Stop Work Travel | Prime Ministers: Part 1

Prime Ministers: Part 1

March 10, 2016

I had taken a short afternoon nap to beat the heat in Varkala. For some reason the electricity was still out in this South Indian beach town.

As I walked down the path from the guesthouse to the cliff to have lunch, I was startled by a helicopter suddenly flying right over my head. The guesthouse laundry was drying on the clothesline in the yard – the sheets and towels on the line swayed wildly under the whirling force of the propellers.

On the cliff people were taking pictures and seemed excited. Why?

Prime Minister Modi is landing here, I heard someone say.

I watched the helicopter land on the helipad overlooking the beach, wondering why the leader of India was coming to a little place like Varkala.

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I was informed that the occasion was the reopening of the well-known Sivagiri temple, to which thousands of devotees would soon come for the annual pilgrimage. Modi was talking to the press in Varkala for twenty minutes and then flying off.

This was also the reason the smaller businesses in Varkala had no power that afternoon – all the electricity had been diverted to the helipad to ensure that nothing went wrong with this 20 minute event!

The power came back on by evening, but went out again the next morning. The rumor in town was that today’s outage was also “Modi’s fault” – until people remembered that it was a regular utility maintenance day.

That’s the closest I’ll ever get to PM Modi, I’m sure.

But I was reminded by this event of other occasions when I had surprising and random encounters with premiers and prime ministers.

Read Prime Ministers: Part 2.