By P.T. Bopanna
In his last column for my website www.coorgtourisminfo.com, writer C.P. Belliappa had mentioned about the first visit of Prince Charles to India in 1980.
This brought back to memory, my own ‘encounter’ with Prince Charles way back in 1992. It was around that time rumours had begun floating in the British press on the troubled marriage of Charles and Princess Diana.
Prince Charles was visiting the British Council Library on St. Mark’s Road in Bangalore which was then located on top of the Koshy’s Café. Very few guests were invited for the function which was barred to the media.
I was then working for the Times of India, Bangalore. I knew the British Council librarian Dandapani. Though entry was barred to the press, I casually walked in. The policemen on duty presumed I was an official from their department in plainclothes deployed for the security of the Prince.
When the Prince walked in, I was hovering around him. The guests had lined up in the library. He shook hands with each guest in the receiving line and exchanged pleasantries.
If I remember correct, it was when he was greeting writer Poile Sengupta the latter mentioned that Princess Diana was not there with him, though it was a Valentine’s Day. Charles had a hearty laugh and moved on!
Those days, very few talked about Valentine’s Day unlike now. It was during that visit, that differences between the royal couple became an open secret after Princess Diana visited the Taj Mahal and sat alone on the bench.
Coming back to my story, my chief reporter, the late E. Raghavan was very pleased that I could get an ‘exclusive’ report on the Charles visit to the library which was published in the paper the next day.
In the beginning of my journalistic career, I was assigned to cover the ‘crime beat’ which involved daily visit to the office of the Bangalore Police Commissioner in the evenings.
Invariably, policemen on duty thought looking at me that I must be a police official and used to salute me. It was really embarrassing because I have always been self-conscious and did not like unnecessary attention.
But my ‘presence’ opened many doors and I broke many crime stories. In 1986, I received two awards from the Bangalore Reporters’ Guild, including for ‘the best crime story’ and ‘scoop of the year’.
In the picture above, I am receiving the Guild awards from the then Resident Editor of Times of India, P.G. Mahadevan.