General gyan related to post:
I had limited knowledge about awards like Padmashri, Padma Bhushan, Bharat Ratna etc. But I have always held the award recipients in deep regard (not as if it matters to them, but anyways). To me, Padma Shri is not an exam where one scores 95+ out of 100 and gets shortlisted or receives the award. This must be an award given to people who have excelled in what they do. They deserve respect because they have earned that respect. In a show of appreciation, Mother India gives a pat on the back of such few achievers who make her proud. Arts, Sports, Science, and Literature etc are some of the fields and the award is an honor, recognition of their work. Some of the names that immediately come to my mind are Dr. L Subramaniam, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Kamal Hassan, Mammooty, Aparna Sen, Suchitra Sen, Satyajit Ray, Venkataraghavan, Paes, Bhupati, Viswanathan Anand … hmm, top of the mind recalls are all celebrities in arts and sports – what a profound realization! But not one of them is an individual whose potential or magnitude of success is questionable.
Let me rewind 9 years – it was 2000, March 19. I had received my MBA degree at IIM Lucknow. To celebrate, the very next night, along with my best friend from campus, S, I went off on a vacation to Kerala – a wonderful journey, so magical, that I repeated visits to part of this tour on my honeymoon as well 🙂
Random – more flashback:
S and I were tired having travelled overnight on a bus from Lucknow to Delhi with goats, sheep, men, women, children and our suitcases sandwiched somewhere between man, animal, metal, seat cushions, vegetables and other stuff we couldn’t see but feel with our olfactory senses. It was an adventure when the poor bus huffed and puffed but lost its ability to drag itself further. The tyres got replaced just in time, and we managed to reach the railway station just minutes before Kerala Express left the platform. It is a mystery how we managed to survive the thermally challenging conditions outside and inside the bus. From Delhi, we went on my longest train journey to date, in a comfortable AC 2 tier coach all the way to Trivandrum travelling through many states including UP, Gujarat, MP, AP, TN and Kerala.
Tying together flashback, truth, realization and philosophy
I stayed at S’s home for 3-4 days before K, another campus partner in crime, joined us. S’s dad is a simple man and I enjoyed the lunches and dinners at his home. Aunty cooked great food and Uncle was always in good spirits, even bowling straight faced verbal googlies and doosras that had all of us in splits. He never asked embarrassing questions about what we planned to do in our careers, what we learnt at engineering college or in our MBA. But I knew that he knew a lot of stuff and was happy to be around him. I realized S’s dad was a big man at VSSC.
A couple of years later, S casually mentioned to me that his dad, Suresh uncle had won the Padmashri. My eyes were ready to pop out but S, though happy, didn’t raise a hue and cry. I was completely overwhelmed to say the least and my first thought was to wonder if I did shake Uncle’s hands when I had met him. I tried hard to remember the jokes he had cracked. I was completely humbled by his behavior and to this day, I remain a fan. He demonstrated to me the meaning of the term, humility. S, in one of our discussions also spoke about how his father had worked with ex-president Adbul Kalam. Being Kalam’s fan, I am even angrier at my memory for not confirming yet whether I did shake Uncle’s hands or not – I know I hadn’t taken his autograph or asked him any advice or spoken about anything meaningful. Uncle wanted us to enjoy our holidays and had allowed us to take his car on a 1000 km drive through Kerala. Thanks Uncle! He is well known for his contribution to SRE. Unfortunately, Space Capsule Recovery Experiment is not as popular field a field as cinema or cricket but I started to read articles on the Internet (where else?) on these awards.
Now, I know that Padma Sri stands fourth in the hierarchy of civilian awards after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan. I had also been told by an old Tamil mama that years ago, MGR had refused to accept the award as it was a combination of Hindi words. But today, when I see the list and feel thrilled for all the winners, my mind keeps getting distracted and goes back to one name. I don’t care much about Aishwarya Rai or Akshay or Vivek or Dhoni – congrats to them! But I feel sad that we also have Harbhajan Singh in that list. There must be some consideration given to how a person conducts himself in public before handing over such a prestigious award to him or her. That ‘obnoxious weed’ got away with comments that were racist – But Not! He had just said, Maa ki to an opponent. What a wonderful choice of words – teri maa ki and not monkey!! He also slapped his colleague, Sreesanth after an IPL loss, in front of millions of viewers. Bhajji analyzed the fast paced movement of his hands to the Kerala speedster’s cheeks as an act of brotherly love. Time and again, he has been a serial offender in the name of an aggressive mindset.
Hmm … Padma Shri Harbhajan Singh – this will take some time to digest! To me, it is similar to Satyam getting the Golden Peacock for Corporate governance or Barkha Dutt for journalism. I shall continue to support Harbhajan when he plays cricket and represents India, but this is a little too much. Maybe an Arjuna award would have have more appropriate.
Or Maybe the unthinkable has happened – the quota system has meandered and found its way into Government of India’s Padma shri award system as well?