A guy in his 20s, with gloved hands, pushed the wheelchair into the room at his Bandra residence. Pran Saab did look old but not without some of the glamour that lit up the silverscreen for decades. The metal frame of his specs gleamed, the shawl that wrapped his frail frame looked elegant and there was nothing really amiss.
This until I&B minister Manish Tiwari handed over the citation and put the medallion around Pran Saab's neck. The man didn't even blink. Pran Saab sat motionless, seemingly aloof from the occasion he himself had necessitated. An actor didn't emote. That too when receiving the premier recognition of his supreme ability to do just that. Cruel old age has taken its toll on him.
The guy with gloved hands dabbed a hanky on the corner of his wet mouth. An elderly woman whispered something into his ear and, for the first time, Pran Saab's pupils dilated. Even the upper lip slightly twitched. That's it.
His family gathered around him for a group photo with the minister, elated at the recognition of one of India's most liked performers whose primary on-screen job, rather ironically, was to try and be as much disliked as possible.
Done with the group photo, the minister stepped forward to address the media scrum, articulating how the awardee had enhanced the award's stature.
The melee of family members gathered to form a wall behind the minister, shielding Pran Saab from vision. The TV channel cut away to a panel discussion on what they have been calling Railgate and you felt a distinct relief.
For it made painful viewing where the cruelty of old age overshadowed what should have been a celebration of Indian cinema and one of its most beloved sons.
Prime Minister was deep in his slumber when Jawaharlal Nehru appeared in his dream and below is what transpired between them:
Nehru: Sonny boy, do you recognise me? PM: Oye! Roshan Seth!
Nehru: (Sighs). Oh boy! No idea what are you blabbering about. I’m Nehru, Jawaharlal. PM:Otteri! Sorry sir, please don’t mind. Dreaming without my specs on, you see. But Chacha Nehru in my dream!
Nehru: Cut the crap. Precisely what I hate. PM: What’s the matter Chacha Nehru? You seem upset about something?
Nehru: Can you please stop calling me Chacha? PM: But why? Gandhiji is the Father of the Nation and you are the Uncle! Like Uncle Ho of Vietnam.
Nehru: Yes but have you noticed the disturbing trend of rogue nephews? PM: Your nephew had rog? You mean disease?
Nehru: I mean rogue. Can you please be a little less funny? PM: Sorry Chacha…err…I mean sir. But I didn’t get you.
Nehru: Let me explain. Your agriculture minister’s nephew wanted to urinate on damn. Your railway minister’s nephew took bribe. Your cricketer’s nephew tweets something to nearly trigger a diplomatic row with Pakistan. And you want me to remain the Uncle of this loony nation? PM: Get you point sir. Indeed, tough time for the uncles of this country. Even my government’s predicament pales in comparison.
Nehru: Glad you understand that. As a former Prime Minister, can I ask for a favour? PM: You embarrass me sir. Just order me.
Nehru: Can you make it illegal to call me Chacha? PM: Hmm. But people would be intrigued and ask me why.
Nehru: Come on. You seldom talk anyway. So what’s the problem? Can’t you do this much for me? PM: Ok sir. My government has done lot more sillier, inexplicable things. Guess one more won’t do any harm. I’ll go ahead and table a bill tomorrow.
Nehru: I’m greatly relieved. Can’t thank you enough. I know I put you in a spot. PM: Don’t worry sir. Even if people ask me why I introduced the bill, I have a ready-excuse.
Nehru: And what's that? PM: That my nephew brought the bill and it was not me!