Returning to India from a summit in Bali last month, Manmohan Singh was cheerful and determined: once dubbed "the leader other leaders love", he'd enjoyed meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and US President Barack Obama, one of his biggest admirers.
With a host of long-stalled reforms ready for debate in the next parliamentary session, he told a close colleague he was ready to get down to business.
"He came back very buoyant and wanted to show that he was in command," said the political insider, asking not to be named.
But there was little bonhomie waiting for the mild-mannered leader at home, where his blundering, corruption-plagued government has drifted into paralysis and he has been all but written off as yesterday's man.
What unfolded next was testimony to the crisis gripping his party, Congress, which has dominated Indian politics for decades with Gandhi dynasty leaders its lifeblood but now faces an uncertain future.
Image: Manmohan Singh (left) seen with China's Premier Wen Jiabao, centre, and President Barack Obama (right).
Text: John Chalmers, Reuters