It has become a ritual on Republic Day for the past five decades for His Excellency, the President of India, to confer the Padma awards to extraordinary individuals for “exceptional and distinguished service of a high order”. And, over the years, it has become fair game to find the oddballs and freaks who have crashed the list—not because they are scummy and worthless, but because of the inappropriateness and improperness of their inclusion in the list.
Body-sculpting queen Vandana Luthra may be an ace businesswoman in the body image-obsessed world, but does that necessarily qualify her to stand bouffant head-to-head with men and women who are given bravery awards for fighting for the country; or with scientists and innovators, researchers and historians, social reformers and sporting champions? Is making money a criteria at all? So, while scientists and engineers who send up spacecrafts and discover and chase water molecules on the moon are ignored in the Padma list, Shrimati Luthra is on the 2013 Padma list, for busting the underlying collection of stubborn cellulite, and vacuuming fat cell volume from under the body surface. If nothing else, her inclusion should get the feminists’ teeth on edge.
It’s not the first time a beauty empress has made it to the list—in 2006, herbal queen Shahnaz Husain, who can banish both dandruff and pimples with her ancient plant and herbal technology, was in the Padmashri roll of honour of ’06. Now, how have shrewd and savvy businesswomen, who have used their astute skills in building vast business empires and personal wealth, contributed to building the nation’s wealth? Is training waves of youth as shampoo girls and facial hair plucking boys the advancement of science and art? How does launching campaigns against the obesity epidemic (an ingenious scheme for hustling their slimming products in schools and colleges) a record of service to society?
It’s hysterical, the legion of beauty Barbies that have made it to the Padma list—former Ms World and Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai was awarded the Padmashri in ’09, for...? And typically it was mired in controversy—with pitched gossip about Rai’s in-laws, the Bachchans, and their close proximity to the Samajwadi Party, a UPA ally, and therefore.... Bollywood action hero Akshaye Kumar was also awarded the Padmashri that year, perhaps for giving us the idealised image of ripped abs and a tamed torso; a year later, Bollywood’s she-man, Saif Ali Khan, under investigations for poaching endangered black bucks, was awarded with a Padmashri, to everyone’s shock and amazement. It’s not just the dolls and dudes and their Padma Shrieks, we have a sarkari vamp too, with her four-year-old Padmashri firmly tucked in her glittering corset. Bollywood’s original item girl, Helen, has also shimmied her way to the Padmas. Helen was the bad-girl-who-got-everywhere, as Kitty, Rosie, Suzie, Lily, who smoked, drank, danced in clubs, and died quickly, as Bad Girls Die Young.
Our netas and babus have a corny penchant for those who revamped them, and this sentimental hang-up goes way back to the early days. Dr Rajendra Prasad, our first president, amended the Padma list to add a “Miss Lazarus from the south”. The concerned ministry, after a massive hunt, found a teacher in Madras, and informed her about receiving the Padmashri. But when the list went back to Dr Prasad, he wrote she was a nurse who had treated him when he fell ill on a journey from Vijayawada to Hyderabad. Nurse Lazarus was found, and that year two Miss Lazaruses got the award! The surgeons who treated ex-president Zail Singh for his eyes, A.B. Vajpayee for his knees, and Dr Manmohan Singh for his heart are all part of the Padma roll of honour.
Bards and courtiers have not been ignored either—does anyone know who Padmaja Phenany Joglekar is? Well, she’s a standard Mumbai vocalist who leapt into the Padma club after singing Vajpayee’s vanilla poems. Interior designer and 10, Janpath acolyte Sunita Kohli got the Padma in 1992, for decorating Rashtrapati Bhavan. The late Y.B. Chavan insisted on a Padma Bhushan for his professor, N.S. Phadke, who was known for his kitschy romances. Is it envy and rivalry that gets people all hot and bothered at the awardees? Many have returned the title on grounds of impropriety and rancour. Maybe giving it up is the best revenge. Or, like Luthra would say, ‘Kiss my cellulite-busted a**!’
(The writer is editor at Altgaze.com)
A big shabash is due to Vrinda Gopinath for the gutsy, hard-hitting style of her article on the Padma awards (Padma’s Easy Slim Zone, Feb 11).
Soli Canteenwala, Mumbai
The day is not far away when a reservation quota is demanded for national awards. They have already lost all their charm and prestige thanks to all the lobbying. Such anomalies are inherent in the system.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
Valid points, but the next time Vrinda dares to attend award functions or cocktail parties with these ‘Kiss my cellulite-busted a**’ celebs, she might want to guard her own.
Shyamal Barua, Calcutta
When half-naked women who prance around trees can become MPs and CMs, why not a businesswoman Padmashree?
Nasar Ahmed, Karaikkudi
Come to think of it, on what grounds was Rajesh Khanna given a Padma Vibhushan? It would have looked like a fake university degree on him. Who will they think of next? Rakhi Sawant?
Bharti B.K., via FB
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
When half naked women prance around the trees and roll with men provoking the libido,can become CMs and Ministers,why not Padma Shri to some business woman.
The most irrational and otrageious act of giving award in Indian history was the one given to Ms Subblakshmi.Not less than Bharat Ratna,the highest civilian award.Can anybody beleive this!
In India everything is a sham and nobody can stop this rot that has set in but a catastrophe.
@Nasar Ahmed from Karikkudi, i guess your solution for India's problem lies in Islam :-)...
Vrinda did raise some valid points behind the selection of such awards list; but the next time she dares to attend any such award function, or the cocktail parties of such celebreties with their ‘Kiss my cellulite-busted a**!’, she must guard her own a**, before she is booted out the party by the aggrieved cellulite-busted celebreties.
I think, the technology that Ms. Luthra develops can be significant. Everyone agrees though, that a woman cannot eat a certain portion, and then use the particular cream which is significant to the situation. I meant, that the technology might also be used in other spheres. How did the tech. develop? From the D. R. D. O. initiative perhaps, in the early stages?
"When half naked women prance around the trees and roll with men provoking the libido,can become CMs and Ministers,why not Padma Shri to some business woman."
You are in a wrong time zone, Naser Miyan! Please go back to the 7th century where you came from before your symptoms get worse!!
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