October 14, 2002


I accompanied President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to Arunachal Pradesh. We flew in from Delhi to Guwahati and shifted to Mi-8 helicopters, which majestically rise to 15,000 ft to cross over the Sela Pass. It was the first time I experienced a helicopter ride. And what a first time it was! We landed in Tawang. I was not prepared for the cold. The bright sun and clear blue sky were very deceptive. The loving-kind Chief Minister, Mukut Mithi, asked someone to get me a traditional jacket.

I had heard about Tawang as a child, when the Chinese had invaded this region, called NEFA (North-East Frontier Agency), later renamed as Arunachal Pradesh, the place where the sun arrives earliest on the Indian territory. I always felt special relating it with my own name. The next day was Dr. Kalam’s 72’nd birthday. We spent a good time inside the huge Tawang Monastery, known in Tibetan as Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, meaning, ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. “What is root cause of the problems of the world?” Dr. Kalam asked Rinpoche (the head monk). “Me and Mine,” came the curt and crisp and unambiguous reply.

While leaving, official photographer of the President Samar Mondal captured a fleeting moment when I was standing with the monks, which has become my best photo ever clicked. I later visited Tawang with my wife and sons and took many pictures, but the magic of this snap never returned. Though it was a fleeting moment, it was not a frozen moment; it pulsates in my heart and I can feel it anytime.


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