AGRA: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Agra in 2001 for the historic summit with the then Pak President, Pervez Musharraf, was an important part of the peace initiative started by him. Though the talks turned out to be a failure, Vajpayee never lost hope of finding a lasting solution to the irritants in the India-Pak relations.
His optimism about the Agra summit is etched in the guest register of the Jaypee Palace Hotel he stayed at. Vajpayee wrote, “I carry back with me unforgettable memories of my talks with his excellency Gen Parvez Musharraf, President of Pakistan. I am confident and I sincerely pray that the Agra summit will ultimately move to be a useful milestone along the high road to peace and normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan.”
He had stayed in room number 2203, which is now known as the “summit suite”. Besides, two easy chairs were made especially for the summit, which are being taken care of by the hotel even now.
Vajpayee also praised the hospitality of the hotel staff and wrote, “I express my deep appreciation and thanks for the excellent hospitality accorded by the management and staff of Jaypee Palace hotel, Agra, to me and members of my delegation.”
Hotel’s vice president, Hari Sukumar told TOI that he was not here at the time of summit, but his staff members, who were present during Vajpayee’s visit and are still working here remember every moment of his stay in the hotel.
According to the food and beverages manager, Pawan Kumar, who was also an employee during the summit, Vajpayee preferred “simple” food like “ghiya” (gourd), “bhindi” (Lady finger), “tava roti” and “missi roti” along with “namkeen lassi” (salted yoghurt based drink).
Sukumar said that he did not meet the former PM in Agra, but he interacted with him in New York’s hotel in 2002, when Vajpayee visited the city to address United Nations General Assembly. Sukumar said he was the general manager of that hotel then. “I will never forget that interaction of 15 minutes with him. I never saw such a humble person who treated everyone equally,” said Sukumar, adding that everyone should learn from him.
According to the ASI officials, former PM had visited the Taj Mahal once in 1977, when British Prime Minister, James Callaghan came to Agra to see the monument. Vajpayee was then the foreign minister and when officials had asked him to write something in visitor’s book, he had said, “read my poetry on Taj”.
The first poem that he is believed to have written, on the Taj Mahal, revolved on the exploitation of the workers who built the monument. “Yamuna ki roti dhar vakal, kal-kal chal chal, kal-kal chal chal, jab Hindustan roya sakal, tab bana paaya Taj Mahal,” he wrote.