Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's last living photograph at Tashkent, January 10, 1966, photograph by Prem Vaidya

Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's last living photograph at Tashkent, January 10, 1966, Photo by Prem Vaidya

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I left for Tashkent to cover the Indo-Pak Peace Conference that began on January 3, 1966. Prime Minister Shastri was alloted a beautiful 'dacha' (country villa) which was the Uzbeg President's summer villa, hardly three minutes walk from 'Neutral Villa' where the meeting with the Pakistani delegation led by President Ayub Khan was to be held. On January 10th I was informed that on the previous day, Shastriji had been working till the late hours in his drawing room. In my coverage so far, I had no shots of Shastri showing him working during night, so I decided to take one. On arrival at the villa, Shastri was having a long distance talk with someone in Delhi and after the call, he was having his late dinner. It was after his dinner that I saw him taking a brisk walk inside his drawing room. The room was well illuminated. Outside it was totally dark. The view from the dark outside, into the lighted room through a French window and a lone figure moving around in silhouette, was a feast for a camera enthusiast! I started capturing it till I ran out of the film roll in my camera. Kishor Parikh and Narayanswami also snapped the view.
We then came back to our hotel. I was so tired that without changing my dress, I threw myself on the bed and soon passed into deep, deserving sound sleep.
"Prem...Prem... Shastriji...!"
At night there was heavy banging on our door and Prem Prakash came in shouting and sobbing tearfully. I jumped out of my bed. There was thumping sound of people running about on wooden floor of the hotel-gangway. We rushed down to our car. No one seemed to have any time to tell exactly what had really happened. Our Uzbek driver was there in the car; he immediately started the car and speeded. He knew where to go!
In the dead dark night there was a crowd, mostly of correspondents, in front of the closed entrance gate of the Shastri Dacha. We broke through the crowd and I informed the security guards in my half-English and half-Russian that we were the members of the Indian Prime Minister's party. As the PM's official party members, Narayanswami and I had a different coloured badge. I showed them the badge and we pushed in.
We ran through the dark path through the villa. It was fully illuminated. Some people were seen running hither and thither. Nobody was ready to talk and we rushed inside. There ...we saw our dear prime his eternal sleep. Dr. R. N. Chug personal physician, C.P. Srivastava, joint secretary, and Jagganath Sahai, private secretary to the prime minister were there in tears. I was completely puzzled. Just a few hours back I had filmed him hale and hearty, hardly realizing that I was filming his last living shot!

(From Prem Vaidya’s memoirs: Memorable Assignments on Moving Images, published by National Film Archive of India, NFAI, 2009)

Photo Number 9034
Photo Title Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's last living photograph at Tashkent, January 10, 1966
Photographer Name Prem Vaidya