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   By now everybody knows that a Hindi tutor has been engaged... (January 20, 1986)

By now everybody knows that a Hindi tutor has been engaged for Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and gives her tuitions in the language three times a week. What is not know is that there is another teacher engaged to teach her how to smile. The two teachers come on alternate days.

An official at the Prime Minister's house was telling me about the arrangement. "A lot of people, in cluding Mr. Russy Karanjia and Mr. Dilip Bobb, have pointed out that Mrs. Gandhi does not smile. Though this may be alright at the Congress centenary celebrations, where there was hardly any reason to smile, it become a little awkward when Mrs. Gandhi accompanies the prime minister on his foreign tours."

"I suppose so," I said.

The official continued: "You have no idea how difficult it is to find in India somebody who can teach you to smile. You can find any number of people who can teach Hindi, but to teach to smile is another matter."

"How did you find a teacher?" I asked.

"We advertised, of course, got thousands of replies, but none of them were suitable," the official said. "Somebody suggested we should ask Mr. Amitabh Bachchan to tech Mrs. Bachchan said he was tragic actor, like Dilip Kumar, not a commedian."

"That's true", I said.

The official said: "Finally, we found somebody in Benares, a wise old teacher who was not in touch with what was happening in the country today. So we brought him to Delhi and engaged him."

"How are the lessons getting on?" I asked.

"The Hindi lessons are getting on very well," the official said. "Of course, Mrs. Gandhi already has a working knowledge of Hindi, in fact, she speaks better Hindi than Mr. N. T. Rama Rao and Mr. M. G. Ramchandran. So it is only a question of improving on it. Teaching her to smile is more difficult. So far, little progress has been made."

"I am sorry to hear that," I said.

"You need not be," the official said. "The teacher has assured that Mrs. Gandhi will start smiling within six months. Already, on the television screen, occasionally, you can decipher a faint smile at the corner of her mouth. But Mrs. Gandhi will have to really work hard and time is running out."

"Tell me, why is it so necessary that Mrs. Gandhi should smile" I asked.

"That's a silly question," the official said. "You know how bad things are getting to be and soon the prime minister may stop smiling. At that time, somebody in the prime minister family would be required to put up a smiling face to the world."

 
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