WIN Chadha is a pale shadow of the man he once was. Four years after his wife died of liver cancer, he has peered several times over the brink and seen death. His catalogue of illnesses abounds with danger words like diabetes, high blood pressure, prostate problems, water retention, cardiac complications and breathing troubles. His daily dose comprises 25 tablets and capsules a day; a standby doctor and a nurse stay by his side 24 hours a day. Illness, however, does not prevent him from working painstakingly at his memoirs, which will probably be titled Win the Day, an apt reflection of his determination to win at any cost. There is anger in his glazed and tired eyes. The CBI disclosures that Mrs Kanta Chadha (deceased) and his son Harsh Chadha also figured as beneficiaries in the Bofors gun deal have stung Chadha to the quick.
And all his pent-up frustrations of the past eight years in exile have surfaced to the fore. He emphatically denies any involvement of his wife and son that the papers received from the Swiss authorities suggest. "I openly challenge the CBI to produce before the press and public one document showing their signature, one sliver of proof that they received anything or were remotely involved in the Bofors deal." Chadha goes on to say that so far the CBI has just made a statement to the media but produced no concrete evidence to prove it. "They say the encodings of the papers have brought them to this conclusion. So why don't they share with the public how they went about it? You can't destroy people and refuse to show evidence to substantiate it. I read in the Indian papers that these documents contain this information. Now, I am saying they do not contain anything of the sort. Very simply, prove me wrong. My wife is dead. Isn't it bad enough that the Indian Government deliberately thwarted my efforts to be with her in the US during her final moments.
Now they have to desecrate her memory. This I will fight, her honour is now more sacred to me than my life." Chadha has frequently alleged that his passport was impounded illegally, revoked without due process and that even the US authorities were pressured into refusing him entry. He insists his wife died as much of liver cancer as she did from a broken will to live when she heard her husband would not come to the US. Indeed, Kanta Chadha took a turn for the worse and died on July 10, 1993, two days after the Indian Consulate in Dubai rejected a weeping Win Chadha's plea for a passport.
Does his challenge to the CBI over his wife and son indicate that he alone might be involved? Says Chadha: "It is sub judice, so I cannot say anything. Let the public realise that if there are two lies, why not a third. In the fullness of time even that will be proven, I am so confident of it." Asked if he would still take a risk and challenge the CBI if it produced documents to show the involvement of his family members and indict him, Chadha is adamant. "Yes, there is no risk, there is no paper, nothing signed by them, no account, no monies, nothing," he says.
Chadha is clearly seeking a catharsis. His anger and resentment at the death of his wife and his inability to attend her last rites in the US and India is thinly concealed. Badly affected when his wife died, Chadha's extrovert lifestyle has undergone a seachange. The only concession to afflu-ence is a BMW 750. His five-bedroom home on the 26th floor of the Hyatt Galleria is tastefully underdone. A garlanded photograph of his wife Kanta is the most noticeable appointment in the house. Jars, bottles and little containers on his sideboard give the impression of an in-house pharmacy. A sparsely-furnished anteroom serves as his office. There are newspaper cuttings in files in a credenza and one phone. His 21-inch colour TV is six years old; the stack of Newstrack videos and the sweep of eclectic books reflect little of his personality.
He spends most of time on physiotherapy, adhering to strict diet regulations, and endless calculations of his calorie intake. He watches very little TV, has few visitors but likes to keep in touch with the outside world via the telephone. Chadha does not smoke and is occasionally allowed a therapeutic peg of scotch. He is clearly a man into renunciation, a little lost and a trifle lonely. Perhaps two video tapes that occupy pride of place next to his small video player tell the story most eloquently. They are 20-minute visuals of his farmhouse outside Delhi and of his house in the Shantiniketan colony of south Delhi.
His daily routine comprises an early morning breakfast of warm porridge, grapefruit and a slice of toast. After which the man who was presumably the lead player of the Bofors saga pores over a dozen newspapers and gets down to writing and rewriting his memoirs. Fatigue sets in early and his naps before and after lunch are becoming more frequent. The only company he keeps is his staff comprising a social secretary, a nurse and a maid. He takes an occasional walk in the evenings. The old Chadha surfaces now and then, as he regales friends with interesting anecdotes from his past. Chadha wants to come home and has petitioned several prime ministers to guarantee his personal safety. He says he has never received any answers. And so, for the moment, he pursues a singular aim...to clear the slur on his wife's name.