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We deserve this?

The President of India finally conferred the Padma Bhushan last week on Sant Chatwal in a glittering ceremony held at the Durbar Hall at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Chatwal is known for his honest business pursuits that include starting and shutting many businesses in the United States as also for his amazing proximity to Bill and Hillary Clinton, writes Suhel Seth.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2010 23:16 IST
Suhel Seth

The President of India finally conferred the Padma Bhushan last week on Sant Chatwal in a glittering ceremony held at the Durbar Hall at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Chatwal is known for his honest business pursuits that include starting and shutting many businesses in the United States as also for his amazing proximity to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Chatwal has lived a life of dedicated service to India even while living in New York. He has helped millions of Indians realise their aspirations of coming closer to the US even though they may never ever get to (or even care to) see the Statue of Liberty. In fact, many would argue, if it had not been for Chatwal’s red shoes and virginal white clothes, India as an economic superpower would have gone unnoticed.

But then Sant Chatwal is a modern Indian icon. He has made a lot of money and it doesn’t matter how. He knows everyone there is to know. He also defines the icons that India so desperately seeks: he has friends across the political spectrum; he knows every single bureaucrat that matters; his son’s wedding was attended by the who’s-who even though many many ask who he is?

But then this is contemporary India. To hell with merit and the fact that you may never deserve an award: what matters is getting the job done. Which is what Sant got done.

The question that begs an answer is will we ever know why Sant Chatwal got the Padma Bhushan? And why Shailesh Patel, the owner of the largest motel chain in the United States has not? Is it because they are too sartorially conventional? Or is their contribution to the world very meagre?

When Sant Chatwal walked out of Rashtrapati Bhavan he told the waiting press that truth had prevailed. Truth? The truth about audit fiddles in the US? But then when you sit back and think about it, I guess, this is what India deserves.

Suhel Seth is the CEO of Counselage, a Delhi-based brand and marketing consultancy.

The views expressed by the author are personal.