New Delhi, Dec 1 (IANS) A cold, crisp morning heralded the start of December 2012. It also was the start of the last journey of India's 12th prime minister, Inder Kumar Gujral.
Throughout the morning of Saturday (Dec 1), a host of people visited Gujral's 5, Janpath residence.
They came from all strata of Indian society. From politicians and bureaucrats to journalists, everybody who mattered was there at 5, Janpath.
The late prime minister was from the land of the five rivers, when it was undivided. He belonged to the town of Jhelum on the banks of the river of the same name. (According to legend, Jhelum is the town where Alexander's horse, Bucephalus died in battle and was buried).
A host of turbanned Sikh leaders from Punjab were seen at the residence, highlighting the bond that Gujral enjoyed with the state, which he represented twice in parliament, and which now has sent his son to the Lok Sabha.
In addition, a number of the capital's top Punjabi families, mostly tracing their roots to what is now Pakistani Punjab, came to pay their respects. "He knew my father before the partition. Our families have been very close," media baron Aroon Purie told IANS.
The late PM may have been from Punjab. But he had adapted well to the imperial city of Delhi after moving to this side of Radcliffe's line. "My first series of articles on Delhi was sourced from him," said veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi.
Politicians, ranging from Congressmen to Communists to the splinters of the Janata Dal, Gujral's party, came to the residence. Not many from the BJP were seen.
Inside the house, Gujral's body lay in a glass casket. Sitting forlornly in a corner in a wheelchair was his artist brother Satish Gujaral, to whom the late prime minister was particularly close.
Gujral's main achievement was in foreign policy. "His understanding of foreign policy was more than most other leaders," said another veteran journalist, H.K. Dua, now MP. The presence of diplomats from India's neighbours such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at his residence and later at the funeral was testament.
"He was such a gentleman, one with dignity, elegance and without malice," said Dua, paying glowing tributes to Gujral.
But if there is one thing that Gujral would be most remembered by, it is his ability to build consensus. "His style was persuasive than confrontationist, which is very important for a diverse country like India," said Dua.
Most of those who came to pay tribute to the "gentleman-politician" would have agreed.
Standing alone, amid the throng of mourners and securitypersons, was Bal Krishan, Gujral's private secretary for 45 years.
"It's god will," he said philosophically. "Such a man like him is hard to find."