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   Without Mr. Nani Palkhivala's post-budget speech... (July 24, 1996)

Without Mr. Nani Palkhivala's post-budget speech, the budget does not seem to be the budget. Mr. Palkhivala's speech was an event in the city's social and economic circles, as important as the presentation of the budget ifselt. Everybody from J.R.D. Tata to Mantralaya clerks and K.C. College students were present, and the speaker enlightened and regaled them with acts, figures and literary quotes.

This is the second year that Mr. Palkhivala is not delivering his annual budget speech and it appears that he will never do so again. Though never is not a word in Mr. Palkhivala's or my dictionary.

Mr. Palkhivala has been medically advised nto to. At his age, the strain, it is feared, would be too much. The speech lasts an hour and more, and he delivers it standing, without referring to notes. Watching him, you would think it comes easy to him, but it takes a lot of hard word.

Unlike ministers, a large number of them, who gets up and speak on all subjects without any preparing his speehes. Since it is delivered within a couple of days of the budget presentation, he literally burns the mid-night oil going through the budget books, page by page. The budget runs into several volumes and is in itself a waste of public money, since the volumes are presented to the MPs, most of whom do not or cannot read them.

Mr. Palkhivala, after reading, refering to previous budgets, making notes, prepares a draft and summary of the draft for the press. Then he memorises the whole thing, adds quotes from Greek liferature and English judges, anecdotes. Then he speaks one smooth flow of effortless action. There is both style and content in the speech that all the Raninas and Engineers of the world cannot match, thought, mind you, they are quite good. (An after thought: how is it that so many of the post-budget speakers are Parsis!)

What Mr. Palkhivala said, counted. Newspaper editors did not take much cognisance of it, they wrote their own ambiguous view, but a succession of finance ministers had the speech sent to them verbatim the evening it was delivered.

And it was heard by large crowds. The early meetings were held in hotel rooms and the Sunderbai Hall. They then shifted to Shanmukhananda, a much bigger hall, then, when that was not large enough, to the east lawns of the Brabourne Stadium. This plot is still known as Palkhivala's lawn. However, the meetings themselves had to move on to the main stadium, and the audience filled half the stands, plus the grounds.

Last year, Doordarshan offered time to Mr. Palkhivala, an excellent move. However, it did a shoddy job. First, it was not screened the day and time it was announced to be, then, when it was screened, it was interrupted with advertisements and abruptly cuto to accommodate other programmes.

This years, I do nto think there is going to be Doordarshan. So, I heard Mr. Ranina yesterday. He was good, but a substitute.

 
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