The law has done film actor Sanjay Dutt in, finally. While many seem to sympathise with him, I only pray that the soul of his father, kind legend Sunil Dutt, rests in peace.
I still remember his eyes deluged with tears over his son's crime, though it is two decades since. Sanjay was charged with possessing illegal arms relating to the 1993 terrorist blasts in Mumbai, something his father could never come to terms with.
I had an opportunity to speak with Sunil Dutt during his visit to Indore to lead a bicycle rally of youth against drugs. I, a cub reporter, also attended his so-called press conference, so called because no one could be formal with an unassuming, down-to-earth and warm-hearted Sunil Dutt.
Having heard of his political demagoguery and his "yatras" for good purposes, I, being in my early 20s, somehow chanced to ask him: "Sir, but we learn that you frequent Indore also to visit faith healers such as Mauni Baba (spiritual guru of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Arjun Singh) at Ujjain (nearby religious town) to seek their blessings so that your son is free."
Sunil Dutt was perturbed. His gaze fixed on me for many long seconds until he nodded, tears welling up in his eyes. "That is also right but I am here on this purpose as well," he said, regaining his composure. Then, with a faint smile, he said why not; after all, Sanjay was his son; to pray for him was his duty.
I could not see the future but as it unfolded, the Sanjay Dutt episode always kept him down and sad, until his end on May 25, 2005, at 75. Time's still fleeting, and the Sanjay Dutt case is still in news; and I remember this anecdote. Almost the day he died, Sanjay got behind bars.
Appointed Sheriff of Mumbai in 1982, Sunil Dutt retired from films in the early 1990s to turn to politics, a career he jettisoned for some years in that decade to focus on trying to free his son from jail. He won national acclaim in the industry but shared the screen with Sanjay only once, in the 2003 film "Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.", shortly before his death.
To me, there seem to be two things to take from the experience: One, that prayer can lessen pain, and two, that law exists, if there is one to enforce it.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org