.by Anura Guruge
I was dreading turning on the TV this morning. I had read the news reports before I had gone to bed at 1 am.
I was glad that there was no news about Nelson Mandela.
But, things aren’t looking good and despite all those years in prison, he has had a good innings. For that I am glad.
I didn’t really get to know the man until the mid-1980s, though I did sign the obligatory ‘Free Mandela‘ petitions when I was doing my Master’s during 1978 – 1979. If I remember right, there was even a movement to have him elected, in absentia, as the President of the University of London. Yes, I voted ‘yes’ on that. I think we also tried to get him, unrealistic as it may have been, to be the ‘Presenter’ at one of our graduation ceremonies.
I still remember the day he walked out of prison. It was a Saturday. I watched all of it. I cried.
I bought ‘Long Walk …’ more or less when it came out and consumed it with gusto. Good book. Very thought provoking and inspirational. I have also read a couple of other books about this amazing man.
He has definitely been an inspiration for me.
Gandhi was before my time, though I did get to meet and shake hands with Jawaharlal Nehru when he visited Ceylon in October 1962. Actually he came to our house for dinner! That was quite an occasion. I still remember it. I would have been 9. There were lots of people (not that that per se was unusual). It was dark and I think getting late. He finally arrived. To me he seemed SO TALL. As ever he was dressed in all white. That is what I still remember the most. This tall, kind of shimmering figure in white who bent down and shook my hand. He also signed, on the first page, my brand new autograph book that one of my uncle’s had put together for me, just for this occasion. I still have it. It is always close to me. It now lies open as I write this. He dated it: 15. 10. 62. October 15, 1962. He was a great man too, but Mr. Mandela has meant more to me.