Well wishers from across the world would send greetings to Nelson Mandela when he was lodged in the Robben Island prison. The ones he cherished were from children.
When this great revolutionary in the 70’s received letters, paintings and poems from students of Bluebells school, East of Kailash he not only kept each one of them, he also made sure he replied to every one of them individually.
In the early 90’s when he visited India he visited these children first. As Mandela breathed his last in the early hours of Friday it is this undying love and affection that students and teachers that he interacted with still remembered.
"I remember how he 'requested' us to meet the students. He said he wants to thank them in person. And how when we went to Rashtrapati Bhavan, he not only accepted every student's gift and thanked them separately, but also carried the gifts himself," says Suman Kumar, Principal, Bluebells School, recollecting Mandela's first visit in the 90's.
Children from the school would visit South Africa over the insistence of Mendala the anti-apartheid leader. "I've not seen so much humility in one person. I remember when we visited Rashtrapati Bhavan, to meet him the children were standing at the back because all the adults had occupied the front seats. He told the adults to sit at the back, so the children could sit right next to him," Kumar recollects.
It has been many years since this meeting but still students and teachers hold these fond memories of the interaction.
"At a lavish banquet in the capital, our students sang songs in Zulu for him. He shook hands with every student he met that day," recalls Jyoti Bose, Principal, Springdales Dhaula Kuan.
"It's been so many years, and I have met so many people, but it's not every day you meet someone who shapes your thinking. Meeting him was a special moment, one that changed me for the better," says Arindam Basu, an alumnus of Springdales Dhaula Kuan.
"Sometimes, I wonder if the trajectory of my life would have been different had I not read 'The Long Walk to Freedom'. I'll always owe that much to him," says Sudekshan Pillai, now a lawyer by profession.
The whole world mourns the death of this iconic leader. Those whose life he touched mourn the loss. Springdales, Dhaula Kuan, started out with a 2-minute silence on their annual day. A memorial service has been scheduled by the Bluebells School in the honour of this Great leader.