The Phoney Awards of ’10

Ho-ho ji —Merry Christmasji everyone! Forget about a white Christmas — there is nothing like a Punjabi Christmas! Not only do you get more artificial snowflakes than anywhere else in the world, you also get bigger, fatter and more ubiquitous Santa Clauses.
Christmas trees are sprouting all over Delhi’s shopping malls and Christmas carols are being sung in Karol Bagh. In the true all-pervasive Punjabi spirit — anything that allows us to spend money has to be very changa. Yet I notice that the politicians who are normally the first to be seen at iftaars are still a bit wary of Christmas parties.

Thus, it was great to see that the young Agatha Sangma, a member of Parliament, has finally broken the ice by throwing a Christmas bash. No doubt by next year the old colonial fear of doing the Christian thing will be forgotten and Xmas celebrations will no longer be excluded from the list of “must-do votebank festivities for the serious politician!”
And it’s also award time folks. As the New Year beckons, it’s time to remember those people we hoped we would forget, and to forget all those guys and gals we thought we would remember. And then, of course, there are those truly spectacular people who have decided that they will not allow you to forget them, and pop up everywhere, such as Suresh Kalmadi. And still others who have left indelible imprints on our psyche and our phone conversations. Yes, for instance, Niira Radia.
Just as in the Chinese calendar you have the year of the Scorpion or the Tiger or the Monkey — this year in India will be known as the year of the Radia, representing a hitherto unknown species adept at running the country, without anyone (except for some bemused individuals in the income-tax department) — getting to know about it. How amazingly efficient Niira Radia is! Why do we need all these politicians? Bring Ms Radia back, I say! She cost us much less too — she only made `300 crores — while A. Raja cost the exchequer over `1,00,000 crores. And all she needed was a cellphone!
So after much thought the “Phoney” Awards have been suggested for obvious reasons, I present a sample below:
To A. Raja: For showing great resilience and ability to remain unperturbed under the most Trai-ing circumstances
To Ms Radia: For giving a new definition to the term “Broad”-band services
To Suresh Kalmadi: For his remarkable memory of British royalty (living and dead)
To Digvijay Singh: For his equally remarkable ability to remember conversations with dead people

But the Woman of the Year is no doubt the inestimable, indefatigable Ms Radia. After the selective publication of the Radia tapes many people woke up to their own insignificance — because Ms Radia had never called them. Worse, even my own name has never been mentioned in the transcript! Every time my phone rings I am petrified that my phone is being tapped and people will discover: (a) not only am I not choosing any member of the Cabinet (b) I am not anywhere near RCR (Race Course Road, for those of you who are still unfamiliar with Delhi acronyms) and that (c) Ms Radia has never called me. The last is the most galling fact of all. If anyone knows Ms Radia’s number please SMS it to me (that is all that I want for a Christmas present!) — or at least let her know that I absolutely have no objections to being woken up by her phone call, at any time of the day or night. I am open to all suggestions about printing anything she wants in my column as I know the Prime Minister often refers to it before he takes any important decisions, such as where to place the next nuclear plant etc…
Therefore, I was surprised while attending a glittering awards ceremony this week, that Ms Radia did not get even a single award. Not even one! This is terrible. After all, the woman selected members of the present government, and she decided the policy. She even managed the media and ran a TV channel while helping our industrialists double and treble their profits. Just because she was modest and ran her empire through a cellphone, we are treating her very badly. At least, the mobile phone companies could have created an award for her or presented it in her name. These people are all so ungrateful. (This part of the article was sponsored by NR Associates.)
Overall, glitz and glamour seemed to be on the decline this year — and at least one of the recent award ceremonies was full of tributes to the “aam aadmi and aurat” — whether in media, sports or even politics. (Sorry about that Ms Radia, we will try to fix it for next year, hey don’t hang up now… ) For instance, at the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year celebrations — the most applause was reserved for the unassuming J. Gopikrishnan, an intrepid reporter who chased up the 2G spectrum scam story for years, and kept it in the limelight. After all, without his dogged approach, we may have never learnt about the 2G scam. And he, in turn, thanked the (as yet) unnamed bureaucrat who first tipped him off about the scandal. Yet, it was a bizarre to see the chief guest, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee standing next to Mr Gopikrishnan: a man who is responsible for many of the UPA’s present troubles. Gopikrishnan must have felt like a giant slayer.
The other big moment was when Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar won his Indian of the Year award. His re-election has been a game-changing moment for India, and Mr Kumar has managed to bring credibility back to the political scene. Even though he could not be present that night as his 90-year-old mother was sick, the goodwill for him was palpable. The most keenly observed story, right now, is that of Bihar. And if Mr Kumar manages to turn the fortunes of that beleaguered state — it could impact national politics. Even the Congress Party cannot fight the “Nitish-wave” as he presents a low-key, unglamorous, simple image — far away from the smooth talking, savvy Delhi politician and fixers whom Ms Radia managed to manipulate. (Oops, sorry Ms Radia. I didn’t really mean that, honestly — now listen I am just going to re-write that last line…)

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

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