Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has some regrets....excerpts from his media interaction during his flight back to India after his visit abroad to Thailand and Japan
Friday, 31 May 2013
Thursday, 30 May 2013
Yingluck Shinawatra - the young and dynamic PM of Thailand is meeting up with the Indian PM Manmohan Singh in Bangkok who is in Thailand for a full fledged visit after a successful trip to Japan.......a lot of agreements are expected to be signed between the two leaders.....
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
A Midsummer's Love Tale
The next day without Alina was totally unbearable for me and I was feeling completely lost.
The whole night had been spent tossing and turning piecing together the events just taken place. It was as if she had me possessed. It was simply Alina and I, dancing on the floor, holding each other tight. Nothing else mattered.
So if this was love, surely I didn't want it to end, it was too delightful and delectable an emotion.
In my anxiety to meet her, I had gotten ready in a jiffy, and by 10 o’clock morning, I was at the gates of the Club, which usually started filling up around 10.30 a.m. Some die hard visitors started to line up at 10 o’clock as I had done; although my reasons for doing so were completely at variance from the rest of the crowd, or so I hoped.
People came to this Club for cards,clubbing, drinking, meeting old friends, socializing and some came for sailing on colorful yachts among other things.
My reason was personal - I had come only to meet HER….
It was still too early so there was no option but to wait for her to make an appearance. Only she could provide the 'healing touch'........
She didn't however come down to the Boat Club, and my eyes kept darting to and fro to the entrance of the club, searching out Alina in every entrant who came from outside, as if beseeching them, 'where was SHE……!'
Sitting up in the Club lobby gave me an aerial view of fresh arrivals. I realized it was almost lunchtime, and I had scanned practically every visitor coming in. I could now no longer bear it and walked up to the receptionist who was sitting at the entrance counter.
‘Excuse me Miss, could you cross check if there is an entry for Miss Alina Patwardhan?’ I asked the girl, trying very hard not to sound desperate as she checked the register.
‘Is she a member of the Club Sir?’ she asked me.
‘Well wouldn't be aware of that,met her last night. I mean got to talk to her just last night’ I blurted out sheepishly.
The receptionist gave me a hard look as if sizing up my intentions, while recognizing my nervousness, and went about checking the register.
‘Alina… Alina … hmmm. Sorry Sir, but there’s no entry by this name. No wait…wait, there is one Alina…..Alina Kapoor.’ She smiled giving me a triumphant ‘gotcha kind of looks.’
I brightened up at the mention of her name but then my face fell again, ‘Heck no she’s Alina Patwardhan, not Alina Kapoor.’
While we were engaged in this debate Mehak, her cousin with whom Alina was staying in Naini walked in; but SHE…..my love, was not with her.
Mehak had come alone....
My heart sank, and I had this uncontrollable urge to run across to her cousin, grab her by the shoulders and ask her, ‘Why have you come alone? Where is Alina’?
However, I controlled my inane desire to question Mehak and waited for her to settle down.
I finally got my chance after about 15 minutes of waiting. In fact it was Mehak who walked across to where I was sitting in a corner, looking glum, downcast and depressed.
“So searching for someone, are you,” She asked, giving me a provocative and mischievous smile.
‘Your lady love perhaps, right?’ her smile was now broader.
“Alina’s not well today and is at the house resting. Won’t be coming down today, asked me to convey you this message”
She had innocence written all over her face and there was no mocking in her voice, but my ‘heart’ sank completely.
The moment froze for me, I became numb, and slumped down in a chair.
It was as if my world had come crashing down, and there was nothing left for me to look forward to. I was left feeling dizzy and sick. I quickly held on to a table for support, as my legs were suddenly weak and wobbly. So what to do now?
‘Not well? What is wrong with her? She was fine till last night? I gave her a weak and questioning look.
‘When she went from here she was fine wasn't she? You also accompanied her.'
‘So many questions all put together at one time?’ She smiled at me.
‘Are you trying to tell me Vikas, if someone is well today, they can’t fall ill the next day?’ she asked me jokingly.
‘No, no! that’s not what I mean,' the desperation was apparent in my voice.
‘I mean what is wrong with her,hope she’s fine and there's nothing serious?’ I was trying to pacify myself. More than anything else I also wanted to know how Alina actually was.
‘She's fine, just a wee bit feverish with all that excitement taking place last night.’ She looked me in the eye and winked; or so it seemed; perhaps it was just my imagination playing tricks. I decided to let that pass.
I slunk off to a corner and sat down with a soft drink in my hand. My thoughts again went back to the time I had spent with Alina yesterday. The moments of dance fun and frolic. The close contact we had with each other was still fresh in my mind.
The way she had clung to me while dancing, with her head resting on my chest, both her eyes closed was intriguing to say the least. There was something magical about those moments of tenderness which I can’t describe, but could only be felt by my thumping heart. The pain of not being able to meet her, be with her,not being able to dance with her or to see her again…was causing a lot of heartburn. Only I knew how miserable I felt at that time.
I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t notice her cousin Mehak walk up to me again, ‘Hey Vikas, a penny for your thoughts? Alina has given me another message for you, do you want to hear or not?’
‘Yes, of course honey,' I tried to smile,' any message from ‘HER’ was more than welcome.'
“Actually she has planned a picnic for tomorrow at the Governor House lawns. Everyone in our group is invited and that includes you too.'
'Please get ready early tomorrow, and you must reach the Club by 9 o’clock! OK bye, I have to leave now. Alina must be waiting.” Waving her hand she made her way out of the Club,before I could even react to what she had told me.
Inwardly however I smiled because she had ‘read’ my mind, and made me so happy for a change.
I managed a smile as I was relieved now. Her words had indeed comforted me to some extent. At least she was still thinking about me. So what if she didn’t come down to the Club today. I was part of her plans for tomorrow.
So tomorrow I would be meeting my sweet Alina again. Her cute cherubic face with her sweet smile flashed quickly before my eyes. I could almost smell her perfume.
I now had something to look forward to again and I started making plans for tomorrow. How I would greet her, meet her and perhaps get my chance to express my love for her. All my ‘pent up’ emotions and expressions were now dying to come to the fore, to express what I felt for her.
I could breathe easy now. So this was love I thought to myself, pure and unadulterated. I quickly gulped down my drink and signaled to a passing waiter for my lunch. I was suddenly hungry and realized that I hadn't had any breakfast.
I ordered a fairly heavy brunch, and then settled down on the club deck to view the outside world. I was sitting on the upper deck. There are two decks in the Boat House Club. Last night I was in the lower deck and today I was seated on the upper deck. The view from the upper deck is more spectacular and panoramic, as one can look around from a slightly raised platform.
As I sat there watching the Parade Ground and the crowds milling around one another, and the countless people, mostly tourists going out for boat rides, my heart suddenly froze. I couldn't believe what I had just seen.....
There she was, my lady love, Alina, amongst the large crowds making her way quickly towards where the boats were tethered. What was she doing here? Was she preparing to go for a boat ride?
But HOW could that be, she was supposedly resting at home, not feeling well; that’s what her cousin Mehak had just told me. So had she lied to me? But why would she do that? I was extremely puzzled.
I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Was I making a dumb mistake? Heck no, there she was, talking to a boatman, and sure enough, the very next moment Alina climbed on to a boat quickly, for taking a round of the lake. She was all alone. Maybe Mehak was waiting for her somewhere or had gone straight home. She pulled out a hat she had carried along with her, covering her face, probably for fear of being recognized, or to shield her fair skin from the bright afternoon midsummer sun shining down at her.
I couldn't take my eyes off her. That was indeed Alina. I followed her sitting in the boat, thinking to myself that in case she saw me, her ‘lie’ would get exposed. I didn't want that to happen, so I backed off inside towards the club, away from the upper deck, asking the waiter to bring my food there itself. I didn't want her to see that I had spotted her. There must be a valid reason to do what she was doing. Hiding from me....
Whatever be the reason it was obvious she didn't want to meet me today. Period.
So in all likelihood my angel was playing hard to get. So cute but.....
All right angel. So I decided to play along, it’s not every day that you get a beautiful innocent girl trying to play love ‘games’ with you. Two can play a game.
Did I say innocent. Well hardly, this was not innocence, but maybe she was trying some kind of tested formula on me, the kind which are ‘reserved’ for people in love. I was enjoying this game of love she had started. I smiled to myself and it was the waiter who brought me back to reality.
‘Your lunch is ready Sir.’ He bent down with a smile and started placing the dishes I had ordered, on the table kept before me.
I smiled back at him and nodded in approval, and motioned with a wave of my hand to keep the food on a vacant table just ahead of me and moved myself there. This table was slightly away from the main upper deck; whatever be the reason I didn’t want Alina to know that I had ‘discovered’ her prank.
Her secret ought to remain safe with me. I smiled at her ‘unabashed prank’, what else could I call it, there was no other name I could think of.
I suddenly decided I needed a drink, any drink; this excitement was taking its toll on me. I signaled to the waiter again. So, what was I expected to do in this situation. React or not to react. I decided to give my thoughts a miss for now, because my delicious lunch, was waiting for my approval. I realized how hungry I was. I dug into my food as if I hadn’t eaten for ages.
Despite her reluctance to meet me today our love was intact and that's what really mattered. To hell with everything else. When things go right, everything’s on cloud nine.
Now, I was already thinking ahead. What should be my next move, should I hold her tight, would I manage to ‘kiss’ her full inviting lips?
Would I be able to do that? Little did I realize that when ‘opportunity came knocking’ I wasn't found to be wanting.
In fact the chance to express my new found love for the love of my life, and my ‘first kiss’ with her happened all too soon. In fact on the very next day when we had gone for the picnic to the Governor House grounds.
Oh what an experience it turned out to be. It was heavenly and I could go on describing it for eternity. Her soft lips against mine, so delicious,so delectable…..oh ever so ‘tasty,’ an indescribable experience, only to be savored …….. by who else but me.....
End of Chapter Four - A Midsummer's Love Tale
Contents of this chapter are protected by Copyright and cannot be published or transmitted in any manner whatsoever.
Monday, 27 May 2013
A Midsummer's Love Tale
My law examinations had got over in the meantime and I decided it was time to take my annual break. It was the scorching month of May and the weather decided it for me, it was time to head for the lofty misty mountains.
Although I was still blissfully unaware of it, yet it was here that the story of my equally mushy romance was preparing to take off, and it marked the unraveling of my romantic life, a period cherished the most.
I remember my first visit to the beautiful yet romantic hill station of Nainital. This was sometime in the scorching sparkling month of May, when the sun decides to shine in its full glory.
A midsummer month of May meant hot and dry winds, was enough motivation to drive me away to the cooler climes of Nainital, a tiny hill station with a cool natural lake nestled in the lofty Himalayas in the North of India.
I was a collegian and in my last year of college; the ‘heart’ was led astray easily, and the spirit was carefree and flippant so to say. I was staying in a friend’s hotel on a month long visit, as college was closed for summer vacations. So time was not a constraint.
To liven up the evenings there was a ‘live’ band playing at the Boathouse Club, the only posh club available in Naini at that time, and which plays even till today.
Come evening, and the usual crowd used to throng the club, gathering in small minuscule groups at the club bar and the makeshift deck; with the clinking of crystal glasses and plates of ‘chicken tikka’(roasted chicken meat) on the ‘club deck’ from the nearby smoldering barbecue. The aroma of roasting meat and the chilly cold blast outside with the glass to warm the insides was good enough for many a soul.
Now let me reveal something about this ‘club deck’ which I’m referring to. This is the lower balcony or jetty jutting out from the Boat House Club building, very close to the lake. The view from there is fantastic and par excellence. In the late evenings, as the lights of Nainital come alive, one can have an aerial view of the Mall Road as well as the lake all around. Since boating was taboo in the night, the stillness of the water with the shining reflection of the lights of the Mall Road of Nainital falling in it was truly a totally marvelous and unparalleled sight.
On a moonlit night, you could see the distinct reflection of the moon shining in the still waters of the lake and the sight was indeed breath taking and stupendous.
Up on the dance floor, one could hear the live musical band belting out the latest hits both in English and in Hindi, and one could enjoy the view with a glass of Scotch in one’s hand.
One could also interact with the young adventurous lady loves that used to come down to the club deck looking for a bit of privacy, rediscovering their ‘love’ and also looking for a bit of fresh adventure.
This crowd of youngsters was mostly from Delhi but also consisted of the ‘regular crowd’ who had their plush summer homes in Nainital, who used to descend here from surrounding nearby towns in the sultry plains, and wait for the scorching midsummer heat to get over and the monsoons to arrive, before when they would start to leave.
We had formed a group and there were about 30 girls and boys in that group. I was fortunate enough to be a part of that group. There were as many girls as there were boys in it, so pairing was easy, if you understand what I mean.
As I looked around and found most of the girls and guys had picked their favorites who used to hang around with each other. It was then that I noticed a young girl of medium build, with curly hair who looked more like a gypsy with a cherubic dazzling smile and a mischievous glint in her eyes.
She was no stunner, but there was a spark attached to her. She had full lips, spoke immaculate English, later I found out she was studying in the famed Modern School of Delhi.
A schoolgirl, I thought to myself could be immature, dangerous and insolent. But this one was different, as I later came to know; she was more mature than I was, and would regard me with ‘glowing misty eyes’ from afar, which followed me around wherever I went. She regarded my movements around the club, with just a hint of suspicion but I knew instantly by intuition that she was more than interested in me, as I too was in her.
Not that I was immune to ‘female’ attention but this girl was different. She caused a mild sensation in me, whenever she was around, and set off a flutter in my heart. Now even I was conscious of her and would also keep looking out for her continuously and my eyes would try searching her out and eventually spot her out even in a dense crowd.
Somehow, now I had to find out her name. I achieved this simple task without much difficulty and found out her name was Alina Patwardhan. Unknown to me she had already done this exercise and knew my name.
She used to take unusual attention in me and lately I observed she was supporting me in my discussions too. Whenever we were discussing something in a group she used to keep listening and support me in whatever I contributed to the group.
Consider this scenario. We were discussing education in English medium schools, and I happened to blurt out that Modern School Delhi was one of the best.
Immediately she shouted, ‘I totally support Vikas on this. Modern is definitely the best.’ She smiled at me and sportingly came over and stood near me for support. At times such as this my heart used to go gaga over her and I was sure she could hear it thudding away at top speed.
I got my first big chance to really ‘interact’ with Alina at the Boathouse Club musical evening. We had been ‘baiting’ each other for a week now. It was time to explore further, I thought to myself smilingly. It was a May Queen Ball sponsored by one of the liquor companies to promote their brands of premium whiskey. There were prizes for the May Queen and the May Princess. The best dancing couple, the best dressed couple and so many surprise prizes.
It was late evening time, around 8 o’clock. The crowd was at its musical best, the liquor was flowing as usual. The live band was performing at its peak; the youngsters had all taken to the floor and were enjoying themselves to the hilt.
The colorful lights were flashing on the dancing floor and lighting up the ‘couples’. In between, the ‘psychedelic lights’ would come on all of a sudden and the dancers in the crowd would go berserk. Some smoke would also be let off from the smoke machine on and off and it was indeed a ‘beautiful’ sight to behold.
All of a sudden I realized that Alina was NOT on the floor.
My heart almost missed a beat with joy and anticipation. This was surely my chance to ask her out for a dance with me.
My mind told me repeatedly I shouldn't miss out on this opportunity. We had had enough of ‘mating’ with the eyes, and the time for hide and seek was perhaps over. It was now or never, I thought to myself.
My eyes searched her out and sure enough she was sitting in a corner and I could see she was tapping her feet and was all but ready to break out in a dance. She was just ‘waiting’ for the right person to come along and ask for her ‘hand’ to dance with her. Maybe that lucky person was me. I had to however make it happen.
Why I was feeling so gullible, I thought to myself, and so much like a ‘school boy’ that I couldn't go and ask her for a dance, the girl with whom I was supposedly enamored with.
So ultimately I kicked myself into action, gathered courage and that was only after she had given me at least a hundred cursory glances, asking the fateful question and daring me, saying “Are you ‘man’ enough?”
When I reached her, her eyes it seemed, were laughing at me, not mockingly, but longingly, as if to say, “OK, here comes my knight in shining armor, shining in all his glory, to ask for her hand, for a ‘dance”.
“Hey Alina, could I have the pleasure of dancing with you?” I shouted to make myself heard over the din and the noise.
“What? I can’t hear you?” she replied laughingly.
“Oh God, let’s dance,” I shouted again, and before she realized, I brought my mouth close to her ears and shouted, “Can we dance together Alina ?”
I almost kissed her ear in the process and while bending over to shout, almost falling on to her waiting lap.
So here I was at last, my wish fulfilled, on the dance floor, as SHE ‘readily and smilingly’ agreed as if she was just waiting for me to come and ask her hand out to the waiting floor. The hall was packed with mostly youngsters and nothing much could be made out who was who on the dance floor.
It was really divine, this ‘feeling’, the feeling of being in love. It can’t be described, it can only be felt.
Feel it I did, as immediately after the dance number currently playing, there was a request for a slow number and the couples had to do a waltz. What bliss. Here I was, with the lady of my dreams finally in my arms about to dance the waltz with her.
However at first I was actually pretty awkward taking her in my arms, and doing the waltz with her. In fact I didn't know where to begin, where to hold her from.
One hand on her shoulder, or both hands around her waist and really ‘up close’.
I had one hand on her shoulder and one hand was gingerly guiding her around her waist. But she was having ‘none’ of that. The bright Modernite (no affront) took the hand down from her shoulder and placed it around her waist, so effectively now we were facing each other and she had her arms around me and I had mine around her waist, and we were moving in unison, really up close, oblivious to the watching ‘world’ around us.
The lights were dim, and we were trying to move to the music, but actually we were simply drawing ourselves closer to each other. As if to say, ‘thank you for the music’ and the whole thing was so mushy and moony transporting me as if in heaven.
If at all there was paradise anywhere, today it was here, it was here, it was indeed all here. Nainital……Sheer bliss.
Finally the music stopped, and the couple next to us tapped me on my shoulder, as if to awaken me from my ‘stupor’. And boy was it splendor unfolded before me.
The next dance was ‘NOT’ a waltz; it was definitely a faster number. However both of us had tasted ‘blood’ and cupid had already struck, and found its mark, and nothing could do us apart now.
Both of us decided to carry on with our ‘clinging to each other’ exercise and to hell with the music. We were transported in heaven both of us, the ecstasy and excitement of being in each other’s arms and holding each other tight, as if proclaiming to the world – till death do us apart.
I suddenly noticed Alina. Her eyes were closed and her head was resting against my chest. I realized then and there, how much I loved this irresistible girl, and the sudden urge to ‘kiss’ her was so strong that I nearly succumbed to it.
However, suddenly the music stopped and it was time for the band to ‘break up’ for the night, little realizing that they had ‘broken’ our hearts’ in the process. However time was the essence and the band had been contracted to play for a particular time, in this case 11 o’clock, and they had already extended by more than half an hour. So rules had already been flouted, and really couldn't be broken any further.
I thanked Alina for the ‘lovely’ dance, and promising to meet up the next day, she headed home with her cousin with whom she was staying in Naini.
I meanwhile was in a daze and it would take me some time to gather my wits and come back to my original state. I was not drunk on liquor but love…was I dreaming or was it happening for real? Well, indeed it was, as I pinched myself. For me however, it was a dream come true. Back home in Allahabad, I could have never imagined myself dancing like this with the girl of my dreams, in my arms and without a thousand questions being raised.
“Welcome to the new life”, I thought to myself. It was my awakening too.
A bumpkin from a small town in love with an upscale bohemian girl from a place like Delhi, who knew and spoke her mind. She was actually in love with me and had danced with me unmindful of the people all around. What more could I want?
These thoughts were uppermost in my mind as I nibbled on my food sitting in the club premises, and they were still flooding my mind, as I finally made my way back to the hotel in which I was staying. There were stars in my eyes, and a song on my lips.
What…..? Was I in love? ……….:) Maybe yes!
Yes, yes, yes! Of course! A big yes!
End of Chapter Three - A Midsummer's Love Tale
This material is copyrighted and no publication in any form is allowed anywhere and would be infringement of copyright laws.
Sunday, 26 May 2013
Dear All, I'm putting up a few more chapters for your reading pleasure. Hope you like them and say so. Thanks.
A MIDSUMMER'S LOVE TALE
A JOURNALIST'S WORLD
After the stupendous success of my story on Amitabh’s election died down a bit, I carried on with my unusual flair and style, reporting about the day to day happenings and slowly made a mark in the world of journalism. I was now more of a celebrity, and even established journalists had acclaimed my work. They encouraged me to work harder, and I got some offers too for work in Delhi which I politely and regretfully declined, as I was unable to leave my city.
One day I was sitting alone and typing away at a story furiously (remember typewriters’ were then in use) when in walked a person who said he had credible information of ‘caste conversions’ going on near Rewa bordering the State of Madhya Pradesh. This was the ‘Nat’ Hindu community or the nomad like tribes who were forced to ‘convert’ to Islam because of monetary pressures, and would I be interested in covering this story.
The journalist streak in me was immediately aroused and I said yes to cover this story at the earliest. True to his word, when we reached the Nat community, near Rewa, I was appalled at the plight of the ‘converts’ and the tales of ‘horror’ they had to narrate.
I first met a young Nat Hindu couple who had changed their religion to Islam for a mere thousand rupees on the assurance that they would be given good jobs and a house to live in along with land to plough their produce. Having fallen in that trap they had gone ahead with the ‘conversion ceremony’ where they were ‘circumscribed’ and they were declared as Muslims and were also given Muslim names to go with. After that they were each given a meager thousand rupees but no land was given to them as promised.
They were forced to live outside their village on the mercy of the other ‘converts’. Their own people would not support them now, because of their conversion and the ‘promised’ dole was not forthcoming. Their ‘conversion’ was done with and completed’ and now they had been duped and there was no turning back for them. It was a ‘heartless’ and ‘heart wrenching’ sight.
What surprised me most was their appalling innocence; they had compromised themselves to accept this ‘conversion offer’ out of sheer poverty and deprivation of their basic rights of food, shelter and clothing. They were led to believe that if they converted, their troubles would end, and a life full of promise awaited them at the other end of the tunnel.
Alas that was not to be, and they were now living a life of silent torture, far more badly than they had imagined.
It was their own kin, who had duped them into accepting this offer, and now they were leading a life of neglect and I was determined to pull them out of this muck. I heard them out with patience and my heart was filled with remorse for them. So this was the reality of ‘forced conversions’. How can any man’s misery be another person’s delight? …..
The other ‘converts’ had similar tales to tell. Raziya (name changed) recalled with fondness how she used to stay in a Hindu pariwaar(family), and how she had joyfully celebrated all the Hindu festivals like Holi, Diwali and Dushera, with her family members. Suddenly after her marriage to a person who had less than average earning, she was fooled by the smooth talking of a village friend, and was forced to convert along with her husband.
She recalled how she had indeed fought with her husband, who was not so inclined to accept this foolish offer, which had changed their life forever. They were offered a few thousand rupees in exchange for their ‘faith’, and a bright future, with a new home with some land to plough. None of that was forthcoming, except for a few miserable soiled notes of currency. Now they were living in misery, squalor, neglect and utter helplessness.
This story hit the headlines as soon as it was published, and just refused to go away. It was carried with a by-line in the Delhi as well as the Lucknow edition of the newspaper. There was uproar as soon as the matter was brought out into the ‘public domain’, with the Opposition members creating pandemonium and gunning for the ruling party’s head and asking for their explanation, as well as their resignations for failing to protect the basic rights of people and forcing them into conversions.
The matter was raised in the Assembly too and amidst the shouting and banging of desks’ and the din caused by the MLA’s, the Assembly had to be adjourned sine die.
An inquiry was also ordered immediately by the State Government, as to why, and who had resorted to these ‘forced conversions’. It was a pity however, that nothing was done to alleviate the living conditions of these people to a much better one, and politics was being done in the name of ‘forced conversions’.
Perhaps this was because the Nat community didn't have a sizable vote bank due to their nomadic nature. Their names weren't registered in the electoral rolls, as they were forever travelling, always on the move.
A follow up story on these conversions, maybe could have helped to alleviate the conditions and lessen the misery of these people. I was not one of those journalists’ who would feel comfortable in simply highlighting anybody else’s misery, and wait for the cacophony of applause to filter through.
I was more interested that the human touch in the story should be ‘exploited’ and brought to the fore. Something should have been done to reduce their immediate misery. A re conversion maybe, some land, a new home, a new job perhaps, could have been the ideal solution I was looking at, but nothing happened. Only a miracle was needed to alleviate the sufferings of these people.
I was particularly saddened by the fact that when these people got to know I was a journalist they almost ‘felt rejuvenated’ as if I was the balm they had been waiting for.
In fact I still remember Raziya’s comment, ‘Sir, you will get us out of this mess, won’t you? We promise we are ready to re-convert back if you help us!’
All I could do was to hide my face and mumble an assurance.
‘Yes, yes please don’t worry, I’m sure after this story comes out, your troubles will end.’ I assured Raziya.
This story, although made it to the national press, did not still achieve the above ‘objective’ I had in mind. The assurance given to Raziya was not fulfilled.
My objective was to highlight the pathetic conditions of the Nat Community after their so called conversions and the zero benefit accruing to them thereafter, even after their faith conversion. The other objective also was to stop any further illegal conversions, so that the people of this particular community and region would not be further exploited.
The further conversion had, in any case now stopped considerably, after the miserable experience of the members of the Nat community who had already been forcefully converted. But the plan to alleviate these people to a better living position was probably not achieved in the desired manner, as I wanted, as probably at that time the ‘power’ and potential of the electronic and print media was not fully realized, and was not so much visible, as it is today.
So much for the power of media!
Another story which I did and which attracted considerable amount of attention, was the story on the apathetic and miserable conditions of the hospitals of Allahabad. The MLN (Moti Lal Nehru) Medical College, which is the premier medical college as well as Government hospital in Allahabad was completely in shambles. When I walked in, the stench coming from the corridors was overpowering. The operations being conducted there, threw up a lot of waste like human blood, human parts which were dissected and thrown away in a corner for it to be carried away by the hospital sweeper. The sweeper instead of carrying it away just threw them in a huge trench dug up outside the hospital. This in turn attracted a large number of stray dogs feeding on hospital waste garbage. Imagine my horror, when I saw some stray dogs roaming around unabashedly near the operation theaters and the wards.
I almost threw up. ‘My God, if this is the state of operation theaters’ and ICU then how could anybody expect to get home alright?’ I thought to myself before I threw up my hands in indignation. However more horror awaited me. An emergency operation was being conducted and the lights had gone off. As the generator was being repaired it could not be put on, and the patient was waiting for life support equipment and the operation was ‘put on hold’ for the time being.
‘PUT ON HOLD’! ……..My foot!
Can you imagine more callousness than an operation being put on hold for want of electricity, even for a short while’?
This was the height of callousness, and in case the patient started to come back to consciousness, what would he see and feel, but his guts staring back at him. Ugh! I shuddered at the very thought of such an eventuality. Horror!
More horror was in store for me as I walked ahead. The oxygen tanks were not fully operational and oxygen for the patients was in short supply. The blood banks were not up to their working capacity and the blood being supplied besides being in short supply was not tested for contamination.
There were rats and small mice running around the corridors, as well as underneath the beds with the patients lying on top. A cat was all that was required to complete this pathetic scenario. Maybe a cat could have helped the hospital to reduce the number of rats or at least keep them down. But this was pathetic. Later I got to know this was standard procedure here. The rats were getting fatter as they were feeding on human flesh being operated upon and organs thrown out in the hospital garbage.
In fact just a few days ago there were reports of a baby being attacked and bitten by rats in this very hospital. The baby didn't survive and there was a hue and cry but the matter died down soon thereafter. It was carried all over in the local press for a few days, and in fact this was precisely the reason why I had come to this hospital to cover the proceedings. An inquiry was ordered and was still pending.
So this was it.
Allahabad’s premier hospital which had total Government funding and backing and apart from being a teaching medical college, which was also a premier hospital on the pattern of AIIMS; although not as high profile as that.
So would it remain in such a pathetic condition or would it improve.
Another menace, for all to see and notice was that of stray dogs. As if rats and mice were not enough, stray dogs were also prevalent, and freely roaming around in the corridors of the hospital. The stench of the hospital, the waste being thrown all over, the daily operations conducted, attracted these stray dogs. There were no security personnel at the gates to ward off these animals from entering the wards and even the operation theaters. Dogs were sitting underneath the beds of patients admitted inside the General Wards.
It was a terrible, unimaginable, heart wrenching scene; was this image of free India our forefathers and leaders could have visualized? Was this the Country earlier addressed as ‘Soni ke chiriya’? (Bird made of gold)
I tried to imagine the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters of our Country who struggled day and night to gain independence for us Indians and for posterity. The people who had laid down their lives for independence would surely be writhing in their graves, and their souls would have been pained tremendously, had they been alive to see this absolute parody of sorts happening in our midst.
The Medical Superintendent of the hospital when contacted couldn't comment much on this situation, and wanted to wash his hands off the whole matter. However I was having none of this, and before I left, I took a written assurance from the MS that these complaints would be looked into, and surely rectified. I followed this up continuously and vigorously with my reporting on this matter, almost continuously, and last I learnt that the MS had tendered his resignation, and a new person had been appointed in his place. The wards had been spruced up, the dogs and rat menace had been checked and efforts were on to install a new working generator in place which would ensure at least an ‘uninterrupted operation’. So much for change in attitudes.
I also learnt that an attorney had filed a public interest litigation in the High Court seeking monitoring of the wards, medicine supply and general administration of this hospital. This ensured that further mischief was checked, and people were assured of a clean and hygienic hospital where they were assured germ free treatment, at affordable cost.
End of Chapter Two - A Midsummer's Love Tale
All contents of this chapter are copyrighted and the unauthorized publication in any form whatsoever is a clear infringement of copyright laws.
Thursday, 23 May 2013
Hey, this is a fiction which I started writing about an year back.......I'm putting here the first chapter for your reading pleasure and comments. It's actually a romantic fiction set in the locales of Nainital.
The main characters are Vikas Mathur a budding journo and Alina Patwardhan,a school girl and their blossoming romance when they bump into each other on vacation in the beautiful hill city of Nainital. Of course I'm only putting the first chapter on my blog for now, only for you and hoping that the response is good. Hope it appeals to you and gets read by all the right people.
I hope to find a genuine and a kind publisher who will go through the entire novel running into almost 40 chapters and will hopefully publish it.The novel is set in Nainital, New Delhi, and the last part is in Mumbai....it's a delightful story,witty dialogues,poignant love scenes and breathtaking landscapes. Some of these scenes from both Naini and Delhi will set your mood alive as it takes some of you back in memory lane!
The happenings and events like Amitabh's election are all true incidents but the interactive characters and story telling are all imaginary and bear no resemblance to any place, events or person, dead or alive.....
I'll be more than willing to share the entire script with any credible person who intends to either publish the book or make a movie out of it!
A MIDSUMMER’S LOVE TALE
CONCEIVED AND AUTHORED BY VIKKRAM GULATI
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, printed, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any other means without the prior written permission or consent of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover, other than that on which it is already published, and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters, or places, except those specifically mentioned to by their actual names and are known personalities or places, are fictional,and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Vikas was smart, fair complexioned, had wavy black hair, looked more like a model, and was of athletic build.
A well-established lawyer with a fairly intelligent mind, and lean looks. Except that ‘intelligence’ today is measured by the amount of zeroes your bank balance supports, and not by the ‘intellectual property or prowess’ you might have built up over the years.
So apart from being a fairly good lawyer with a fairly good bank balance, Vikas was plagued by the vagaries of his profession which called for the utmost care and commitment. One slip and the whole case could go for a six.
There was however one major drawback which Vikas faced, which was taking a huge toll on his professional as well as personal life.
Having been thrust with the responsibility of managing a career in the legal profession without any major help or any godfathers, Vikas had his task meticulously cut out for him. He had to maintain his clients as well as to keep the ‘flag flying high’ which had been handed over to him by his father who was in the judiciary.
The one ‘vice or virtue‘ which this dapper lawyer had, was to express his views or keep ‘writing’ regularly, which he did religiously, either in a newspaper column, or through his own blog. For that he could don the mantle of a journo or an author or a blogger. Or all combined in one.
He had always wanted to be a journalist right from the beginning of his working career. In fact even while pursuing his law course he had joined a highly reputed English daily as a ‘stringer’ and during his short stint, would provide numerous stories for them on a regular basis.
In his brief brush with journalism, Vikas had done innumerable scoops on topics as diverse as caste conversions, to an interview with a top Bollywood film personality, who had managed an election ticket for himself on the ‘ruling party’ ticket.
Vikas’s big break as a journo came when he was asked to take over as Chief of Bureau staff from an already established journo. This invite was based solely on the strength of his writing and the writing on the wall for the established journo was clear for all to see. He however declined the offer, Good Samaritan that he was. Reason being, as he didn’t want to destabilise the family of the ‘established journo’.
The established journo was almost in tears for losing face but was assured by Vikas that he would not ‘take over’ his job at any cost and he would remain boss always. Good sense prevailed all around and the established journo called Hyder was neither removed from his job nor was ‘demoted’ and continued as before, while Vikas stuck on as a ‘stringer’. So much for ‘human’ sacrifice, good deeds and impeccable conduct.
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“Can I speak with the Editor in Chief of Daily News, I’am Vikas Mathur this side”.
“Can you hold the line for a moment Sir, what is this call in connection with?” asked the lady on the other end quite inquisitively but politely.
“Well it’s slightly personal, if you don’t mind. I would rather discuss this with Barkha.”
“All right Sir, please hold on, I will connect you in a moment.”
Finally Barkha herself came on the line, “Oh Vikas, so it’s you, OK shoot, what is this about? My operator told me it was something personal you wished to discuss?” (Giggles) “How I wish we were more personal. What do you say? Shall we?”
“Why not Barkha. But right now I rang up to ask you whether you can accommodate my article in your paper” I almost ended up saying rag, and then bit my tongue for it.
“Oh, so it’s the writer in you that’s troubling you again? Right, is it? Well, what are friends for, and definitely I will publish your article. Don’t you worry about that! Just e-mail it to me whenever you have the time and I’ll see to the rest. Take care.” She said as she hurriedly put down the phone.
I was pleased with myself as I disconnected; it was quite a relief and more of a pleasant satisfaction to see your literary work in print. A writer can only imagine his work getting recognition and is comparable to a mother who feels proud and possessive of her baby’s progress.
Remember the first walk, the first step, or the first word the baby utters, the thrill of hearing your own name being taken – Mama or Papa, as the case maybe. And then slowly and steadily the list multiplies.
My urge to put pen to paper was detected when I started my journalist career in my college days. The desire was apparent in the numerous stories that I did for the newspaper I worked for. Story after story with a by-line catapulted me into the ‘top bracket’ without being nominated a correspondent but that’s how it was.
I recalled with fondness and pride, the article I had done with Amitabh Bachchan (the famous film star of Indian films in Hindi), when he had come to file his nomination for the Allahabad Lok Sabha seat.
Amitabh had responded on the clarion call given by his ‘close friend’ Rajiv Gandhi(the heir apparent to India's Prime Ministership) in their joint effort to ‘thwart’ the attempts of the then stalwart leader from UP, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna seeking a re-election from his hometown Lok Sabha seat of Allahabad, in Uttar Pradesh in India.
I had then become the first media person to record an interview with Amitabh Bachchan, the reigning super star, immediately on his arrival at Allahabad, second only to PTI and UNI. It was published as a headline with my by-line; my name shining out at the top in all their major editions all over India; after that the recognition just never stopped.
What a proud moment of personal triumph it was for me. A sense of achievement, an accomplishment, of having done something big, something worthwhile on my own. That was my first break as a journo and I still remember how I had managed the interview after talking to Amitabh’s press advisors, his cousin Abhijeet who was accompanying him. Actually Abhijeet had been in the same school together with me, and Amitabh had been my brother’s classmate in that same school at Allahabad. Rest was history, so far I was concerned.
Amitabh’s interview was a stupendous success for the paper I worked for, and was carried as I mentioned, in all the editions of the Daily spread all over India, with a by-line. And boy…… was I finally noticed.
My questions were intelligent, to the point, precise, and cutting. The superstar bore them all with magnanimity and answered them with his disarming smile, which had the ability to set a million hearts aflutter, especially his female fan following. His brooding eyes and sexy pout with that deep cleft in his chin, his bewitching smile; and of course who can forget his deep resounding rich voice, clear and crisp to the ear.
After that interview, I was the ‘blue eyed boy’ of Amitabh, as the superstar asked me to accompany him on most of his speeches in the villages of Allahabad. He referred to me as his ‘lucky charm!’
Wearing his long sleeved ‘kurta pyjama’(a long flowing dress which politicians in India usually wear) and fashionable Gucci shoes which although helped him in covering the fields and ‘pagdandis’(small raised lanes in the village fields) of the dirty slushy village, yet they stuck out like a sore thumb. He however never bothered about all these niceties, how he looked, how he was perceived.
He knew with conviction he looked good in whatever he did, whatever he promoted and his fans gave the reply befittingly time and again to whoever dared challenge his writ.
Everywhere that Amitabh went, there were scores and scores of people all lined up to catch a glimpse of their favourite Lambuji(tall man). Majority of them out there were fans, out to watch their star in flesh and blood. Most of them simply curious onlookers.
Everyone had seen ‘Sholay’- his super hit film, billed as the biggest blockbuster of all times. The film did business in excess of a platinum jubilee, running in theatres for almost years at a stretch.
So there was no dearth of people lining up for ‘darshan’. Ever since word had spread of the star himself contesting from here, the people of Allahabad were buzzing with excitement.
The news had been kept under wraps till the last moment and it was on the eve of the last day for filing nomination that it was finally broken out to the press. Amitabh had landed in a special chartered flight early morning at Bamrauli airport(the only airport at Allahabad), and from there the supporters and fans had lined up the entire route from the airport till the Circuit House to catch a glimpse of their favorite star.
It was as if a meteor had hit this sleeping town. Suddenly the crowd was awake, agog with glee and excitement, hearing this brilliant piece of news. Allahabad had gained prominence overnight. Not that it wasn't prominent already.
After all, Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi all belonged to this great place. The three holy rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati forming the Triveni and the Sangam, the symbol of faith, the land of the Maha Kumbh and Kumbh, it was all there. But this event was different, almost celestial and magical. A new star was to be born from Allahabad.
It was like a bolt from the blue, more like thunder and lightning hitting its inhabitants from above, like manna from heaven, like water to parched throats. It was the superstar himself, descended from heaven to woo them for votes. The event of the century perhaps.
After all who wouldn't want to see their favorite superstar in ‘flesh and blood’ and see him wave at them. At every 100 meters the Superstar would stop the van in which he was travelling, and pop his head out and start an ‘impromptu speech’. He had had that van specially crafted for him.
It had a thatch- back type circular opening, big enough to let Amitabh get in and out on his own, without disturbing the cavalcade. The entire journey from the airport till the Circuit House, his home to be for the next couple of days, took nearly two hours, although it was a short distance of only 10 km.
He had a few simple, rhetorical but effective words to tell them, ‘I belong to Allahabad; I’m the son of the soil, main hoon chora Ganga kinare wala, my father was a resident of this place and both my parents’ stayed here in Allahabad’.
The crowd in turn was mesmerized, and cheered their approval.
‘I have childhood memories of this place. Will u help me in developing the city of my birth?’ And of course the people roared in affirmation.
Many believed this was simply a ‘road show’ for the entire crowd. Nothing of this would actually translate into votes, and the ‘stalwart,’ the wily nily patriarch, doyen of Indian politics, H.N. Bahuguna would easily win, but alas the end result was not as convincing at all.
Amitabh was a hard worker and a ‘shrewd ambitious campaigner. He had NOT come here to the city of his birth to lose. When his poll pundits informed him after a few days of campaigning that the ‘crowds’ were gathering there simply to watch him sing and dance and he was considered only a ‘nachinya’(dancing star) from the tinsel land of Mumbai, nothing more than that, Amitabh was clearly and visibly hurt and disturbed.
He couldn't take this news with a pinch of salt. He grew very restive, angry and pensive on hearing this feedback, which was apparent from his behavior. I could sense as I was with him at close quarters. He hadn’t come here to lose.
This was more than just an election for him. It was the fulfillment of a promise he had given to his friend Rajiv Gandhi, a fulfillment of the faith his friend had put in him, which he had to deliver upon.A trust had been reposed in him which he had to fulfill. A friend had reposed that trust, that if anyone could defeat Bahuguna, it was him; nobody else. How could he let him down?
He rethought his schedule thereafter. He started door to door campaigning for more than 18 hours a day, going to the interiors of each and every village, requesting the villagers’ and others’ alike to not only ‘support’ him but ‘vote’ for him too. With folded hands, he went around village to village, almost pleading with them to make him win. Let them redeem the trust reposed in him by Rajiv Gandhi. He used to tell them he had come as a 'doot'(messenger) of Rajiv and they listened to him with rapt attention.
He also visited all the Government offices in the city areas such as the AG Office, the Board of Education offices, the High Court, the District Court, the Nagar Palika, university, colleges, markets, and ensured that the people had their loyalties divided.
The people had to be convinced that he would stay on after victory and would ‘help’ them in developing the city into a modern day Shanghai. By dint of hard work and persistent campaigning, Amitabh molded peoples’ opinion in his favor He converted his own impending loss into victory.
The main reason he won his election in Allahabad with one of the highest margins and voter turnout was, because he managed to win the trust of the people, and converted the hardliners and fence sitters on his side. What began as an election to be fought on caste lines got converted into an en masse voting spree in Amitabh’s favour. Mind you there was no internet or twitter or social media at that time.
It was as if an Amitabh wave had hit the city. It wouldn't subside till it had rightfully put the doyen of films firmly in place, and it certainly threatened to blow away his only rival, the great H.N. Bahuguna.
In fact the Opposition’s main plank was only this, that he was not a leader. He had been imported from ‘Bumbai’(the land of films and dreams), that he was a ‘Bumbaiya babu’ , had an established film career in Bombay and there was no way he would ever leave his filmy career, let alone have any spare time for the development of this city, he was calling the city of his birth.
Mr. Bahuguna repeatedly drove home the point with his supporters that Amitabh was an ‘alien’, would never care about the people once he was elected and that would be the end of his ‘flirtation’ with Allahabad. This was clearly stated by him in his interview given to me, at his palatial home situated near Bahuguna market, a posh up market place named after him only.
Amitabh on the other hand tried very hard to demolish this myth in the minds of the people. He was at pains to explain to the people at every meeting that he ain’t going anywhere and he would always serve the people of Allahabad.
How ironical, and mythical these promises would prove, because after he was elected, roughly three years after his election, sometime in 1987, the Bofor’s defence deal kickback controversy broke out and as his name was also dragged into these controversies along with Rajiv Gandhi, he resigned from his seat. Amitabh thereafter never looked back at Allahabad and decided to give it, and politics, a total miss, calling politics a ‘cesspool’.
But coming back to the Allahabad election. It was the mother of all battles. Rest is history. Amitabh managed to pull off a ‘stupendous victory’ over the desi, so far considered unbeatable stalwart, the great doyen of Indian politics, the patriarchal Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, and he, the ‘Nachinaya’ from tinsel town so to say, was declared the new sitting MP from Allahabad – the land of his birth.
He won the election by getting almost 68% of the total vote, which was totally stupendous, considering many in the Opposition believed he would ‘lose his deposit’. Not only did he prove his detractors wrong, but his victory margin perhaps belied his own expectations and the expectations of his Congress party, which had produced a master stroke, a feather from their cap in fielding his candidature from Allahabad.
His victory dance, ‘juloos’ or ‘victory procession’ as we can call it was even more stupendous and bigger than his procession had been on arrival. It stretched over more than 6 km at a stretch and was full of wild dancing men and women with drums, flags, caps and whistles in their hands. The enthusiastic convoy of cheering people was accompanied by scores and scores of cars, jeeps, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, what have you.
The roads were full of people all waving the Congress flag in ecstasy. People lined up on balconies of their homes, on their rooftops and climbed up trees just to have a glimpse of their ‘political superstar’ who had won their hearts by his simplistic style of campaigning.
A lesson to be learnt by all aspiring politicians – however big the adversary, never give up hope. An apolitical person, a novice in the art of cunning politics had taught them the first lesson in fighting and winning elections – practice simplicity, restraint, and be true to your cause. Jeet milegi(victory will be yours).
In sharp contrast, the pain and agony of defeat was writ large on the followers of the great Netaji Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, who had fallen down like a ‘giant ripe huge tree’. People were dumbstruck at the result of the elections.
Political pundits were awestruck at the colossal margin of defeat. It seemed the very moral and physical structure of Pt. Bahuguna had been destroyed. Even H.N. Bahuguna himself couldn't believe his luck.
The reality that a ‘stalwart’ like him in Indian politics could lose to a Bombay film star a ‘nachinya’(dancing star) as he had coined him, an alien to politics, was far too humiliating for him to digest. His career in politics was more or less over, wiped out, brought to a standstill by this defeat.
The superstar, a victor, the man of the moment, was perched atop a mini bus which had a platform built for him and he was waving to people all around. Flanked by local leaders with flags in their hands, there was jubilation and smiles all around. The people kept on shouting ‘Desh ka neta kaisa hon,’(how should the leader of the Country be?)
Pat came the reply, ‘Amitabh Bachhan jaisa hon’,!(should be like Amitabh Bachchan).
Cries of ‘Jab tak suraj chand rahega, Amitabh tera naam rahega’(till the sun and the moon remain, Amitabh, your name would also remain) …..kept renting the air and in this jubilation Allahabad got its first film star turned politician M.P. and their leader had indeed truly arrived. To borrow a phrase ‘Jo jeeta wohi sikandar’(whoever is the winner takes it all)
A new star was born on the looming horizon of Indian politics..........
End of Chapter One.
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