If you read the constitution of india you know that constitution prohibits titles such as Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan and so on. The intent was to do away with British custom of sycophancy. Not only constitution prohibits State from giving title, it also prohibits Indian citizens from accepting titles from other countries. (Remember Dilip Kumar and Nishan E Pakistan ). But somehow Indian State does not want to eat its own dog food!!!. Just after independence when chacha tried to subvert this by getting Azad to accept “Bharatratna” , azad steadfastly refused it. But chachaji’s chelas succeeded Azad in accepting the title posthumously!!! But these days I am told not only State is doling out titles , but it has also instituted a process to seek nominations from our new rulers!!! ( E.g. Pondicherry government’s committee for selecting nomination for “Padma” awards consists entirely of political class except for vice chancellor of pondicherry university !!) .
This year we have also enhanced the scope of constitution to include citizens of the world. There are so many “padma”s that have gone to foreigners.
This fills my heart with joy. I am so close to achieving dream of my teacher. My teacher, while I was in primary school wanted either a Nobel prize or an Olympic Medal as guru dakshina. Since my south asian physique does not stand a chance at Olympics and since Nobel committee strictly requests the nominations to be kept secret I feel I have no chance at both of those places. But definitely I will take a crack at Bharath Ratna in coming years. Since I am now outside India, I feel my chances are better.
As A first step, I tried to seek information on nomination process from horses ( donkey’s) mouth. I called sahukarru who happens to be on in Padma list.
Sahukarru’s secretary picked up the phone.
Here is the conversation.
Secretary: Hello, This is Rai Bahadur’s secretary
Me: ( Wondering I had the wrong number …was dumb for some time..) Um…. I am sorry .. I have the wrong number ..sorry maam.
I rang up again…
secretary: Hello, This is Rai Bahadur’s secretary
Me: ( Cursed AT&T .. ) Sorry Maam .. wrong number again.
I hung up and called again…
secretary:Hello, This is Rai Bahadur sahukarru’s secretary.
Me: Um.. Can I speak to sahukarru ( I did not know that Sikkapatte Important Company’s Sahukarru had started sharing his secretary with another gentleman named Rai Bahadur..may be it is the austerity after Rupee appreciation against dollar )
secretary: Yes You can speak to Rai Bahadur Sahukarru.
Me: No maam. I want to speak only to Sahukarru. I have no business with Rai Bahadur.
secretary: No!!. You should not show disrespect to my master. You should address him as Rai Bahadur Sahukarru from Jan 26th 2008.
( I looked at watch .. it was 11:56 pm on Jan 25, 2008 )
Me: It is only Jan 25.
secretary: No probably you are in US time zone.. Not only we have created a level playing field we are now ahead of you.. So my master has to be called Rai Bahadur Sahukarru..
( At this point I decided to relent..)
Me: Okay can I speak to Rai Bahadur Sahukarru?
secretary: Sure. Hang on.
(after some time)
Sahukarru: How many acres?
Sahukarru: Oh I am sorry I thought it was Karnataka Government on the phone..
Me: Never mind.. I wanted to congratulate you on your Padma award. So how does it feel to be a Padma Sahukarru?
Sahukarru: No.. I do not want you to call me Padma Sahukarru ? Call me Rai Bahadur Sahukarru
Me: Rai Bahadur? Did you change name.. Can I call you Padma Rai Bahadur Sahukarru?
Sahukarru: Negative. Padma and Rai Bahadur mean the same.
Sahukarru: My company is global company.. I have many Englishmen working for me. When they ruled India , their second highest award was Rai Bahadur. They do not know about Padma and they feel ashamed and out of place if we use that term… So to make them feel at home.. I have decided to use Rai Bahadur as my title instead of Padma.
I passed out..