Iconic Emergency-era image of George Fernandes adorns his living room

From wife Leila Kabir to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar- people recall the veteran leader via portraits.

Published: 31st January 2019 03:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2019 03:17 PM   |  A+A-

George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar pays tribute to former defence minister and veteran socialist George Fernandes in New Delhi. (PTI photo)


NEW DELHI: George Fernandes in handcuffs raising his hand in defiance is one of the most enduring photographs of the Emergency era and a portrait of that iconic image adorned a corner of a room at his home where his body was kept in a glass casket.

An hour-long prayer service was held on Thursday at Fernandes' residence - Shanti Niwas - at Panchsheel Park with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visiting the family again before the cremation slated at 3 pm, a family friend said, adding his son, Sean has arrived from the US for the last rites.

The oil painting in black and white is surmounted by a board that bears the message -- 'A Leader for Every Indian - George Fernandes' -- while flower petals lay showered beneath the frame kept on a table. A host of leaders and admirers have sat next to that image to pen their tribute in words in a journal kept next to bowls of flower petals.

On Wednesday, Padmanabh Shetty, who was one of the persons arrested, along with Fernandes, in what is known as the Baroda Dynamite case, was among the visitors, who streamed at his house, to pay their tribute to the departed leader.

Pointing to the portrait, Shetty had said, "George Fernandes in handcuffs raising his hand in defiance, while he was being produced at the Tees Hazari court in Delhi for the trial, is one of the most famous and enduring images of the Emergency era. Emergency-era activists still recall the black and white photograph of him and the oil painting uses monochromatic hues to recreate that imagery in a new medium. He was one of a kind, fearless leader and an avowed crusader for democratic rights. This portrait's placement in the room is very apt," Shetty told PTI.

In the living room, the glass casket was buried in a mountain of wreaths and flower petals as a string of senior leaders, veteran politicians and admirers paid tribute to the departed leader in the past three days.

Fernandes died on Tuesday aged 88 at his residence after a prolonged illness. He was suffering from Alzheimer's disorder that had left him debilitated.

Another portrait of Fernandes was kept axially behind the casket with a flame next to it, where visitors also paid tribute to the former defence minister. Multiple bookshelves fill the room on both sides, with titles on subjects ranging from China, Afghanistan to Parliamentary debates, and multiple copies of a book on the Baroda Dynamite case.

Framed old photographs showing him with family, his swearing-in ceremony as a Union Minister, playing with pet dogs, line up the decks of the bookshelves.

Fernandes' wife Leila Kabir pointed to a portrait gifted by someone from Japan. "He loved his dogs. They all died one by one. There, he is holding a puppy in his hand in that portrait," she told PTI Wednesday as a string of senior leaders streamed in from different parts of the country to pay their respects. Kabir, also recalled his simple sartorial style and said he was "very comfortable in that wear".

She pointed to another portrait of Fernandes, in a coat and tie, adding that perhaps it is the only one of him in that avatar. "Even in family functions, he preferred to wear kurta-pyjama, he was quite at ease in those clothes," she said.

Chief Minister Kumar had visited the socialist leader's family on Tuesday earlier and recounted Fernandes' role in shaping his political career with the formation of the Samta Party in the 90s to challenge Lalu Prasad, who was heading the then Janata Dal government in Bihar.

Kumar had told reporters that he would stay in Delhi till the last rites were performed. After cremation at the Lodhi electric crematorium here on Thursday, the ashes will then be buried the next day at the Prithviraj Road Christian Cemetery, Kabir said.

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