Shri Gopal Krishna Gandhi was the governor of West Bengal between 2004 and 2009. The state of West Bengal was privileged to have him as the governor not only because of his illustrious lineage, being the grandson of such eminent personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari, but also because of his statesmanship and erudition. His translation of Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy into Hindi and his play in verse titled Dara Shukoh are prominent among his accomplishments. During his tenure as West Bengal’s governor he frequented many literary and cultural events in the state and mingled with the public. So when I went to Nandan for Amartya Sen’s lecture on “The Idea of Justice”, he was there in the audience. When I went to Oxford Bookstore for the launch of Sunetra Gupta’s novel So Good in Black, he was there to get his copy signed by the novelist. The governor was widely appreciated for his easy accessibility and friendly demeanor.
Now the governor also happens to be the chancellor of the state’s aided universities. So when in January 2006 I got myself registered as a doctoral researcher in Calcutta University, I was thrilled to have Shri Gopal Krishna Gandhi as my university’s chancellor. I hoped that on completion of my PhD, I will be conferred the doctoral degree at the convocation from the hands of the person I so much admired. Time passed. My research work progressed. And in November 2009 I submitted my thesis to the university for adjudication. The next month the newspapers announced that the current governor’s tenure will end on the 13th of December 2009. I was crestfallen for it dawned on me that the incumbent governor will not be there as the chancellor of Calcutta University when I will be handed the doctoral scroll.
It was the night of 12th December when in a sad state of mind I emailed the governor a farewell message expressing how often I have been in his proximity and how I will miss his grace. I little hoped for any reply since it was the last day of the governor’s stay in Raj Bhavan and surely he would have received hundreds of farewell messages. But the next day there was this one message in my mailbox –
Dear Shri Amit Shankar Saha,
I thank you for your most generous mail. May I deserve it. You have my best wishes.
It was then that I realized that I could not have been happier.