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My honours list for Bharat Ratna

Every Republic Day I scan the list of men and women honoured for outstanding performance in their field of work or service rendered to society. Khushwant Singh writes.

columns Updated: Sep 01, 2011 10:27 IST
Khushwant Singh

Every Republic Day I scan the list of men and women honoured for outstanding performance in their field of work or service rendered to society. I did that this year and barring a couple of names I won’t reveal, I agreed that those honoured deserved to be honoured. I was hoping that Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be conferred the Bharat Ratna.

He is no longer a political force but a figurehead of the BJP. He was a good Prime Minister. No scandal was associated with his name. He never married but adopted the Kaul family as his own. He did not indulge in nepotism nor had any cronies (hangers on). Being honoured by his political adversaries would have given credit to the Ruling Congress party.

Vajpayee was the best orator I have ever heard. He made a daring bid to befriend Pak-istan when he went by bus to Lahore. According to Indians and Pakistanis who heard him, it was the most memorable speech they had ever heard.

Vajpayee wanted to please everyone. When Babri Masjid was being demolished, on the dais was LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and others. It could be assumed that he was guilty by association with those who committed the crime. A few days later, he and Mrs Kaul contrived a meeting with me at a small dinner party. Mrs Kaul asked me to ask Vajpayee to show me the latest poem he had written. It was entitled Kya Main Boorha Ho Gaya Hoon? (Have I become too old?) It was full of regret that he had failed to stop the mosque being destroyed. He gave me permission to translate it into English and use it in my column. So he won both ways. No wonder Govindacharya called him makhauta (double speaker).

Vajpayee is a poet but a very second rate one. I read through one of his selected anthologies. One struck me as singularly silly. It was entitled Goriya Manali Mat Jaiyoo: Fair one do not go to Manali But if you must go Arm yourself with a trishul Because there you will meet Khalistanis.

However, an able and ambitious civil servant like Pavan Varma translated a selection into English. It was set to music and Uma Sharma danced to it. That is how it goes in our country.

There is something very likeable about Vajpayee. He is warm hearted, has an eye for the beautiful and enjoys his evening drink.

Let me return to the Republic Day honours list. Lobbying which should disqualify a candidate has become a common practice. I was invited to suggest names of those I thought deserved to be honoured. I suggested one without telling her. I was sure my recommendation would be accepted. She has been treating free of charge an average of 500 sick persons in the slums of Delhi by taking her mobile clinics with doctors, nurses and medicines every day. She has been doing this for some years. Her name was not in the list. I felt very peeved and swore not to recommend any person in the future.

private matters

At times, I find the most amusing news items about India in Private Eye’s column, Funny Old World.

This one is from its latest issue of the magazine called ‘One India’, published in Australia. I found it hilarious. This is now it goes:

“Nothing is more uncomfortable than being in an intimate situation with a woman, and finding that you can’t contain your gas,” clothing designer Gilbert Huynh told a press conference in Sydney. “I’ve suffered for years from the fruity flatus emissions of my own family, and one cannot keep blaming those onto the pet dog. So I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if I could come up with an underwear range that was not only comfortable for the wearer, but could also completely eliminate the sound and smell of body gas? The result is 4SKINS, the world’s first designer underpants that uses nanotechnology to eliminate flatulence misery in a stroke.

“Sportswear has been incorporating odour-neutralising fabrics for years, but this is the first time it’s been used in such intimate apparel. The Nano Tex treatment is applied to individual fibres in the fabric, which is also sound-proof. I did basic tests on myself and my family, then held further extensive design and development trials with more than fifty volunteers. After two years, our product finally went on sale last month, and initial interests has been beyond expectation. I’m particularly amazed at the number of women who are buying 4SKINS for their boyfriends or husbands. In fact, so far we’ve actually had more women buyers than men.”

summing up Taarey Zameen Par Keemtein Aasmaan Par

**** Q: What should be the new name of Twenty 20? A: Four 20! (Contributed by KJS Ahluwalia, Amritsar)