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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Info Post

(Published in, on February 3, retrieved from )

This year’s announcement of the Padma Award winners has disappointed those of us who love a good controversy.

Well, of course there’s Montek Singh Ahluwalia, but he’s no Sant Singh Chatwal. You could go on, as many people have, about the ridiculousness of fast-tracking the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission to the Padma Vibhushan at a time when onions are making people cry even before they’re cut. But then, you could dismiss it as the UPA’s signature on an otherwise justifiable list.

However, I have a personal wish-list of Padma Awardees, whose stellar service to Indian society has got more attention than accolades:

Rakhi Sawant for Art (Cinema and Theatre): How often have we seen an item number girl merge film and drama into three reality shows? After being spied on in Bigg Boss, she went on to get almost-married-and-divorced on television, and then pass judgment on the aam aadmi in Rakhi ka Insaaf. The fact that a contestant was allegedly driven to suicide oughtn’t to stand in the way of Rakhi receiving laurels, when the Planning Commission is believed to be doing a splendid job despite the rising count of farmer suicides.

Swami Nithyananda (Public Affairs): This one’s self-explanatory. An affair on candid camera followed by a televised self-purification ritual makes the man who is usually referred to by the rather glamorous epithet ‘Self-styled Godman’ quite a pioneer in his field.

Himesh Reshammiya (Art and Culture): He did what even Mowgli could not. A boy raised by wolves supposedly spent most of his youth singing Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai, but Himesh could put the whole pack to shame with the “ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonh!” with which he introduces each of his compositions.

However, I find his attitude more awe-inspiring than his music. In all likelihood, he’s the only one who’s left Karan Johar at a loss for words on the latter’s own show by (a) admitting that the purpose of his cap was “hundred purcent” to camouflage his receding hairline (b) reminding Johar Junior that his was among the big labels that wouldn’t give him a chance early in his career.

Niira Radia (Trade and Industry): It takes something to represent three business empires with interests in telecom. But those of us who’ve been curious enough to listen to her tapes in detail will know Radia has also contributed to India’s foreign trade. She tells Ratan Tata that she owns a single Roberto Cavalli gown. However, when asked whether she purchased it in London or Mumbai, she replies, intriguingly “oh, long ago.”

A Raja (Science and Technology): A natural follow-up, you might think. But, no, Raja’s credentials for the honour are quite different. First, he deserves recognition of some sort for making a thirteen-digit number – 17,60,00,00,00,000 – familiar enough to type without pausing to count the zeroes and space the commas. One is also tempted to credit him with being involved in a scam in a field about which he is clueless enough to call it ‘spetrum.’

William Dalrymple (Literature and Education): We hadn’t heard about White Mughals before he wrote a book on them, but now we’re so comfortable with the term we’ve bestowed it on Dalrymple himself. More pertinently, though, since he and three other Blackberry-toting friends are to be entirely credited with the organisation of the Jaipur Literary Festival, might as well, huh? Of course, the government may have to negotiate with Facebook to create a Padma Awards application. I quite like the idea of an update that reads:

Pratibha Patil just gave William Dalrymple the Bharat Ratna!

William Dalrymple likes this!’

Jyoti Singh (Sports): She used the Bihar Assembly brouhaha to showcase her talent for throwing flower-pots. While the government didn’t see fit to include an event in her honour at last year’s Commonwealth Games, they ought to have made amends by rewarding her for her...ummm, shall we call it ‘woman power’?

M Karunanidhi (Social Work): Not only has his system of distributing free colour televisions won him votes, it’s also empowered people to follow what exactly is going wrong with the governance of their state and nation. As the elections approach, he may want to take Nitin Gadkari’s advice and give away bulletproof jackets to fishermen, though.


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