Sunday, July 03, 2005

Rewind to 1971: PostCard USA - The ghosts of 1971

Samuel Hoskinson, who was serving in the National Security Council at the time, was assigned to escort Mrs Gandhi to the White House in November 1971 for a meeting with Nixon. He told the conference that he led the Indian prime minister through the diplomats’ entrance to the White House, took her to a special reception area, picked up the phone and told Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s secretary, “Prime Minister Mrs Gandhi is here, please inform the President.” She said she would do so right away. But there was no comeback. Half an hour passed. Mrs Gandhi was getting more and more fidgety and looked visibly annoyed, if not angry. Hoskinson, feeling ill-at-ease and embarrassed, called Rose Mary Woods again. After some time, she said, “Please bring her up.” But it was not the Oval Office where visiting heads of state and government are received; it was the Roosevelt Room. They went in and another wait began, not as long as the previous one but long enough for Mrs Gandhi to begin getting really cheesed off. Suddenly, recalled Hoskinson, the doors were flung open and in walked President Nixon, arms outstretched and a big smile on his face, “Mrs Gandhi,” he said, “nobody told me you were here!” She smiled back but with a great deal of difficulty.