Rahul da Cunha: I want a Padma Shri

Rahul da CunhaYou see, I’ve realised that I am old-fashioned. Every day, it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that I am out of touch with today’s reality. Let me take you through my slow descent in certain areas. Take the writing of books. Like I thought when I was growing up, that in order to write a book, fiction or non-fiction, a novel or a short story, you needed kum se kum one qualification — to be able to write. To string words together skillfully, create word pictures, and subtle turns of phrase. You needed that certain gift. Now, I realise how wrong I was. Today, every Tom, Dick and Chetan is writing a book. My dentist, my dermatologist, my doodhwala have all found publishers. And then there are literature festivals, lit fests as they’re called. These literary fairs were meant, I thought, to be about literature. You see, I majored in English Literature. I studied the works of Messrs Chaucer, Byron, Blake and Hemingway and for light reading, Virginia Woof, serious high-funda stuff. Chalo, I accept that literature had to simplify a tad bit, and India produced great litterateurs, in Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh. Suddenly, lit fests are mushrooming in every nook and cranny of the country. And are they about literature? Or books? Or reading? I find, to my amazement, that there are panel discussions on India Shining, Incredible India, intolerance, iceberg lettuce and its vitality to fine dining, indie cinema.


Illustration/Uday Mohite

On the various panels are chefs, cops and criminologists.

There are socialites, the glitterati, chatterati, twitterati all engaged in vergal fisticuffs. And I’m looking for the literati. No chance!

And my final evidence of my old-fashionism. Awards. Specifically, all those nationalist sounding ones. Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, Bharat Khel, Bharat Ratna, Arjuna, etc, etc. When I was a teenager, they were always bestowed, never given, but bestowed on men and women of stature, integrity and patriotism. Great leaders, Netaji, Nehruji, Naidu Madam, Narasimha sir, Naval Tata, Jamshedji Tata…even Gandhiji got one posthumously for all his great work. For hunger fasts, for freedom fighting.

Today they’re getting it for a stroll in the park. A gentle little stroll, for chalo, what’s ‘in vogue’, yes intolerance. Bound to get us a Padma-something.

Tomorrow I feel I’d like to walk in Hanging Gardens for …let me think…odd-even cars in Bombay. Will that get me a Padma Shri?

Or better still, shall I build a phallic-shaped building on Worli Sea Face?

That’s bound to get me a Padma Vibhushan.

Or at least an invitation as a panelist at a Lit Fest.

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62@gmail.com

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