The first Congress session I attended was at the Lloyd's Recelmation Ground, where I believe the present Wankhede Stadium stands. It was my first experience of the Congressmen and the impression they made on me was that of rather large men lolling on white mattresses and bolster pillows.
The second time, I was more aware of the importance of the Congress. The session was held at the Shnmukhananda Hall organised by Mr. S.K. Patil, like Mr. Murli Deora and Mr. Moti Daryanani are organising it now.
The Shanmukhananda Hall had just been opened and Mr. Patil had enough influence (he was a very influential man) to comandeer it for the Congress. Since it was still to be air-conditioned, he ordered tons of ice, put the ice blocks in the ventilation shafts, and blew air on them through scores of fans. For the newspapers, and the citizens of Bombay it made as good a story as the present toilet seats at Mahalaxmi.
Mr. K. Kamaraj presided over the session. This was during the time when so many ministers were kamarajed (sort of forced to retire from politics), later Mr. Kamaraj himself was to be Kamarajed. Mr. Nehru was there, but he was in the last stage of his life.
It is my impression of Nehru that remains about this session of the Congress. Throughout, while other Congressmen (women) loled on the white mattresses, he sat in chair in one corner of the stage an almost tragic and lonely figure looking distinctly disillusioned, like a brooding hamlet. The chair he was given was one of those wedding chairs that Indian couples sit on at their wedding receptions. Jitendra Arya, my goo friend and India's greatest portrait photographer, took a picture of the tragic Nehru and in my opinion the best picture ever taken of anybody by Mr. Arya.
There was a third session at the Azad Maidan. Mrs. Gandhi was the Prime Minister and already she was getting a little irritated, upset, annoyed.
Azad Maidan was dug up for the session, large trenches for the lavatories and the kitchen gar bage heavy pole sunk into the earth for a giant shamina. But nobody complained, since the Azad Maidan is always dug up.
My impression of that session is Mr. Jagjivan Ram riding in a bullock cart from Dadar T.T. to Azad Maidan for the opening of the session. Actually, it was quite logical, Mr. Ram was the president of the Congress and the bullock cart was the Congress's symbol.
And now Mr. Jagijivan Ram is coming back to Bombay to rejoin the Congress. Amen.