An excerpt from ‘An India Reimagined’, a collection of essays by the IAS officer considered the architect of modern Bhopal.

Let me end with a story. I spent the whole of 1980 without a post in Delhi after I was thrown out of DDA. I often went to India International Centre (IIC), a haven for people such as me who had temporarily fallen foul of the government and desperately needed a place to think, discuss and write. I had illustrious companions such as Ved Marwah, Jagdish Jetli and Hari Pillai for company. 

One day, I walked to IIC from my house on Teen Murti Lane and when I came out of the library to walk back home, I found it was raining. At the gate was a Sikh auto-rickshaw driver who agreed to take me home. He did not ask for and I did not tell him my destination but he still took me home to 18, Teen Murti Lane. He then refused to accept any money from me. 

On being asked why, he said, “You do not remember me but I had come to see you in DDA. I had registered for a house which I should have been allotted years ago but despite my wearing out several pairs of shoes, I got no solution. One day, I came to Vikas Minar and found no guards, no security personnel. I entered the office building and asked someone where I could meet the head. I was told to go to the fifth floor. Your name plate was on the door. I asked the orderly how I could meet you and, to my surprise, he told me to open the door and walk in. You were doing some work and asked me to sit down. After you finished [with] the file, you asked me my problem. I, a mere auto-rickshaw driver, was not only heard but the housing commissioner was sent for and, two hours later, I walked out with my allotment order and occupation order. I can never forget my debt of gratitude to you and will never take any money from you.”