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Politician-authors, windbags and...

I have known Jaswant for over 30 years. Right from day one, I was impressed by his gentle manner of speaking and his courtesy, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2006 03:46 IST

I have known Jaswant for over 30 years. Right from day one, I was impressed by his gentle manner of speaking and his courtesy.

It was hard to believe he was a prominent member of the BJP, a party I have always linked with religious bigotry and Islamophobia. He had been a soldier and fought two wars with Pakistan before he resigned his Commission and turned to politics.

He has been elected to Parliament many times and was in turns Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and Finance Minister in AB Vajpayee’s ministry. That in itself qualifies whatever he says or writes as compulsory reading.

He is best recalled for his role in swapping Pakistani terrorists held in Tihar jail in exchange for the release of Indian nationals in a hijacked Indian airlines plane held in Kandhar seven years ago: 166 passengers held as ransom for a handful of terrorists.

One may question the wisdom of doing so, but no one questions the courage of carrying it out. He carried out the operation single-handed. It required nerves of steel to fly to and carry out the dangerous mission in a foreign country which had failed to perform its duty. His political career and adventures are recorded by his own pen A Call to Honour: In service of Emergent India (Rupa).

Jaswant has varied interests: to keep alive the dialect of Barmer where he comes from; to preserve Rajput traditions worth preserving; being a horseman he wants to keep Rajasthani breeds of horses alive; he rides, plays polo. He is a good chess player. Despite being embroiled in politics, he reads extensively and has seven books to his credit; another four are in the pipeline. Though not a great orator, he speaks Hindi and English with equal fluency.

In short, Jaswant is a rare specimen of a gentleman-politician. This kind of species is almost extinct. He also writes very well.

Romeo or Juliet?

Some weeks ago, I wrote about the research being conducted by scientists on the gaseous content of wind broken by human beings, and whether or not it is combustible. I got a letter from my friend Reetan Ganguly of Tezpur enclosing a clipping from Mid Day of Mumbai drawing my attention to another aspect of humans letting off wind.

No other human-created sound evokes as much reaction. You burp, no one comments. You sneeze and some say “God bless!” You hiccup and somebody will ask you to have a glass of water. You let off a silent one, and people will hold their nostrils and say “Ugh!” and move away. But if you let off a loud one, just about everyone will break into laughter.

I recall, in my school days at a morning prayer session which ended with a two-minute silence for meditation, a boy from the famous Pandey family of Almora broke the silence with a resounding fart. Everyone in the assemblage broke into guffaws of laughter. Thereafter the boy was nicknamed ‘Paddoo’. That was over 80 years ago. He is still referred to ‘Paddoo’.

The Mid Day report was about Alyque Padamsee staging Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo & Juliet. A very polite audience saw Romeo commit suicide followed by his inconsolable beloved Juliet plunging a dagger in her heart. Just then a very loud fart resounded in the theatre. Who did it? The microphone, which magnified voices of actors on the stage, exonerated the audience. It had to be one of the two actors on the stage. Was it Romeo? Was it Juliet? It was not the kind of applause Padamsee expected.

Waiting for the son

Old women fall at his feet;
Congressmen fall over each other to greet
Rahul Gandhi, beseeching him to bail out UP
Imploring him to lead the country
Because obviously then
There will be no power cuts, no
water scarcity,
No crop failures, no suicides, no deaths
No Naxalite problem because there Will be no poverty
Because of his great antecedents, golden dynasty
There will be peace, prosperity and equality
There may be corruption, nepotism, exploitation
Infighting, hypocrisy, sycophancy
But because of his magic presence
There will be no opposition, neither Left, nor Right, nor BJP
And we in the Congress will feel free
To do what we will
Because Rahul has a cure for all ill.

(Kuldip Salil, Delhi)


I think we should have job reservations. I completely support the PM and all the politicians for promoting this. Let’s start the reservation with our cricket team. We should have 10 per cent reservation for Muslims, 30 per cent for OBC, SC/ST and so on. Cricket rules should be modified accordingly.

The boundary circle should be reduced for an SC/ST player. The four hit by an OBC player should be considered as a six and a six hit should be counted as 8 runs. The player scoring 60 runs should be declared as a century.

We should influence ICC and make rules so that the pace bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar should not bowl fast to our OBC players. They should bowl at the maximum speed of 80 km hour. Any delivery above the speed should be made illegal. Also, we should have reservation in Olympics.

In the 100 meters race, an OBC player should be given a gold medal if he runs 80 meters. There can be reservation in government jobs also. Let’s recruit SC/ST and OBC pilots for aircrafts which are carrying the ministers and politicians (that can really help country).

Ensure that only SC/ST and OBC doctors do the operations for the ministers and other politicians. (Another way of saving the country.) Let’s be creative and think of ways and means to guide India forward. May good breed of politicians like Arjun Singh long live...

(GM Kapur, Calcutta)