I considered him my Guru.

P.N. Haksar (1913-1998) was India’s greatest diplomat and civil servant. I owe him much. I considered him my Guru. The other day I was sorting out old papers. Out came several letters from P.N.H. I reproduce four in the column. Here is a charming and delightful one from Lagos, Nigeria. He was High Commissioner there.

My dear Natwar,
I am not one of the world’s best letter writers. I therefore felt a little taken aback when I found myself writing to you this letter. But I had to. There is no escape. I was so overwhelmed with a desire to communicate. And since the best way to resist a temptation is to yield to it, initially at any rate, and I am writing to you. I do not care to enquire into the origins of this great spirit of energy on my part. As you know very well I prefer to lie in my bed to sitting up and that I have even a greater preference for just going to sleep. By the way, I think it was lack of foresight on my part to have travelled up to Mussoorie with you and thus to have betrayed an aspect of my character which is moulded in less heroic a pattern. Anyhow the deed was done and, at this stage there is very little point in pretending that I love exercise and outdoor life. All this is absurd. I meant to write to you about other things. But here am I talking about myself. And all this because one can be too much with oneself in a place like Lagos.
Trust this finds you well and that you are now all set for taking a plunge in matrimonial waters.
With affectionate regards
Yours P.N.H.
India House
London, W.C.2.
7th April 1967
My dear Natwar,
I cannot thank you enough for your letter. The state of indecision was beginning to tell on my nerves. You can, therefore, imagine my gratitude to you.
I think that you allow your emotions to run away with your judgement. The expectations people have from me are cruel. I suppose if all of us with good will and stout hearts work together, there might be some hope.
I shall certainly get you a copy of Bertrand Russell’s book.
We are leaving here on May 4, arriving in New Delhi on May 5. We would want to stay in the Ministry of External Affairs’s Hostel. We shall be four only i.e., two children and ourselves. I believe a suite with kitchen and bathroom would accommodate us all. If not, we can have a suite plus an adjoining room, if this were possible. Please do whatever you can. Our baggage would take months to arrive. We have, therefore, to carry on as best as we can.
Yours affectionately
(P.N. Haksar)
Kanwar Natwar Singh
Deputy Secretary to the Prime Minister,
Prime Minister Secretariat, New Delhi
4/9, Shanti Niketan, New Delhi-110021
Phone 671149

11 July 1991
My dear Natwar,
I have your letter of 17 June. You have put me in the same embarrassing situation in which Sharada had put me when he asked me to contribute an article to a book dedicated to the memory of Smt. Indira Gandhi. In terms of purely personal relations, I have deepest affection for Rajiv. And, I believe, he gave me his affection and also respect. However, writing about Rajiv as a Prime Minister is another matter. Also, being old-fashioned, I subscribe to the wisdom contained in the Latin proverb: Mortuis nil nisi bonum. So, you will understand my perplexity and dilemma generated by your letter. This is a purely personal letter to you as you will understand what I am trying to say.
I trust that you are well and in the best of spirit and health.
With lots of love to you and Hem.
Yours Affectionately
(P.N. Haksar)
Shri K. Natwar Singh
Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust
1, Akbar Road, New Delhi-110011

4/9, Shanti Niketan,
New Delhi 110021
Phone : 4673545/6886146
17 December 1997
Dearest Hem and Natwar,
There was some English poet who used the words ‘jaded calendar’. He also described the contemporary culture as ‘diabetic’ which was, according to him, ‘rotting the nerve of Life and Literature’. As I suffer from a chronic state of cheerfulness, I look forward to the year 1998. Without feeling jaded. Your New Year card added to my cheerfulness. Many, many thanks for it. May I, on my part, wish you and yours, with all my heart, all the best not only in the year 1998 but in the next millennia.
Yours affectionately
(P.N. Haksar)
Shri and Smt. K. Natwar Singh
D 1/37, Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi-110057