Kolkata: As per a former classmate of the President-elect Pranab Mukherje, he showed the same leadership qualities as he shows now when he was young. He tells that by his leadership qualities and skills Pranab persuaded a minister and managed to get a "thatched roof" which was in "very bad shape", renovated.
"During his nearly five decade old political career he has been praised as a great statesman and a leader. But let me say that he started honing his skills as leader and orator since his school days," Mihir Chattopadhyay, Mukherjee's classmate in Kirnahar Shib Chandra High School in West Bengal's Birbhum district.
Chattopadhyay was a close friend of Poltu (Pranab's nickname) till graduation. The 76-year old man, who retired as a teacher in his alma mater, recollected how in 1949 Mukherjee impressed and convinced a minister to renovate the school building. "During those days our school was in a very bad shape. The country had just attained freedom. There were no doors and windows. It was a thatched roof. During that time one day our headmaster told us that a senior minister would come to the school for inspection," Chattopadhyay said.
The headmaster asked some students of Class 9 and 10 to volunteer for placing the school's problems before the minister. "Most of the students of Class 9 and 10 were afraid to speak before the minister however Pranab, though a student of class 7, decided to volunteer and present the case before the minister," Chattopadhyay said.
"With his oratory and reasoning skills he convinced the minister to help the school authorities in renovating the school. The minister was so impressed that he prophesied that Pranab will become someone big in future," he added.
Chattopadhyay, recollected how Pranab had led a class boycott in protest against a false complaint against the students. "We were then in Class 9. One morning when we entered the classroom we found most of the furniture were broken. The headmaster became very angry and alleged that we had done the damage. He ordered us to pay a fine," Chattopadhyay said. "It was Pranab who came to our rescue. He argued that the students should not be made to pay any fine as they have not broken the furniture. Under his leadership, we boycotted classes for the day. The headmaster later on came and pacified us," he said.
Chattopadhyay still remembers how the headmaster patted Pranab for sticking to his stand and his leadership qualities. He recalled that Mukherjee used to play as a defender in football during his school days. The old and retired teacher wishes to meet his old friend when he comes to Kolkata as he has not met him for the past two years.
"Till 1998 we were in regular touch. We used to meet whenever he visited his ancestral home in Mirati village, some kilometers away from Kirnahar. But after I shifted to Kolkata on my retirement we haven't met. I hope to visit Poltu when he comes to Kolkata as the country's first citizen," said Chattopadhyay.