There is a great big debate now going on in India as to whether the new government in Delhi is deliberately underplaying / degrading the Nehru family legacy while hijacking another Indian National Congress icon Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

My readers know well that I have not been a fan of the INC since the sixties of the last century for some very personal reasons and the dislike for them grew just more when I suffered as a victim during the National Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi.

From among the old INC figures some figures however have always meant to be heroes for me like Rajaji, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Kamaraj etc, and so when my friend Ramesh J, not my partner in crime Ramesh T, recommended that I must see the film Sardar on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, I sent for a DVD and have just seen it.

First things first.  This film was made and screened in 1993.  That is over two decades ago when the INC was firmly in power in most of the country unlike today.  So, it is not as though this film has suddenly been revived to showcase the Sardar.  Moreover, I was warned that it would be almost three hours long of viewing but I would enjoy the experience. When I had posted in my facebook wall that I had bought the DVD, many people commented that it would be a great experience.

It was. As a person who was born before India became independent and who had grown up with stories of how India won its independence and stories of its great leaders, revisiting many events from my boyhood was a riveting experience.  I only regret that I was unable to see the film when it was released.  I was really too involved with my career at that point of time to see movies and this was one such missed opportunity.  It is never too late and I am glad that Ramesh got me to see this marvellous film with a powerful story about a man who fully deserves all that he is now getting after years of neglect from the Nehru family and its sycophants.

The acting, direction, editing and dialogues/script all merit appreciation and the trouble taken to depict the period with appropriate dress, vehicles, furniture etc is commendable.

I personally believe, that this is a film that every Indian must see and preferably shown in schools to children when they study Indian history and the period of independence and the immediate aftermath.

I really have no choice in the matter.  The film gets [rating=6].

Story 19. The Elopers.


Aasim and Pallavi were schoolmates and lived in the same, affluent part of the town. They used to play together as little kids along with the other children.. Like most of the middle class residents of that locality, their parents sent them to the best school in town which had two sections one each for girls and boys.

In due course, Aasim the older of the two was the first to go off to college in Bombay about 500 Kms away from the town where they lived. Two years later, Pallavi too did the same but went to a College for girls and stayed in the hostel attached to the college whereas Aasim was in a co-ed college and stayed in a boys hostel attached to that college.

Nature did its job and the two used to meet whenever possible in the big city and the childhood relationship blossomed into a great romance without either family back home knowing anything about it.

I came into the picture in the early seventies of the last century when I was a junior sales manager for my then employer. Pallavi’s father, Purushottam was a customer who used to visit my office often in those days when merchants had to visit the main cities to keep their supply lines open as a lot of cash deals used to take place in those glorious high taxation socialist government days of my great country. He would settle all his matters in the wholesale market and then come over to our office to keep us in good humour and to place orders or to complain about something having gone in earlier supplies. He was always a welcome visitor from who I used to gather a lot of market intelligence. On a few occasions, he had brought Pallavi to our office and I met her under those circumstances and would oblige the proud father by speaking in English with that smart girl and ask her about her studies and progress. As part of my market visits, I also had to visit Purushottam in his shop and we developed a good working relationship.

Aasim’s father too was a merchant but in a different line of business altogether and I had no occasion to meet him. I accidentally happened to meet the love birds once in a restaurant when the background to this story came out from the two of them. Aasim was about to graduate from the university and was planning to seek employment in the city after that. Pallavi requested me not to mention meeting her and about Aasim to her father and I obliged.

I was transferred out of the city in 1973 and returned in 1977 to a different role. Visits to our office by Purushottam had stopped by then as a branch office had been opened in the smaller market and he had no reason to visit the main city. Despite that however, Purushottam visited me once while he was on some other errand and informed me that he had lost touch with Pallavi in 1974 as she had, to quote his words, run away with Aasim without any forwarding address and neither set of parents had a clue as to what had happened to the couple. He further informed me that he would have nothing further to do with his daughter for having brought disgrace to him and his family.

A small piece of information that would be necessary to proceed with this story further. Asim was a Muslim and Pallavi a Hindu. Purushottam was a Sindhi who came to India during the great partition when he was a young teenager and like most such refugees had a total aversion to Muslims. It was galling for him that his daughter had run away with a Muslim and predicted that she would come to a miserable end.

I wish that I could end the story to prove that his prediction was wrong, but it turned out exactly like he had predicted. I met Pallavi in 1985 when she came to seek employment with us as she was in dire need. Aasim and she had run away to Bangalore before she could graduate and on the assurance of a friend of Aasim to get him a job in Bangalore. She converted to Islam and got married and in due course produced two children as well. While Aasim’s family readily accepted her, her life had become like other Muslim women, one of high domestication and confinement. Aasim could not keep a job and went back to join his father in his business and it did not help matters that Pallavi’s family would not accept her back. After seeing the marriage collapsing with no other recourse, Pallavi left behind her children with Aasim’s family and ran away back to Bombay and that is how she landed up at my office one day seeking my help.

I wish now that I could have helped. I could not then and had to advise her to go back to her husband instead of living precariously in the big bad city. Quite whether she took my advise or not, I do not know. I lost track of her and when I spoke to Purushottam on another matter six years ago, he too had no clue about what had happened to her.

I hope that she had successfully survived and even flourished. She deserved better than what she got for falling in love.

Story 13. The Refugee.

MullaTwo kids found a pouch containing fifteen silver coins. One had spotted it and the other had picked it up. Each claimed ownership to the find. This led to an argument and ultimately they approached the wise Mulla Nasruddin with their quandary.
“Hmmm…so you want me to resolve the matter?”
“Yes, please,” both said in unison.
“Alright, I’ll divide the coins between the two of you. But tell me, do you want me to do justice like a human or God?”
“Please do as God would” the kids said.
He counted the coins and gave twelve to one and three to the other. While they both stood there bewildered, said Mulla plainly, “That’s how He operates.”

This is a story about another financier. The first one can be found here. My story starts in 1970 in Bombay as it was then known. Prohibition was in force and tipplers depended on the ubiquitous bootleggers and the Bombay equivalents of the American speakeasies of yore. Bombay also had its own Al Capones!

My bootlegger never let me down, but he is not important for this story. Perhaps he will feature in greater detail in a later story.

Bombay speakeasies were inevitably run by matriarchs affectionately called Aunties by their clients. They gave the clients a clean ambiance and unadulterated booze, soda, ice and or water. If you needed anything else like short eats or lemon peels, you had to take them with you and also take the wrappers, peels etc away back with you when you left. The Aunties usually had a bouncer around to see that no one drank too much and gave trouble to the others. Most important of all was the security as the local cops were bought off and as long as I patronized those speakeasies I never personally experienced a raid. All speakeasies were located on the first or second floor of multi-storied buildings. I never found out why but I suppose that the ground floors were too open for the operations.

My favourite Aunty’s was located in an older part of South Bombay. It was in a four-storied building on the first floor. Each floor had two flats and the other flat in this particular case was the Aunty’s residence. On the ground floor facing the road were four shops, one of which was an eatery of sorts. One husband and wife team ran the shop making choley, tikkia, samosas and fantastic sev/bhel puri. I would inevitably stop there either before going to Aunty’s for a snack to take up with me, or after having had my quota to have a snack.

Over time, I started to talk to the shopkeeper and a very warm and long lasting friendship was established. He was aptly named Bhagwan as he was a deeply religious person with very high moral values.

Bhagwan was a Sindhi. A refugee who came to Bombay by ship in 1947 after the great partition. He and his wife had survived in refugee camps by working their butts off and had been able to pay the pagdi for the shop they ran. Bhagwan was also supporting his sister’s husband Manohar, to set up his own business, similar in nature, in another part of Bombay. To the best of Bhagwan’s knowledge, these two families were the only ones who escaped from their village in Sindh and so, the bonding between both families were very strong. Both had a son and daughter each and all four were studying in schools when I got to know them.

Bhagwan was older than I was by about 12 years and always treated me as though he was my elder brother. This is quite common in India as age is given its place in relationships. He would advise me to moderate my drinking and to take a taxi home rather than go by bus if I had had one too many. He would also give me a packet of something or the other to take home for Urmeela.

Bhagwan’s family and we met formally at my home after a few months and both the ladies also hit it off from their very first meeting. The two families became quite friendly and Bhagwan would send his children to Urmeela after school to learn to speak English properly. We would also go over to their place for the occasional dinner or some religious function and got to know the brother in law, Manohar and his family as well.

This relationship continued till I was transferred out of Bombay in 1973. I lost track of Bhagwan for three and a half years while I moved first to Calcutta and then to Kerala and returned to Bombay in 1977.

During that gap, Bombay had become wet and it was a simple matter to obtain a legal permit to buy and consume alcohol. One could go into legal bars and restaurants to tipple and life was good. All the Aunties and bootleggers went out of business.

After settling down in our new home, I went to Bhagwan’s shop to taste my old favourites and found that during the the time I was away, Bhagwan too had fared well and had taken possession of all the four ground floor shops and was running a very successful restaurant serving the same old fare but in larger quantities to a larger clientele who could sit down at tables and eat properly. He had brought his brother in law Manohar in as a partner and the two of them were running a highly successful operation and I was very pleased with their success. We resumed our friendship where we had left off and a lot toing and froing between our two homes resumed.

I was in Bombay for two and a half years before I was transferred out to Delhi in 1980 and we parted with assurances to keep in touch. And true to his promise, Bhagwan landed up in Delhi on a few occasions to stay with us enroute to and from Mathura to which he and his wife frequently went to pray at their favourite temple and to take the blessings of their guru who had an ashram there. During these visits I came to know that over the past many years, Bhagwan had been a private financier to small businesses whose owners he knew personally and he claimed that he was making more money in that business than from his partnership in the restaurant.

To be continued.