I attended one of the most satisfying book launches of my life. The first time author? The frail but sprightly Sidney Pinto, a charming 85-year-old who has penned a delightful novel titled 'Louis Puttichenna - The Servant Boy from Mangalore.' Not only is it a swift read, it is a bloody good story, full of passion and intrigue, with as many twists and turns as a rivulet in the author's 'native place'' - the one he has written about with such flair and panache. The book is well observed, detailed, and dare I say it, even erotic! Sidney has created some wonderful characters, and like I mentioned at the launch, I can see a movie in the book. As for the star of the evening - Sidney himself - he was dressed in a fancy kurta pajama ensemble and busy flirting with all the pretty girls fluttering around him. When one of them asked solicitously whether he needed extra oxygen from a cylinder that was kept in readiness for him, he replied, " Of course.... the sight of so many beautiful women is making me breathless!" I am looking forward to his next novel. And I'd be more than happy to publish it!
This appeared in The Week....
Why Kiran Bedi….?
It happened to Barkha Dutt. Now it’s Kiran Bedi’s turn. At this point in time, ‘Crane’ Bedi, India’s most high profile, female (ex) top cop, has talked herself into a corner, going by the widespread hostility she has generated on the internet during Anna Hazare’s 13-day agitation. Since she was one of the key players of the Anna Campaign and visible on tv screens 24x7 during the period, there was just no escaping the Bedi onslaught. Whether energetically dancing with the tricolour, giving regular updates on Anna’s condition, mocking parliamentarians or just being officious, Bedi, clad in her trademark, macho salwar-suits with matching jackets was the tough talking spokesperson everybody loved to hate. Her ‘Anna is India, India is Anna’ declaration did not go down too well with critics, who kept urging the over eager former cop to calm down and take a break. Or, at least give poor viewers a break. That is Kiran’s personality – you either love her or loathe her. Ignoring Kiran is not an option! Well, now that the Ramlila show is over and everybody has gone home, it’s time to deconstruct the event ( for it was a carefully structured event, with highly capable event managers, make no mistake about that) and get a sense of the personalities behind Anna’s rise to superstardom. Let’s be honest, we live in intensely image-conscious times, driven more by perceptions than reality. Anna’s fast turned out to be a made-for-television protest – whether it was planned that way or not. People across the length and breadth of India, watched a 74 –year-old man taking on the mightiest in the land, fasting for his one-point mission, which is to root out corruption through the Jan Lokpal Bill. A mission that found countless takers in a nation that had reached boiling point dealing with venality and graft on an every day basis and at every level. But for Anna’s mission to succeed, he needed a crack team to push his agenda forward. His Gang of Four, included top brains ( Arvind Kejriwal, Shanti Bhushan, Santosh Hegde and Kiran Bedi). Kiran must have been allotted the ring master’s portfolio, for that is how her role appeared, as she shepherded Bollywood celebs to the dais and kept up a non-stop entertainment show against the backdrop of India’s two Gandhis – the original and the freshly-minted one - Anna Hazare . The visual alone was photogenic enough, but Kiran’s full-blooded performance was electrifying!
Given that a victory ( albeit, qualified) has been declared by the Anna Camp, why then does Kiran continue to attract so much flack?Perhaps it has something to do with her appearance and attitude. Compare the crowd’s favourable response to Medha Patkar ( brought in at the tail end of the sensitive negotiations), who held the stage clad in crumpled home- spun sarees, ill- fitting blouses, her unkempt, undyed hair in a careless braid. Her speeches were strident and uncompromising, forceful and fierce. But she refrained from nautanki ( reference: Kiran’s infamous mimicry act) preferring to concentrate on getting valid points across, as emphatically and swiftly as possible. She exploited TV time to her own advantage, without once inviting ridicule. That’s smart. Medha is brilliant at what she does, but this was the first time that she was given such a gigantic platform to air her views on a subject that found universal appeal. Anna’s protest against corruption had many more takers than Medha’s contoversial Narbada Dam campaign. If some viewers felt uncomfortable with Kiran Bedi’s hectoring style, it was Medha who restored the balance and brought in the required gravitas. Even though both women were on the same side of the fence, their respective styles were entirely at a variance. Medha’s was more cerebral as she attempted to educate the masses, Kiran’s more playful as she took the showbiz route to entertain, rather than inform the restless crowd. The rather unfortunate message Kiran sent out was that of a publicity hound hogging all the limelight, hamming it up on camera, while colleagues did the real work outside the glare of the spotlight. Kiran’s folly should act as a lesson to all those supporters of worthy causes. There is something known as overkill. And a little restraint hurts nobody. Manish Tewari will no doubt agree!