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‘Rajesh Khanna, whose birth anniversary was on 29 December, on the last day of filing nominations, perhaps still nurturing a ray of hope of getting a last-minute nod, again called to ascertain the latest development, if any. By that time, through my sources, I had come to know that Kaka’s name was not there.’



Coming to Kaka’s another attempted foray into politics, undoubtedly, Kaka was not only hopeful of making an entry into the Upper House of Parliament, but was almost certain and self-assured of his nomination. My tete-a-tete revealed that he had been shortlisted and sounded in advance. And this was done either by 10 Janpath or someone close to or part of the Party High Command. Otherwise being an ex-MP, he was not so naïve or gullible as to summon the Secretary of India’s Election Commission and also the Returning Officer to his residence to brief him. He had also presumably been advised by 10 Janpath to keep ready all the relevant documents to be annexed with the nomination form. Kaka’s self-announced selection for nomination to a Rajya Sabha seat, compelled me to look back and link the chain of events that had preceded sometimes earlier. A few days before my appointment as Returning Officer, I had received a personal call from then Delhi CM (Shiela Dikshit). She had enquired as to the number of RS seats her party could win in the event of voting. I informed her that given her party’s Assembly strength, a minimum of two seats is a 100% guarantee. However, I promised to get back and confirm after ascertaining more details. Subsequently, I informed her Political Secretary (Pawan Khera) that the Congress Party will make a clean sweep of all three RS seats. I also suggested to my friend Pawan that he may like to advice the CM to ask for three names from her party high command. Obviously, it was in this backdrop that Kaka’s name might have cropped up, shortlisted and he was informed and sounded by someone close to 10 Janpath. But by whom, it is a moot point. However, it is clear that what was supposed to be an intraparty secret, somehow got prematurely leaked out. Kaka’s choice must have dampened and disheartened the others in the race. Hence, a no holds barred campaign began from interested quarters, to impede, obstruct and elbow out Kaka’s entry in Parliament, and instead by projecting their candidature.

Khanna made his debut in 1966Like many Bollywood actors, Rajesh Khanna had also changed his name. He was born as ‘Jatin Khanna’Rajesh Khanna The Politician and The Phenomenon‘Babumoshai, Zindagi Badi Honi Chahiye… Lambi Nahi’ one of his famous dialoguesGiven his popularity and craze among women during his era, Rajesh Khanna had received several letters from women that were written in blood.

Some of the aspirants, though rootless and politically pygmies in comparison to Kaka, presumably had access to 10 Janpath. A few even enjoyed direct entry into their Supreme Leader’s living room and kitchen. Incapable of winning, on their own any election even of a municipality or a Panchayat, they left no stone unturned to grab a berth in the Upper House by hook or by crook, even by elbowing out Kaka. Obviously, in the process, they maintained pressure on high command to sideline and dump or exclude others including Kaka. An easy and common modus operandi followed in politics in such a scenario is to sully the reputation of adversaries and to unleash a smear campaign by planting and publicising uncharitable and cooked up stories about the candidate and his family. In Kaka’s case too, this trick was tried and they did not hesitate to hit him below the belt. Isn’t it a disgusting and a gutter-level jibe: “Apani Biwi to sambhali nahi jaati”? Any person with a modicum of common sense could infer as to where this jibe was targeted at. The Election Commission duly notified the schedule of filing nominations in my Chamber in the Assembly building. On the first day of filing nominations, Kaka phoned early in the morning to find out probable names. He repeated the same thing the next day also and this time, he spoke not once but repeatedly on several occasions, during the day obviously in sheer desperation. On the third day, he almost beseeched, begged, and pleaded “Sharma Sahab, kindly meri help karo”. Please try at your level to find out my position”, he implored. Infuriated at repetitive calls to the Returning Officer who was duty-bound to stay neutral, I retorted, “Khanna Sahab, I am substituting for the Election Commission. Sorry I cannot appear to be meddling in your party matters.” Then feeling repentant that my tone and tenor was somewhat harsh and uncivilised, I toned down and suggested in a softer voice “Sir, you are a celebrity and a senior party man. Why don’t you do one thing? Pick up your phone, dial 10 Janpath and enquire from the Political Secretary of your Party-Chief about your position in the final list. What is the big deal? You are only seeking information concerning yourself, not asking them to divulge any national secret.” The already stressed Kaka hit back with an equally sarcastic rejoinder: “Do you think I haven’t done it? I have tried, not once but umpteen times. I feel I have become a persona non grata for these people. Even a PA, chaprasi or clerk of 10 Janpath is not responding to my texts or calls. They seem to have blocked me. Sharmaji, this is disgusting I have never felt so insulted and humiliated in my entire life. I am compelled to recall a couplet that suits the situation.” He sighed, gave a long pause and recited on phone itself: “Izatteyn, Shohrateyn, Ulfateyn, Chahteyern, Sab Kuchh iss duniyan mein rahtein nahi, Aaaj mein hoon jahan, kal koi aur tha, yeh bhi ek daur hai, vo bhi ek dour tha.” Wow! How true! The nearest translation as I have attempted means – honour, fame, affection, desire everything in this world doesn’t last. Today where I am yesterday it was someone else Wow! That was an era ! Alas ! this too is an era !

On the last day of filing nominations, Kaka, perhaps still nurturing a ray of hope of getting a last-minute nod, again called to ascertain the latest development, if any. By this time, through my sources, I had come to know that Kaka’s name was not there. But now, I had turned extremely sympathetic towards Kaka who, I thought had not only been wronged but also been mercilessly hounded, wounded and dumped in his party turf.

By revealing the three names to him I did not want to further hurt and inflict yet another blow on Kaka’s fragile heart. Hence, I deliberately lied to Kaka and pretended to be unaware of any details. A desperate Kaka disconnected.

The three names finally cleared by the party were: Ms. Ambica Soni, A.R. Kidwai and Dr Karan Singh.

Later in the day, the three selected candidates, accompanied by Delhi CM, her Cabinet colleagues, a large entourage of party MLAs and supporters marched to my chamber in the Assembly building. With great fanfare, they filed their nominations, were administered oath one by one as per laid down procedure and other formalities too were completed.

This drew curtains on the entire episode.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the entire episode badly shattered Kaka. It appeared to have shocked him to the hilt and took a toll on his already dwindling health. He genuinely felt let down, ashamed and foolish at the party’s bizarre and hostile attitude towards him. His dignity and pride were bruised, punctured and injured. The circumstances compelled him to lead the life of sanyasi. He became a “Bairagi” and a recluse. He started leading a more aloof, lonely and detached life. Gradually he shunned all public activities–social, political and those of the tinsel world he originally hailed from. He was now devoid of any zest for life. The decaying state of health and adverse circumstances dimmed what was once a shining star illuminating on India’s horizon.

Leading the life of a hermit or sanyasi, he gradually cut himself off from the world outside. Abandoned shaving his beard regularly which grew haphazardly giving a somewhat shabby and unkempt appearance of a person, attired in his ordinary kurta, pyjama and chappals. With no family patch up in sight and no one to attend to him and the age factor also not going in his favour, some more health-related complications overtook, needing check-up and treatment on regular basis. Some film magazines gossiped that the lonely superstar, during his ailment days had started having a pretty damsel as his live-in companion named one Anita Advani. Gloom descended on India’s entertainment world and Bollywood when on 18 July, 2012, this larger than life personality and, uncrowned superhero of and ruler of Indian cinema and an unmatched cult figure bid goodbye to this world. According to media reports, his cremation was attended by some 9 lakh people from all over India, including many from foreign countries. With his passing away, he proved right the truthfulness of famous lines from his movie “Anand”, wherein he had said: “Babu Moshai, zindagi bari honi chahiye, lambi nahi”.


A few months after his death, I read in newspapers that Government of India has decided to posthumously honour Kaka by conferring on him the award of “Padma Bhushan” (the third highest civilian award) for his contribution to the field of art. To be honest, the news did not thrill me at all. Instead, it bewildered me. I was constrained to recall the following Punjabi lines: Jewdian nu kisey poochya nahi, Tey moyan nu poodey Khawawaney ki? When translated it means, no one bothered when he was alive, why to serve delicacies when he is dead and gone?

The political party Kaka belonged to and had assiduously campaigned for and which ruled the country for 10 long years with Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, did not bother to acknowledge, during Kaka’s lifetime, his contribution in the field of art and cinema. This was although he was rated as India’s first superstar who had consecutively given 15 back-to-back evergreen mega super-duper hits and had enthralled the audience for decades with his mesmerising performance on screen. Strangely, Kaka was never conferred any honour by any government, when alive. No National Award whatsoever was conferred on him. His party’s government drew no inspiration from the preceding government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee, which, in sharp contrast had chosen, not for Padam Bhushan but for Padam Vibhushan, (next only to Bharat Ratna) a local Congressman, veteran Jagparvesh Chandra not after his death but during his lifetime. The situation when placed and seen in Juxtaposition, may lead one to infer that in the matter of Award, Kaka was under-rated and slighted after he had passed away. The Padam Bhushan was collected on his behalf by his wife Dimple Kapadia from the then President Pranab Mukherjee next year in 2013 at a ceremony in the Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The author is former Secretary of the Lokh Sabha and Delhi Assembly

The article is the part 2 of a two-part series.

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Celebrating ‘100 years of Bollywood’



Celebrating ‘100 years of Bollywood’

In commemoration of ‘100 years of Bollywood’, a live audio-visual musical journey of songs from 1913 to 2013, covering songs from Raja Harishchandra to Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, from Prithviraj Kapoor to Ranbir Kapoor, from Saigal to Sonu Nigam, will be held. The event, which will also be a fundraiser, will be organised by Gunjan Foundation at Kamani Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, at 06:30 p.m on 10 October, 2022.  The proceeds from this show will go towards the education of underprivileged children, for the foundation expects all children in the community to learn and experience school education.

Sushma Singhvi founded the Gunjan Foundation, a non-governmental social organization, in 2004 with the mission of pursuing educational and other welfare measures to uplift marginalised sections of society.

The Gunjan Foundation is providing full scholarships to about 200 school students. It has now widened its horizons further. Its vision also includes continuing to support advanced and professional courses in the future. For the past five years, Gunjan has been financially supporting four to five marginalised students who are pursuing such advanced and professional courses. This year, Gunjan Foundation’s first batch has passed out from the 12th grade, ready to embrace the growth opportunities of the world. Not wanting to leave these students midstream, it is also Gunjan’s endeavour now to see these students through college. The Gunjan Foundation is planning to provide scholarships to deserving students for higher studies.

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Dussehra brings business back on track for effigy makers



Dussehra brings business back on track for effigy makers

Every year, Dussehra is celebrated to commemorate the triumph of good over evil as Lord Rama killed Ravana on this day. The festival is celebrated in full swing across the country by burning the effigies of Ravan, Kumbhkaran, and Meghnath.

After a hiatus of a few years, the effigy business is getting back on track.

Earlier, Naveen, a local artisan from Titarpur in New Delhi, revealed, “People are coming back in huge numbers to book Ravan effigies. Due to Covid, during the past few years, the business was not so good, but things are getting better now and customers are back. But now, the rates of effigies are a bit higher as compared to previous times. Now it costs Rs 500 per foot. We began the preparation two months ahead of the festival and we start the deliveries two days before Dussehra.”

“During Covid, Ravan idols were made in fewer numbers. We used to create only small mannequins of 5 feet and 10 feet for the common people, who could burn those effigies on the streets. But this year, the situation is quite different. We are celebrating every festival and the effigy business is also going really well. The craze among the people for Dussehra is very high. We are flooded with bookings this year. This year, we will see a good hike in sales. We have been working day and night for the past two months to create these effigies. We create effigies from five feet to fifty feet and the pricing begins from Rs 500 per foot, “Sonu, a local artist said.

On being asked whether the firecracker ban has affected the sales in Delhi or not, Naveen said, “No, it doesn’t matter. We only construct the effigies. It’s the customer’s choice to put firecrackers in them or not. They do it by themselves. People opt for eco-friendly firecrackers to create less pollution during Dussehra. “

Effigy maker Poonam said, “Yes, we are facing a big loss due to the firecracker ban by the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. Every year, CM Kejriwal puts a ban on firecrackers. During Diwali, everyone bursts crackers, but only during Dussehra, he puts a ban on them. We don’t put crackers in the effigies; people bring them and put them on their own. But because of the ban, there has been a huge downfall in the number of clients. Mostly, the customers cancel their already booked orders due to the ban. If the government doesn’t want us to do our business, then simply tell us. We don’t want to face loss at the last moment. “

“The number of firecrackers has now been reduced from 500 to 300 by CM Kejriwal. We don’t put crackers in the mannequins; that’s the customer’s call whether to put crackers or not,” said Mahendra Karari, Ravan effigy creator.

Apart from making effigies during the festive season, local vendors indulge in their different businesses for the rest of the year for their source of income.

“Dussehra festival comes once a year, and we have our other source of income as well. I am a driver for the whole year. But during Dussehra, I have made Ravan since my childhood in Titarpur, said Naveen.

Karari said, “We work in the hotel line during the whole year, and some of us work in brass bands during the marriage season, and some people work at local sweet shops.”

In some regions, the celebration, also known as Vijayadashami, celebrates Goddess Durga’s triumph over the buffalo Demon Mahishasura.  

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Why Dussehra holds an important place in Indian culture



Dussehra brings business back on track for effigy makers


ussehra, or Vijayadashami, as many call it, is one of the most important festivals in India. In the northern Indian states, it’s called Dussehra, while in West Bengal, it’s called Vijayadashami.

Dusshera falls on the tenth day of Sharada Navratri. However, despite the fact that celebrations and cultural practices vary according to the location in India’s culturally rich country, the festival’s fabric that binds everyone together remains.


Dussehra symbolises the triumph of good over evil, and it is tied to two stories. After a fierce battle that lasted more than nine days, it is said that Maa Durga conquered Mahishasura on this day. According to another tale, Dussehra is observed to commemorate Lord Rama’s victory over Lanka’s ten-headed evil king, Ravana.


The tenth day of Navratri, which is comprised of nine days dedicated to honouring each form of Goddess Durga, is Dussehra. Vijayadashami, on the other hand, is the day of victory. While some connect it to the famous Ramayana conflict, others do it to remember Goddess Durga’s triumph over the demonic Mahishasura.

In some regions of the country, Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashami or Dasain, makes way for the Diwali celebrations.

Twenty days after Dussehra, one of the most significant and widely celebrated festivals, the festival of lights, Diwali, commemorates Lord Rama’s return home following his victory over Ravana. However, the main message of the Dussehra festival is that of good triumphing over evil, and it is on this day that people pray for prosperity and good health.


The nine days of Navratri culminate in the killing of Ravana and the burning of his life-size effigy at the Ramlila, together with those of Meghnad and Kumbhakaran, on the day of Dussehra, or Vijayadashami, when the holiday is celebrated with great grandeur.

As each of Ravana’s heads represents a different negative attribute, Dussehra also represents purging oneself of sins or undesirable traits.

In several southern Indian states, Shami Puja is also known as Banni Puja and Jammi Puja. Devotees wish Maa Durga farewell on Dashami, and the visarjan is performed either at Aparahna time or Pratahkala while Dashami Tithi is in effect.

The tenth day is also known as Vijayadashmi, when Maa Durga’s idol is submerged in water in the hopes that she will keep an eye on them and fend off all misfortunes and evils. Vijayadashmi and Dussehra commemorate the triumph of good over evil, and worshippers celebrate the festivals by indulging in various foods with their loved ones.

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136 ft Durga Puja pandal to enter Guinness Book as world’s tallest



136 ft Durga Puja pandal to enter Guinness Book as world’s tallest

A 136 ft tall puja pandal in the capital of Uttar Pradesh is going to attract everyone’s attention. The Durga Puja pandal, situated in Jankipuram, Lucknow, is going to be recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest ever.

The pandal is a replica of the under-construction Chandrodaya temple of Vrindavan, which is built to be one of the tallest religious monuments in the world with a height of above 700 ft and spread over a 5,40,000 sq ft area.

The pandal stands tall in the middle of Durga Puja Park in Jankipuram. It was built by the Utsav Puja Committee, which has also been celebrating the Puja for the last 28 years.

While emphasising the features of this tallest pandal, Rakesh Pandey, General Secretary of the Durga Puja committee, said,  “This entire pandal has been built by 52 artisans from Kolkata and Assam and a time of over one month has been taken to build this tallest pandal.”

“A total of Rs 32 lakhs has been spent on making this tallest Durga Puja pandal. Every day about 70 thousand devotees come to the pandal to offer their prayers to Durga Maa”, Rakesh Pandey said further.

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Art & Culture

PM Modi arrives at International Kullu Dussehra festival



Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a warm welcome as he arrived for the international Kullu Dussehra Festival today. He will be participating in the Dusshera festival here for the first time.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended greetings to citizens on the occasion of Dussehra and expressed his happiness to be a part of the International Kullu Dussehra Festival that is to be celebrated here from October 5 to 11 at the Dhalpur Ground in Kullu.

The festival is unique in the sense that it is the congregation of more than 300 deities of the valley. On the first day of the festival, obeisance will be paid to the deities in their well-decorated palanquins at the temple of the Chief Deity Bhagwan Raghunath Ji, and then it proceeds to the Dhalpur Ground.

“I am elated to provide the citizens of Himachal Pradesh with the gifts of projects in education, health, and infrastructure worth thousands of crores,” PM Modi said, adding that he will seek the blessings of the country by joining the Raghunath Ji Yatra. 
“I am very fortunate to participate in the Kullu festival after so many years,” he added. 
The Prime Minister will witness this divine Rath Yatra and the grand assembly of the Deities in the historic Kullu Dussehra celebrations.

PM Modi’s remarks came after he inaugurated AIIMS Bilaspur and laid the foundation stone of multiple development projects here.
On Independence Day, referring to the Amrit Kaal—the next 25 years till 2047, when India will be marking 100 years of Independence—the Prime Minister urged people to focus on “Panch Pran’ (five vows).

He said the country has met various challenges in the past 75 years and there were certain unfulfilled dreams, “the next 25 years are very significant for our country.” He explained the five vows. 
The  first vow is for the people to move ahead with a strong resolve for a “developed India”. “We should not settle for anything less than that,” 
The second resolve is that “in no part of our existence, not even in the deepest corners of our minds or habits, should there be any ounce of slavery”. 
The third resolution urged Indians to be proud of their country’s heritage and legacy. 
He said the fourth resolution, which is equally important, is unity and solidarity. 
“Amongst 130 million countrymen, when there is harmony and bonhomie, unity becomes its strongest virtue. “On August 15, Prime Minister Modi stated. 
PM Modi said the fifth vow is the “duty of the citizens,” in which even the Prime Minister, Chief Minister cannot be excluded as they are also responsible citizens and have a duty towards the nation”. 

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13 Indians caught up in fake IT job scam rescued from Myanmar




Exercise caution before taking up jobs in Thailand: MEA

India announced on Wednesday that 13 more of its citizens had been rescued from Myanmar after being lured there under the pretext of lucrative IT jobs and the officials were in contact with Laos and Cambodia to assist in the repatriation of more victims of similar frauds.

After more than 100 workers were recruited by dubious IT companies to work in Myanmar, the external affairs ministry issued a warning to Indian citizens on September 24 about fake job offers being circulated on social media platforms. 32 Indian citizens were rescued from a remote area of Myanmar last month after being forced to work under difficult circumstances by businesses involved in digital fraud and fake crypto currency activities.

“We have been actively pursuing the case of Indians being trapped in fake job rackets in Myanmar. Thanks to the efforts of @IndiainMyanmar & @IndiainThailand, around 32 Indians had already been rescued. Another 13 Indian citizens have now been rescued, & reached Tamil Nadu today,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

Bagchi said some more Indian citizens had also been rescued from “fake employers” and were in the custody of Myanmar authorities for “illegal entry into that country”. Legal formalities have been initiated to get them “repatriated at the earliest”, he said.

Instances of similar job rackets have come to light in Laos and Cambodia, and Indian embassies in Vientiane, Phnom Penh and Bangkok have been helping repatriate people from these countries, Bagchi said.

Details of agents allegedly involved in the job racket have been shared with authorities in various states for appropriate action. “We would reiterate extreme caution in accepting dubious employment offers overseas,” Bagchi added.

According to recent reports in US and Cambodian media, officials in Cambodia conducted a number of searches in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville against cybercriminal organisations linked to the “pig butchering” scam. The word “fatten” refers to the process of a farmer fattening a hog before butchering it. The deception depends on getting victims to keep depositing money into phoney websites run by con artists, according to the investigative journalism website ProPublica.

“Workers from around Asia are tricked into going to Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar for seemingly well-paid jobs that instead trap them inside scam sweatshops run by Chinese criminal syndicates. Those who resist directives to engage in online fraud face beatings, food deprivation or worse,” ProPublica reported.

Victims of the scam in the US, Canada and other countries lost huge amounts of money, sometimes more than a million dollars to fraudsters who convinced them to download a trading app called MetaTrader and deposit their savings in sham brokerages accessible via the app, according to the report.

Since mid-September, police operations in three locations in Cambodia have released thousands of workers who were being held against their will. The Sihanoukville raids between September 18 and 22 resulted in the release of 1,480 foreign citizens from India, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to numbers from the provincial police quoted by Cambodia’s VOD News. The precise number of Indian citizens was not immediately known.

The Indian embassy in Cambodia tweeted on September 24 that 14 Indian nationals had been rescued from “human trafficking gangs”, and reiterated a warning that citizens intending to visit the country for employment or business should check the background of the firms offering jobs.

People familiar with the matter earlier said that Indian embassies in Myanmar and Thailand were in touch with some 50 Indians who sought help, though some reports have suggested that up to 300 Indian workers may have been illegally taken to the Myawaddy area in Myanmar to work for rackets engaged in call-centre scams and crypto-currency fraud.

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