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Stars in my eyes

With malice towards one and all... | Khushwant Singh

February 24, 2006


Bored to death by politics, cricket, news of accidents, murders, rapes and speeches of netas, the nation woke up to the rumours of a romance possibly leading to a matrimonial alliance between Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan. She is as beautiful as beauty can be. He is an up-and-coming actor, His father, Amitabh Bachchan, is a phenomenon of our times. Besides being a most versatile actor, he is a good man. In my chauvinistic mood I attribute this goodness and humility to his Sikh mother. Jaya’s father was my friend and drinking companion. My joy on hearing the rumour is understandable.

However, one aspect of the story as it broke bothered me. It was reported that Amitabh’s younger brother Ajitabh flew from London, where he is based, to Bangalore armed with horoscopes of Abhishek and Aishwarya to consult an astrologer on the prospects of such an alliance. Ajitabh’s avuncular concern for Abhishek’s future came as a pleasant surprise. Not so pleasant was to hear that all these well-educated people should set store by what an astrologer’s predictions. He assured them that all will be well, sooner the better. For good measure, he added a few words in Sanskrit to lend sanctity to his prophecy. No one in his right mind lends ears to soothsayers. Not one of them was able to forecast calamities like the Partition (10 million uprooted, 100,000 dead), assassination of the Bapu, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, earthquakes or the tsunami — the list of disasters unpredicted is endless. All that the fraternity of astrologers did was to later claim that they had forecast these events, which is totally false.

Murli Manohar Joshi, chief patron of this hoax of a so-called science, could not forecast his own defeat at the polls. I had a young lady in my staff when I was editor of the Hindustan Times, whose father was an astrologer. Like others of his fraternity, he boasted of being consulted by ministers and millionaires. But his daughter’s marriage, arranged as per astrological readings, did not last beyond a year.

I have no doubt Aishwarya will look as beautiful a bride as anyone has ever seen. Whether or not she will make a dutiful, understanding wife, mother, or an ill-tempered, shrewish nagger — no one knows. Nor does anyone know what kind of husband Abhishek will turn out to be: overbearing, possessive, jealous, harsh or kindly and understanding. Marriage is chancey business. As soon as the knot is tied, romance goes out. Then love fades out and is replaced by either understanding and companionship or by bickering and erosion of personalities.

In most cases it becomes a humdrum existence which becomes difficult to come to terms with particularly for those who are used to being in the limelight. With this warning, I send my blessings to Aishwarya and Abhishek: may your union be long, happy and fruitful.

Soured fragrance

I am still unable to understand why so much brouhaha was created over actor Khushboo’s remarks about pre-marital sex. It takes place in every country all over the world. There was nothing in what she said to offend self-styled guardians of Tamil culture. It is the same kind of culture which pervades lower-middle, narrow-minded societies in the rest of India. I remain 100 per cent behind Khushboo’s right to speak her mind.

However, Khushboo has gone a bit too far in venting her anger. A newsmagazine Maxim, edited by Sunil Mehra and his assistant Anup Kutty, was indiscreet enough to publish a photograph of a girl in her bikini, barely covering her ample derrière. It was meant to be a take-off of Khushboo looking into a life-size mirror. The face reflected was replaced by Khushboo’s photograph. It was done without her permission. What was more offensive was a two-line caption underneath. It was in utterly bad taste and lewd.

The editor tendered an abject apology which should have been accepted. Instead Khushboo had unbailable arrest warrants issued against Mehra and Kutty. Chennai police slapped a criminal case against the publishers and issued orders of arrest. To force two men to travel across the country, have lawyers and apply for bail is more than enough punishment and unwarranted. Khushboo has filed another criminal libel case asking for Rs 3 crore as damages. The case should, in all fairness, have been referred to the Press Council for a possible reprimand.

Uniformed brutality

Love is an instinct, noble and sublime

In the eyes of many, it is a fad

Some think, love is sheer madness

They call all lovers majnu or mad.

Ours is a pseudo-modern country

Can we deny this patent fact?

Here even slightest display of love

Is regarded as an obscene act!

Meerut police raided a public garden

To put a few majnus on the mat

They thrashed every boy and every girl

Who went there to sit and chat!

The town where war of Independence began

That liberated us from foreign yoke

In that very town, the brutal cops

Throttled the liberty of innocent folk.

(Courtesy: G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)


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