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   A lot of people have noticed that Mr. Chandra Shekhar... (November 19, 1990)

A lot of people have noticed that Mr. Chandra Shekhar is smilling a lot these day. Actually, this is the first time in 20 years that he has smiled, and there is a story behind this. Mr. Ebrahim Alkazi, former director of New Delhi's National School of Drama, was telling me about it.

"I don't know anything about politics, please keep me out of that," Mr. Alkazi said. "But it seems that when Mr. Chandra Shekhar approached Mr. Rajiv Gandhi for support, Mr. Gandhi made a condition, that he would have to smile."

"So that's the condition for the support, and they keep insisting there are no conditions," I said.

Mr. Alkazi ignored this and continued: "As Mr. Shekhar had not smiled since the day he had become a Young Truk, he had forgotten how to and somebody had to reach him. I understand, Mr. Yashwant Sinha tried, but he heardly smiles himself, so he did not know how to teach. They even tried to get Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav from Lucknow, but he said he cold teach wrestling, not smiling. So that was out."

"Tough," I said.

"Finally, the came to me," Mr. Alkazi said. "They asked me if I would teach Mr. Shekhar to smile. Naturally, I told them, I would be honoured."

"It is indeed a great honour to teach a prime minister to smile," I said.

"I was difficult, very difficult," Mr. Alkazi said. "He simply could not relax his face muscles. And he could not remove the frown from his forehead. In fact, the more Mr. V.P. Singh talked of his being an opportunist, the deeper the frown got."

"I can see your problems," I said.

"Yes," said Mr. Alkazi. "I who had taught Naseeruddin Shah to act, had suddenly found my Waterloo. I could not teach Mr. Shekhar to smile. And if I failed, he would lose his prime ministership."

"What did you do then?" I asked.

"I could only try. I sued to teach him late in the nights, because the whole day he was busy. And I must say he was a hard-working student. We tried eveything, used Binaca, Colgate, practise in front of three mirrors. At one stage, I asked him to shave his beard, but that he said Ė no. He would make alliance with the devil, but he would not shave off his beard to become a prime minister. I respected him for that."

"But finally you did teach him to smile," I said.

"Yes, and what a beautiful smile he has got, eveybody is talking about it," Mr. Alkazi said.

"True," I said. "Perhaps, now, you could teach Kabir Bedi to cry for his Otherllo role," I said.

 
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