Padma's Lakshmi and Sant Chatwal

The nation’s highest civilian honours are announced on Republic Day, and as always there is cause for heartburn for those left out and amusement to onlookers.

10 per cent have been hogged by outsiders – yeah, expats. We’ll get to them in a minute.

Here are the awards:

  • Padma Vibhushan: “exceptional and distinguished service’’
  • Padma Bhushan: “distinguished service of high order’’
  • Padma Shri: “distinguished service in any field’’

What is Farid Zakaria’s achievement when compared to the years of work by artists Akbar Padamsee or Ram Kumar (they have all got the Padma Bhushan)? Is it important to choose someone from particular fields? Think about how Sitara Devi was constantly sidelined and refused to accept an award not in keeping with her stature. I’d say all this does not matter, but these are public figures who have contributed a lot to their field, at times exceptionally so.

In a nation that prides itself on being on the go we could not find a worthy candidate who could be a jewel, a Bharat Ratna? That should make us ashamed and stop bragging.

It is not surprising that the Nobel, Magsaysay and Oscar winning guys will take away the Padmas too; they have to because India needs to prove that we also celebrate what they do.

This brings us to the most controversial award-winner this year – US-based hotelier Sant Chatwal. He gets the Padma Bhushan in the field of public affairs. As far as we know running hotels is indeed a public service, but that isn’t what the committee thought about. He has been a fund-raiser for the Democrats, primarily the Clintons. Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State. Let us not forget for a moment that political considerations always work.

You perform a surgery on a bigwig, you interview him, you clean his cupboards but do not wash his dirty linen and you have it made.

I think Sant Chatwal deserves it. He is the successful face of our country we’d like to show; he is from a minority community, he pushes the royal Indian version when his son gets married and makes us look like a land of elephants, which we indeed are. It is really bridging the gap between the traditional and the modern that is so important to us, although we have no idea about what really traditional means and what modern means. For us, tradition is ritualistic and modernity is of course westernisation.

There is no need to be surprised. Why is everyone mentioning the cases of fraud against him now? As though the awards committee does not know. He is our man in the US, and we need our men in the US. Sant Chatwal has been offered a lollipop to keep him happy; his happiness will spill over and fill the coffers of that huntress Hillary and we might get a little pat on the back for being tough on terrorism.

As on every such occasion, we were warned about attacks. The security agencies were also examining the tunnel on the border. This tunnel must have been a real quickie. Anyhow, I hope our guys were more prominent in the Padma lists; their getting awards for bravery is different.

Former CBI chief D R Karthikeyan, who headed the SIT which probed the Rajiv assassination case, has also been selected for the Padma Shri award. Now? Time to wake up.

I think there should be bidding for these awards. Really.

End Note

Can someone please tell me since when has Mile Sur Mera Tumhara become “The song of India”? It is about India, about promoting its “multi-culti”, in Naipaul’s words, but who decides on something being the song of a nation? And if it is, then why has it been revamped to look like a cross between a Bachchan-infused Mani Ratnam film and an ad for Lux soap?


  1. Just one look at the past recipients of the Padma whatnot awards is enough convince one of the worthlessness of these awards. I mean, the loudmouthed jackass Burkha Dutt is an awardee and that woman has done more to damage India's cause than any most terrorists. (She gave away the locations of Indian troops in J&K for TRP ratings and got Indian soldiers killed, that is how irresponsible she is).

    These awards are bought and sold for political favours in India.

    If these awards were made of paper, I would use them for wrapping fried groundnuts down in my self-owned-and-operated "Fresh Peanuts for Overgrown Monkeys" stall down at the beach.

  2. I learnt after some amount of time, you stop giving importance to these kinds of things. I have generally sensed a certain type of callousness towards the government/politicians in India. It's funny how they always have a way to make us feel let down.

    (Honestly, I feel awards are nothing to lose sleep over but when this same pseudo behavior spills into things that matter then it really pisses me off.)

  3. FV
    What? Fareed Zakria is getting some sorts of honor? Honor for what? I personally never liked Fareed Zakria, I don't take him seriously, he never impressed me on any dialogue or on any article. What has he done for the country? except for being an host of a C class CNN's program GPS where he interviews different celebrities with out even having any knowledge about any particular region or issue. He is not a real intellectual, he is a demagogue who sells his demagoguery like Obama and pretends to know everything,but, in fact is dumber than anyone over CNN, he is even dumber than their dumbest one, Mr.Wolf Blitzer.....

    Fareed Zakria has absolutely NO clue about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran , middle east and even India.He doesn't has a clue about any topic on any region and then those CNN morons think that he is the expert on Indo Pak and middle eastern issues...His intellect is below average, his persona is worse than most of the worst CNN anchors, his info is weak, his voice, face and personality is treacherous. He is as illogical as any Freudian slip could be.

    When I saw him for the first time on CNN, I listened to him and there and there I rejected his demagoguery and unintelligent , unimpressive knows it all attitude. The man is a fake literate with no spine and with no solid knowledge.

    And now Indian govt. is honoring him with this badge of honor? what has he done for India except for sitting in some fake liberal hypocrite channel, CNN which no one takes seriously. India should know better who to honor it's highest honor?


  4. Al:

    While it is true these awards are bought and sold, I have no evidence of Pakistan attacking us because Barkha Dutt helped them locate our troops. I mean, are the Pak intelligence agencies increasing out TRPs? And if she got our soldiers killed, why do our soldiers let the channel visit them and have these song-dance shows with actors and even a tourist view of barracks etc?


    For those who are hankering after these awards, we need to provide some pills for insomnia :)


    Farid Z is the good guy. It does not matter what eh knows or does not know. Btw, there is a huge market for experts, esp on S. Asia.

    Once I get my mouth out of the habshee halwa, I am going to be in this bijness too :)

  5. I'm sure Pakistan will give you a nishana-e-something or sitara-e-otherthing...after all you've done for them, that's the least they could do.

  6. Arjun:

    Stop it! You are embarrassing me now. I know you are saying this to shame the Indian authorities for not having taken notice. Really, you don't have to :)

  7. FV, That bit about Dutt was in J&K was irresponsible journalism, not a conspiracy theory.

    Getting other people killed by revealing info in the air that helps the enemy is not responsible journalism. That's all I have to say on that.


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