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Dual reality

Every time the BJP?s Vijay Kumar Malhotra sees young boys at traffic intersections asking for money to woo Saturn, it takes him back to his days as a child, writes Kumkum Chadha.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2006 03:57 IST

Every time the BJP’s Vijay Kumar Malhotra sees young boys at traffic intersections asking for money to woo Saturn, it takes him back to his days as a child. He was one among them, having grown up in a village of bhaatre(s), as these Saturday boys are known. Or so Vijay Kumar tells us. It is but a quirk of fate that they later formed his electorate in the South Delhi constituency. He attended the same school as they did. Only,  there were special classes held for ‘high IQ’ boys like Vijay. Given that Saturday is a ‘heavy’ day for bhaatres, it was a holiday for Vijay who then flew kites, played marbles and used bottle-caps as flying discs, slyly coating his opponents with tarpaulin to get what was dubbed ‘flight advantage’. He was also among the best known lattu players or so he claims, till RSS’s schedule stopped all play. He was 11 years old at the time when the rigour of shakhas killed the child in him. Hammered into him was their version of nationalism: breathe fire at Pakistan.

He grew up doing precisely that — both in and out of Parliament and unwittingly qualified as a ‘Pak-basher’. But scratch the surface and there beats a heart that holds memories: publicly of bloody Partition but personally of the mansion, which the family left behind in Pakistan. When Vijay revisited it some years ago, he found it to be as the family had left it: “Not a brick touched…,” he said, adding that Pakistan had bettered India because they had retained original names like Lakshmi Chowk, Shradanand Street, Sant Nagar or Gurunanak Chauraha  as it were. But he has not made known the fact that he got goose pimples on his arrival at his former home that his parents had locked up in the hope of returning one day. That never happened. But what has,  is a vow to take his family to his ancestral land: “I will take my family to Pakistan… a country where I spent the formative years of my life… in Gawalmandi.”

Remind Vijay about his Pak bashing and he’s quick to explain his changing tack: “There are two faces to everybody. I bash the terrorist face of Pakistan but its people are not like that. They are warm and friendly,” he concedes. Malhotra’s provocative remarks are often expunged from House proceedings — this could well be worth recording.

Like his two birthdays: one which the family celebrates and the other documented. “My grandmother said I was born three days after Holi. But my public birthday is in December.” The year, 1931. Hopefully.