He was appointed Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the U.N. in 1980. Mrs. Gandhi had come back by then and didn’t object to his appointment. She must have remembered that when everyone turned their backs on her at parties and receptions, he would be the only person to go and greet her, as his former Prime Minister. She even smiled at me when I was introduced as his daughter to her when I was posted as 3rd Secretary in our Embassy in Moscow in 1982. She had an extraordinary smile.
At the UN, he worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the economic and environmental problems facing the third world. His contribution to promoting Science and Technology in the Third World was appreciated by everyone. His sophistication in dealing with delicate problems and ability to build international consensus were very much appreciated by each and everyone, irrespective of power blocks. He was one of the most admired diplomats in the U.N. at the time.
His sense of humour and patience with kids, including us, amaze me now that I look back. Here is a hilarious, very serious account of a discussion on frogs’ legs in the UN. He had become thoroughly tired of endless multilateral discussions and longed to get back to concrete work. Mom said he would sit in these committees which sometimes dragged on for 36 hours. And needless to say, there was no high-level visitor who didn’t want him by their side.
I found the last 4 pages of my Father’s hilarious letter on Frogs’ Legs, I am sorry I can’t find the rest, equally funny. I had it typed out for easier reading. His comments on the Chinese delegation are especially funny, given today’s context. Incidentally, after his return from China in 1979, he had urged me to take up the Chinese language. Having truly struggled with last minute language changes in high school, and consequently being unable to pursue Science as a subject in college, I wasn’t inclined to struggle again, this time with Chinese.
Papa passed away suddenly in New York on 15th April 1983. The entire UN community and his colleagues were shocked. We continue to cherish his memory.
An Award of $20,000 was declared by “World Hunger Media”, a UN NGO to acknowledge his tireless work to promote the cause of the Third World and to sensitize the media about the problem of hunger there. Stunned and grieving, we dedicated these funds to “UMA-BALESHWAR TRUST, PATNA” for the promotion of education and science. Shri Parmatmaji, his younger Brother, is administering it and many students have received scholarships over the years through it.
The Prime Minister, P.N. Haksar, EAM Narasimha Rao (whose letter I cannot find), Ambassador A.M. Khaleeli, who stood by us in the wake of Papa’s passing and Mom’s hospitalisations like a steady rock, Shri B.S. Das, friend since 1960, Shri Farooq Shobhan, G77 Chairman, the UN DG Jean Ripert, and countless others expressed their grief at his sudden end. Some of their letters are uploaded below.
Papa, we miss you. I wish you knew how much.