July 25, 2020
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A. Raja From Tihar Jail

Suddenly, I remembered Adolf Hitler. Like him, should I seize the day, write my own ‘Raja’s Kampf’?

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A. Raja From Tihar Jail
Illustration by Sorit
A. Raja From Tihar Jail

Sitting in my cell in the VIP ward of jail No. 1, I have been thinking...ruminating on all that has transpired  since I was asked to resign as telecom minister in November last year. And then, suddenly one day, for some inexplicable reason, I remembered Adolf Hitler. Some 88 years ago, in November 1923, he was sent to prison by his political opponents. But he didn’t lose heart and used his time behind bars to pen Mein Kampf (My Struggle). I wondered if there’s a lesson to be learnt here. Like him, should I seize the day, write my own ‘Raja’s Kampf’? It would be a touching story of a small-town boy from Perambalur, Tamil Nadu, who overcame all odds to reach the very upper end of the spectrum in Delhi. And this despite having lost his favourite prism on the flight from Chennai and finally ending up in prison.

But what about the all-important 2G? Well, frankly, I don’t intend to write anything about it. I’ve left that task to an enthusiastic CBI officer who holds me in high regard and seeks my advice on whether the Justice Shivraj Patil report on spectrum allocation can be rendered into verse. Incidentally, he’s also heavily into optics and his book, written under the pen name Roygbiv, is tentatively titled ‘Spectrums and Rainbows’. I was happy to learn that the film rights have been bought by Mani Ratnam and Kalaignar (M. Karunanidhi) has promised to write the script. My former personal secretary R.K. Chandolia has even been promised a cameo role, as a phony telephone operator.

Getting back to the present, what do you think all of us here do when we are not being questioned or dreaming about going home? Well, we pretend we are in Parliament and hold regular debates on issues of ‘notional’ importance like 2G spectrum. Of course, the discussions have their funny moments. Once or twice agitated ‘members’ almost ran into the open well in the jail compound! Luckily, I managed to stop them. When the house is not in session, we exchange jokes with our jailors. One must say some of them have a very keen sense of humour. Sample this from an officer who came to my cell: “Mr Raja, you may have not heard what the late American philosopher and critic, Lewis Mumford, had to say about life in prison. Well here goes: ‘A man of courage never needs weapons, but he may need bail’.” The following morning  he came up with another quotable quote: “Mr Raja, no one likes jails, they’ve got the wrong kind of bars.” I didn’t find this one funny. Neither did I bother to ask him which Yankee he was quoting.

Now I have told the publishers that ‘Raja’s Kampf’ will have to be in two volumes, just like Hitler’s tome. The first part will be dedicated to the people of my hometown Perambalur. The second to my leader, Kalaignar, and also Niira Radia and Kanimozhi—the people who helped me transform from Andimuthu Raja to Spectrum King, a national ‘telecon’ icon.

(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)

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