajneeti, where Mr Jaitley was interviewed jointly by Amitabh Sinha and Marya Shakil. Since all indoor interviews look pretty much similar, I wanted an outdoor setting. Our request for using the back lawn of his official quarters was agreed to and we were allowed to set up three hours before the interview began.

Mr Jaitley was taking his customary morning walk around the garden while our crew was setting up for the interview. He looked very frail and walked very slowly and seemed a pale shadow of what he used to be a few years ago. But when the interview began, his intellect was still razor-sharp and his memory undiminished over the years. It was remarkable how quickly he grasped each question and how succinctly he articulated every answer.

During the course of the interview, the weather played truant and a perfectly sunny day was engulfed in dark clouds in a few minutes, accompanied by strong winds and rain. The winds came hard on our makeshift production enclosure where we had masked cloth using light cutter stands to allow us a clear view of the camera monitors.

A few of our colleagues from our operations team had to physically hold the rods from toppling over, such was the intensity of wind. Like any producer would, I prayed silently to the almighty to blow away the clouds till the end of our interview. But that was not to be. It started drizzling and it showed no sign of abating.

Mr Jaitley was unmoved and his staff kept observing his expression carefully, waiting for the first sign of discomfort to move in to protect him from rain. But he was unperturbed and went on to deftly handle every question thrown at him. Finally, it was our journalist Amitabh Sinha who gestured to Mr Jaitley's staff to bring in an umbrella. If Amitabh had not done that, Mr Jaitley would have sat through the interview half drenched. It was clear how nothing else matters when Mr Jaitley gets going.

After the interview was telecast, Mr Jaitley spoke to Marya Shakil, complimenting our network for making his garden look so good on camera. He told her how all his interviews were always shot indoors and he never realised how beautiful the outdoors could be on television.

Indian Parliament and politics will be poorer without Mr. Jaitley. It's a void which can never be filled.

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