A priest who once as a journalist watched live the 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament
(The chilling terror attack on Parliament occurred on December 13, 2001. A friend's account of a journalist who saw it happen live).
Srinivasan Sudarshanam wanted to be an army officer after doing his B.A. in Literature in Salem city of Tamil Nadu. Medical test held at Roorkee in present day Uttarakhand, failed him.
Living with his sister in New Delhi, he tried for several jobs and got the post of a Public Relations Officer in the Delhi Industrial Development Corporation where he worked for about nine years.
In between, he cleared the UPSC examination for the Indian Information Service in 1983 and was posted as a Correspondent in the All India Radio where he worked for over 22 years. Taking voluntary retirement in 2005, Sudarshanam returned to his native Chennai to take up the job that his heart had wanted for long. He became a priest in the famous Narsimha temple. Friends now call him Swami Sudarshanam (image below).
But this is not all what should interest us. He was witness to the terrorist attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001 and he remembers it vividly to this day.
"It was an attack on the most significant symbol of Indian Republic and democracy. Our brave security people foiled it with a great sacrifice. I shudder to imagine what could have happened if the terrorists had succeeded in entering the Parliament House.
"The Business was as usual in Parliament that day. Senior colleague Sebastian Robert went to cover the Lok Sabha and I went to the Rajya Sabha Press Gallery. At sharp 11 AM the Rajya Sabha meeting began. The Opposition did not allow the House to function. Several issues were raised. Some members even went to the well of the House and shouted slogans. The House was adjourned for the day. I rushed to AIR Room inside the Parliament House, to file the development. The same thing happened in the Lok Sabha and Robert and myself filed a combined story.
“It was around 11.20 am when we heard a commotion from the ground floor. Rifles firing sounds and security persons running helter-skelter asking people to get indoors in their rooms. By the time we reached ground floor, the main gate was closed. MPs were running here and there. Fortunately, I heard a Security Officer talking in his walkie-talkie passing the information that terrorists in a car had forced their entry at the main gate. When challenged, they fired. Some security persons were killed. Three terrorists got killed. Their attempt to enter the main gate was foiled. Two terrorists were rushing to the Rajya Sabha entrance. I told Robert and he went to AIR Room to file this initial but unconfirmed report. I followed up the developments.
“Fortunately, I met the then Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr. Pramod Mahajan, who confirmed the above developments. But the fate of the two terrorists who rushed to the Rajyasabha entrance was not known. We could revise our story quoting the Minister.
“Soon the Delhi Police Commissioner arrived. He confirmed that two terrorists who rushed to the Rajya Sabha entrance, were also killed by the brave security officers. I was doing the leg job and Robert kept on revising the story.
“But another confusion cropped up. Someone was heard shouting that one terrorist managed to enter Parliament and is reportedly on the first floor. All were asked to close their rooms. About 10 MPs came to AIR Room and were hiding themselves.
“Soon it was confirmed that all five terrorists were killed in the shootout. Nine security personnel laid down their lives.” (Images of those bravehearts, below)
Another coverage that he remembers is the Indian Army operation against the Tamil Tigers of the LTTE in Sri Lanka
"I was deputed four times on month-long tour to Sri Lanka. That was very difficult assignment. A newspaper had a headline "Capture Sudarshanam and Robert alive" quoting an LTTE commander's order to his cadre. Being Tamilian we were considered traitors by them.”
Back in Chennai, Sudarshanam did what he longed for life. He became a priest in the Narsimha temple.
Sudarshanam lost his wife Gita last year. He has no children of his own. He performs the temple duties from 6 to 10 AM. He gives religious education to about 40 children of the families living in the Guru Paradise Apartments. They are in 6 to 16 years of age and come in four batches age-wise between 4 and 8 PM.
"I was thinking of moving to an old age home after the passing away of my wife. Neighbours assured me of all help and I had to drop that idea.
"This is the best period of my life. I get a lot of bliss. Neighbours give me a lot of respect and help me if I need it ever, says he.
How is your fellow traveller and colleague of long years, Mr. Robert?
"He too has become a priest. He is a long white-robbed Christian Father in some Church.”
We both had a long laugh. Life is a wonderful journey. Sudarshanam and Robert are now travellers of their respective religious journey. May be their directions are different, but goal is the same. Some glimpses of spiritual experiences in this final phase of their lives.
(Ajeet Singh, who has penned this piece, is a retired Director of News, AIR Doordarshan Hisar).
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