Mandela saved letters from Delhi school students
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While lodged in the Robben Island prison, Nelson Mandela would often receive greetings from well wishers across the world. But the ones he cherished the most were always from children.
So, when students from Bluebells school, East of Kailash, sent letters, paintings and poems to the great revolutionary in the 70's, Mandela not only saved each one of them, but made sure that every one of them was replied to — individually.
And, when he visited India in the early 90's, it was these children he visited first. As the anti-apartheid hero breathed his last in the early hours of Friday, it was this undying love and affection he had that students and teachers he interacted with still remember him.
"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.
Over the course of the years, children from the school would also visit South Africa at the leader's insistence. "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.
And even though it has been many years since the meeting, students and teachers still hold 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.