Bhubaneswar: Over two decades have gone by since his demise and the former Chief Minister of Odisha is still remembered and celebrated as a legendary leader and a flying ace from the chapters of India’s freedom struggle. Such was the enigma of Biju Patnaik, fondly called Biju Babu.
But the introduction still falls short for the ‘Tall Man’ of Odisha. There were more aspects to his personality that very few people knew. Biju Babu was a skillful singer, a sports enthusiast and a daredevil leader.
In an interview from the archives of Odisha’s history, celebrated Odissi music Guru and composer late Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi had applauded Biju Babu’s singing skills. Panigrahi had said that he once drove Biju Babu to Cuttack’s Choudwar in his car and there the latter sang a song. Panigrahi was amazed by his beautiful singing and compared his voice with those of legends KL Saigal and Pankaj Kumar Mullick.
Biju Babu was also a sports enthusiast. He was extremely fond of outdoor sports like cricket and football.
The Daredevil leader
During the 1947 Kashmir war, Biju Patnaik flew his Dakota DC-3 from Delhi and brought back 17 soldiers of the 1-Sikh regiment to safety. He also flew low on the airstrip twice to ensure no raiders were around.
Biju Babu also played a crucial role in Indonesia’s freedom struggle. Dodging the Dutch armed forces, in July 1947, Biju Babu entered Indonesian airspace and landed near Jakarta. He flew the then Indonesian President Achmad Sukarno and the former Prime Minister Sjahrir to New Delhi for a secret meeting with the then Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. For that act of valor, Biju Babu was awarded ‘Bhoomi Putra’ award which is the highest Indonesian award, rarely given to a foreigner in the country.