May 29, 2020
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Kapil Sibal

“Katrina ki jawani/Is a radiant, candescent national truth/It makes Nitin Gadkari sing and dance with glee/And inspires Kapil Sibal to write poetry for free.”

Kapil Sibal
Illustration by Sorit
Kapil Sibal

Sometimes even best-laid plans can go awry. So it was with the entire Ramdev mess. When I drew up the strategy to receive the baba at the Delhi airport, I knew there would be unnecessary media attention. To deflect that, I had secretly requested actress Katrina Kaif and Sourav Ganguly to charter separate private jets and fly into Delhi a few minutes after Ramdev. But unfortunately (in typical Bollywood style), Katrina turned up four hours late. Which was a pity because on the way to the airport I had written a little poem for her on my mobile:

“Katrina ki jawani
Is a radiant, candescent national truth
It makes Nitin Gadkari sing and dance with glee
And inspires Kapil Sibal to write poetry for free.”

Well, I can’t speak for the world, but I must say I was rather pleased with my effort and even texted it to Kat who was impressed. “Kapilji,” she cooed in her accented voice, “no one has written a poem for me. As for Salman, taking off his shirt in public is his idea of poetry.” I thanked her profusely for calling (incidentally that conversation was the only bright spot in a harrowing week where I was neck-deep in the Baba Ramdev/Anna Hazare conundrum). Anyway, you may be wondering here what happened to Sourav Ganguly. Well he got the date horribly wrong and landed in Delhi two days after and with no one to receive him he checked into the Taj Mansingh for a quick shower. I haven’t heard from him and his phone is switched off. And to think I had keyed in a few lines specially for him on the T20 game

(“Cricket lovers nightmare
Slapstick tamasha
Connoisseurs often complain
Instant strokeplay
Without any foreplay
This is not cricket, they claim”).

At this point, I must now give you the inside story on what transpired between the ministerial team and Baba Ramdev at the airport. Actually, we talked little (the guru put us through breathing and yoga exercises and then we called it a day). And the June 3 meeting with Ramdev at the Claridges Hotel? Well we talked about fasting, corruption and the death penalty. Finally, after six hours, a deal was struck. The baba would go on fast at the Ramlila grounds the following day but would call it off between 4-7.30 pm (not 4 pm as reported). Now, if that was the case, why did he renege on his promise? To let you into a secret, at that point we were unaware that ever since Ramdev acquired the Little Cumbrae island, off Scotland, in 2009, he has switched permanently from IST to GMT. So by 7.30 pm, he actually meant 1 am Indian time. But the police was not provided this vital input and therefore panicked and decided to evict the baba. In the melee that followed, several people were injured in police action. Finally, before I sign off, the two key lessons to be learnt from the entire tamasha. It’s better for a ministerial team to receive Katrina Kaif than Baba Ramdev. And, of course, bad ‘timing’ can mess things up....

(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)

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