The Snakes ON The Ladders

That I could manage to get two passes as special invitees of Sahitya Sammelan should have impressed my wife Sulabha very much I suppose, but wives of my generation are not known to praise their husbands!

It was my unfulfilled desire to attend an Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan. There was a friend in Anand Awadhani who made it possible for me to attend the Sammelan at Pune. Thanks a million, Awadhani sahib.

It was a high-tech event in the sense that it got telecast live in nine cities in Maharashtra. That incidentally excludes Mumbai!

It was a very well organised event. There were two pandal: The main pandal could seat 15,000 people [I repeat fifteen thousand, in case you think that I have added one zero by mistake!] and the second one with a seating capacity of about 5,000 persons. There were chairs for all and in spite of this there were many who were found standing in these pandal so one can imagine what an attendance it must have been.

The opening ceremony saw elaborate ‘satkars’ [felicitations] of officials and it was very boring to watch it. This got repeated often, much to the annoyance of the audience. We must move to set new traditions. Some good traditions were set in this Sammelan. The President of the Sammelan was given a cheque of Rs. 100,000 to enable him to travel all across Maharashtra to promote the cause of literature and to help him reach out to people in every town and city. The inaugural lamp was lit among others by a book vendor who is selling books on street for last several years. And instead of flowers, dignitaries received a copy of a book.

Mahanor was asked to speak in place of Vinda Karandikar. Vinda unfortunately expired just before the Sammelan. Mahanor began well and then bored the audience for a long time. Speaking what seemed to be unending speech, he left too little time for the President Dr. Da Bhi Kulkarni. Kulkarni’s speech was, on the contrary a well prepared one. It seemed like an open and loud thinking and he raised the level of discussion very high.

Mangesh Padgaonkar’s talk with children was well organised and with Padgaonkar in great spirit, making sometimes witty and often insightful remarks, the audience was treated to an unforgettable event.

The Chief Minister entered the next day. He was to attend the function along with Amitabh Bachchan. But since he came under fire for sharing a dais with him just a few days earlier, he avoided repeating it by making an unscheduled appearance. What a shame! The State of Maharashtra which boasts of having produced several warriors and fearless statesmen unfortunately has such a timid Chief Minister!! His speech was also the speech of the timid, skirting main issues, indulging in making eye catching statements and generally showing an emu like attitude. The speakers before him lambasted him and his Government so badly that it was sometimes inappropriate and perhaps bad in taste, notwithstanding his timidity, but nevertheless meeting approval of the masses! I have never seen a Chief Minister being attacked and insulted in a public, non-political function so badly! I feel sorry for him, my hapless Chief Minister, who is holding on to his chair so tightly. [Pic shows CM Speaking.]

Amitabh Bachchan was graceful. Surprise was that the security was the highest when he came and much more than that for the Chief Minister! That’s interesting. I really think that the Chief Minister needs protection from its own people, not Amitabh!

Amitabh recited not only ‘Madhushala’, but also a poem which goes something like this: That a book was prepared on Snakes of India and with a lot of pictures of snakes. But the poet exclaims that there are so many of them [and the real ones] who are left out.

They are there, very apt poem to respond to the recent events of hate politics and one that is not ‘inclusive’. It not only has Raj as a target but also congressmen who are attacking Amitabh. Snakes are feared for their stealth and venom. The simile was very apt.

And, of course, there are snakes not just hiding in the bush, but sitting on the ladders of hierarchy too!