Friday, October 22, 2010

Traveling to it to for the National Awards for ‘PAA

Sopaan , New Delhi Oct 21/22 , 2010 u/Fri 12 : 20 AM

New Delhi … traveling to it to for the National Awards for ‘PAA’ …. Traffic beats us … miss my flight … rebook on a later flight … leave an hour before and still just about make it … getting to the airport after several days and finding changes .. new terminal, lesser crowds and more efficiency.

Staff on plane, cabin crew excited more than ever .. ladies gents both .. wishing for pictures and autographs in general excitement. I must be doing something right I think. Its almost like the good old days. Oh ! Lord you are kind and generous and rewarding and so full of love. I offer myself to thee in sincere servility and gratitude.

Delhi … hospitable, neat and clean and built to event moment. Greener pastures, pavements uncluttered and clear, just a general sense of things in order and in working system … and this despite all that we have been reading and report assessing ! Drive past a few of the historic arenas of the Commonwealth Games, looking large and impressive. Straight on to Vigyan Bhavan the official conference venue of all the important and VViP jamborees, to rehearse for the National Award ceremony tomorrow. Meeting old friends, fraternity and seeing and meeting those from other walks of cinema in India, proud and pleased to be within these very nostalgic portals of grandeur.

Vigyan Bhavan … built during the early years of our stay here in Delhi, when I was in Sherwood .. and so many old memories come tumbling back.

The grand musical events, the philharmonic orchestras, the performances of dance and formal meetings, the gathering of those that cared and ran the country.

One particular evening in the presence of Martin Luther King’s wife to see the historic Richard Attenborough film ‘Gandhi’, with its entire star cast. My Father and Mother too with me and my Father not happy with the presentation. A general opinion that existed among those that had seen and been with the Mahatma personally, that they could not see a replacement for him.

The philharmonic orchestra of Herbert von Karanjan and his conduction of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. The incomplete symphony and Swan Lake, just beyond description.

That done some interviews for the electronic … all the same … all the same replies …. More to come tomorrow, hopefully a few that will bring joy to the evening.

And then … to Suhel Seth’s for dinner. The hoi polloi of this capital city – politicians, media, artists friends.

But …

The biggest joy of them all meeting up with MaharajKrishna Rasgotra, ex foreign secretary, a diplomat and one of my Father’s oldest friends. Now old but with the same charm and grace that he always showed us. His wife with him unwell but full of verve and fond memories.

Rasgotra Uncle, in the foreign service posted in Nepal during the 1950’s. My Father taking us along to meet him soon after he returned from England after securing his PhD in English Literature from Cambridge University, St Catherine’s College. I think it was in 1953-54. A train to Patna in those days I may vaguely remember, during the months it rained. Crossing the river in Patna by a steamer to go across to meet one of his poetic contemporaries and then taking a plane to Kathmandu. It had been a DC propeller Dakota.

Kathmandu … almost a forgotten land, yet to see the kind of rapid and extended development that you witness now. One small airstrip, almost mud built, an office building and that’s it. No cemented roads – the only one being the one from the Indian Ambassador’s residence to the Royal Palace.

King Mahendra in power and ruling. His Father King Tribhuvan and his family fond of poetry and admirers of my Father’s works.

I think the Ambassador of India was to present his credentials to the King and we go to see the ceremony.

The palatial house of Rasgotra Uncle … he was First Secretary then and we stayed with him. Still remember his own separate quarters in a beautiful little cottage within the main compound of the building, with beautiful artifacts decorated in his room and his desk. He was a bachelor then.

The poetic symposiums each evening at his bungalow in the large and ornate hall of the main building … wooden floors, chandeliers, old antique furniture.

The joy of seeing foreign made ping pong balls, aluxury from the ones we used in Allahabad, playing TT on a taqhat .. a wooden bed like structure, which substituted for a table when the mattresses were removed ….

TundiKhel , if that is what it is still known as … the large maidan like open area, where all kinds of sporting informal activity took place, football in particular …

The first few words of Nepali that I picked up –

“Kankro khayo, kosto lago ? Ramro lago ramro lago !!

Did you eat the cucumber ? What did you think of it ? Good good it was good !

The Ambassador of India, Bhagwan Sahay a great administrator, living in the official residence of the Embassy, a large beautiful palace like home, awesome and inspiring … there, often to play with his children – Amarjeet and Amrita ..

Amrita passed away early when she was married and settled in Mumbai and Amarjeet still in contact … is in Delhi now, but was in his early years in Calcutta during the time when I was working there … lovely graceful humans, dignified, pleasant and loving …

Vishnu Sahay, Bhagwan Sahay’s elder brother … both senior and very respected officers of the Government Services the IAS, and the IFS … both almost contemporaries of my Father, always maintaining a fond relationship ..

Lovers of poetry and literature and culture .. and the many fond evenings spent in their home with my Father’s recitations..

After joining the movies in Delhi had invited over Bhagwan Sahay ji now retired to one of my functions and he sportingly came along, battling the mobs that surrounded us all ..

And Amarjeet after suffereing some personal traumas in life spending time with my Mother, who gave him hope and strength to move on and live life … and something he never forgot .. had wished once to come and see my Mother when she was almost comatose to seek her blessings … now communicates with me now and then … then in Nepal I had looked upon him almost idol like …

The picnics we went on with Rasgotra Uncle into the dense green forests around Kathmandu in his American Impala car ( I think it was that ), acquired from his recent posting in the USA. … an he giving me at that age a taste of the most bitterest drink I had ever had – beer !!

There was a swimming pool in his house, which always remained empty, much to our disappointment … ornate, large and very stately ..

For the investiture ceremony in the Palace of the King Mahendra, my Mother had got made the formal Indian attire of a band gala for me and I think that was the first time I ever wore one, looking most dapper and mature at age 12 or there abouts … every one had admired that dress … it was a grey and black spotted jacket with the band collar and black trousers … my brother and I both dressed alike …

Much later during the shoot for ‘Mahaan’ I had used that only bit of Nepali I knew .. there was no record of that visit, but it was the most historic for me … I used to carry my own still camera man because the press had banned me … Alam … and he took many pictures .. the video camera had just come out and I gave him mine to record for posterity … he did .. but those tapes cannot be found now … they were most precious ..

Alam died some years ago … still not at an age to go … and now I have his assistant Paresh that follows .. me … recording all that I do … the pictures you see on blog at times are the ones he has taken …

And when we shot for ‘Mahaan’ in Kathmandu years later, all those memories coming back. Not a soul knew me then, now … multitudes of locals wherever I went… the crowds you see in the film during the song – ‘pyaar mein dil ko maar de goli ..’ were all there to see the shoot ..

Kathmandu now … developed and grand and modern … so much has transpired in its history and its life … but all those memories of the visits there remain … etched so beautifully in the mind ..

‘Khuda Gawah’ shot in the interior valleys and hills and all those marvelous treks to the places of sanctity and prayer … the temples and dhams …

And then the terrible tragedy of the Palace and the shooting incident when an entire royal family passed away … I used to meet them often during my several visits to Kathmandu … now suddenly all gone … no more … so difficult to imagine !!

And so this evening as I meet up with Rasgotra Uncle, everything all comes rushing back … he promises from me that I visit him at his home … I will .. he has been one of my Father’s closest friends and associates … he is frail and his wife unwell, but full of the spirit of old … Suhel tells me he came over today only because he knew I was coming … some attachments live forever … some friends for even more !!

But Delhi socials are a different kettle of fish … in time all conversation turns political, diplomatic and governmental … and I am not equipped with either of the three …

Its an early call tomorrow morning for media and interviews … and then the recognition of the awards and Shweta and Niky hosting all of us winners in her beautiful home later … and with the grandchildren !!

Good night … shubh ratri … shabba khair … sat sri akaal …

Amitabh Bachchan

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