Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ratnas, Padmas and Sirs.....

Its that time of the year again.

Its time for the "granting of the favours" . Earlier it was more like "granting of the honours".

My childhood years were TV-less, Internet-less, but studded with the haunting sounds of the AIR (All India Radio, NOT All India Rank) signature tune playing in the early rays of the sun as we got ready or school /college and assorted games practice classes.

Vividh Bharati and Radio Ceylon did the film songs, and for a long time I used to think that Mohammed Rafi actually went to Ceylon to sing Actually , it didn't really matter, as that wasn't something that was on the parents approved-list of things to do, and so was enjoyed surreptitiously.

Newspapers were full of news, rarely sensations. There was a sanctity about high places and with those that occupied them. Republic Day honours often delighted everyone, and one's parents were often observed nodding their approval. If there was a desperate behind-the-scenes plotting or skirmish, one never heard or saw it. Consequently , we grew up with a healthy respect for those in high places.

My children today cannot say the same. Government has become an ocean of opportunities, all to be grabbed with hands, feet ,relatives, and anything else you can think off, and if you stop to think about rights,wrongs and rules, you would probably qualify for the Padma Murkha Award for that year.....

Republic Day has become a day on which one peruses the Padma Award lists to see how many and which people have succeeded , sometimes, not in their fields of work , but in the back-scratching-favour-returning sweepstakes.

This year takes the cake. The "Competition" for Bharat Ratna has hotted up. And to think that I always thought it was an inspired decision at the topmost echelons of government, seemingly removed from the brat-race.

Never have political parties , so blatantly put up their candidates to compete for the country's highest Award.

So far there was a massive lack of finesse in deciding the Padma Awards. That the Ratna Award should be haggled about , has severely demeaned its value, and if that's the way things proceed, then the award should be scrapped.

Witness how Advani proposes Vajpayeeji's name. You serious ? The combative left responds with Jyoti Basu's, only to have some theoretical communist types harrumph loudly and say they don't accept "State Awards"..... Madam Mayawati emerges from her state sponsored diamond encrusted birthday celebrations to demand that the founder of her party , Kanshi Ramji is really the only choice; get ready for a whole bunch of National Parks, maidans, colleges, universities, airports etc to be named after him. I only hope they leave the Arabian Sea, and Bay of Bengal alone.

With Madam in the race, can Mulayamji be left behind ? No siree. Bharat Ratna for him too. And never mind those court cases. They are almost like a qualification today. Accused but not convicted. And so , in a shameless manifestation of the "me too" syndrome, Laloo Prasad Yadav in a display of Bihari inspiration, nominates two leaders of his state posthimously in an alarmingly sudden manner; Jagjeevan Ram and Karpoori Thakurji ki Jai. Who are they ? Does it matter ?

Naveen Patnaik of Orissa, suddenly feels that it's high time his father Biju Patnaik is awarded the Bharat Ratna. That Tamil Nadu will surge forward with a nomination request for Karunanidhi is one of my few correct predictions. And I hear, that NT Rama Rao's daughter, who is, what else, a MP or a minister in Delhi, feels that her father is actually a "gem" of a choice for the Ratna Award.

What candidates ! What amazing choices ! And none of the above, can claim to be universally , nay, nationally , without reservation (was that a pun?) , admired .

Quiz the citizenry, and you get the real answers.

Why not Kumble, who came through in flying colours, when he handled the monkey business in Sydney. Dignified, serious, to the point, and very firm, he united the team as never before. His interviews and declarations would put a diplomat to shame. He allowed every Indian to hold the head high, and never mind who won the match. Applause came from across a cross section of cricketing and non cricketing folks. The spinner excelled as a statesman, and never mind those 600 wickets. Everyone admires him, with or without the cricket.

Why not Baba Amte, who singlemindedly brought dignity, self respect and success to those affected with leprosy, and created a haven, nay heaven for them at Anandvan, toiling away through an entire life, lately almost bedridden, without expecting any fruits of his labour, in the highest spiritual tradition ?

Why not Ratan Tata, the doyen of industrial India, who used available excellent Indian technical expertise to come up with a one lakh car, so that those forced to travel "quadruple seat", with children hanging on for dear life between parents on a single motorcycle, could have a safer option? (When his uncle the great JRD was nominated for the award, he(JRD) is reported to have wondered how he fitted in, as he was neither a politician , nor yet dead. .....)

Maybe the biggest hint has come from the Rt Hon. Gordon Brown Esq., Prime Minsiter of Great Britain.

Speaking at a function during his recently concluded official visit, he mentioned Sachin Tendulkar as a likely candiddate for a British Knighthood.

I suppose, while Mumbaicha Mulga, Master Blaster, Little Master, Khel Ratna, are all names dear to Sachin's heart, one more Ratna Award would be greatly appreciated, an accepted with great humility, maybe with a longish look at someone Up There , in the sky, who he always look up to.

About the Brtish Knighthood, all we can say, is , "Agobai, ata Sir Sachin ka ? Hmm."

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