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   Some traditions take thousands of years to be estblised... (August 16, 1991)

Some traditions take thousands of years to be estblised. Some are formed in just 40 years. The prime minister addressing the nation (or at least the bureaucrats and diplomats of the capital) from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Delhi, is one of these.

It is a good tradition: On Republic Day you have the parade on Rajpath, on Independence Day you shift to the more historic Red Fort. Both have magnificent vistas, one of Lutyen's Delhi, the other of the Delhi built by the Mughals. Khushwant Singh, of course, belongs to both these Delhi. He is also the only typical Delhi-walla that I know who was totally and most comfortably at home in Bombay.

Bombay, unfortunately, has no such grand locations for occasions of pomp and ceremony. Shivaji Park is a poor substitute, it is not even a proper cricket ground, though it has probably produced than any other cricket ground in the world.

I would suggest that Hutatma Chowk (Flora Fountain) be used for such ceremonial occasions, after properly developing it. Or the Gateway of India, which the navy still uses for its beating the retreat programmes. There was a large area-in-front of the Gateway, specially designed for parades. Unfortunalely, the wife of one of our governors, with misplaced enthusiasm to do good and charitable works, put up a public garden there. The garden is now closed to the public for most hours of the day and night, because unsocial elements were turning it into a den of vice.

There is also the Town Hall, where the governor or the chief minister holds his "at home". I forget who, and it does not matter, because whoever it is the money for the at home comes from the public exchequer. Only the most eminent of our citizens are invited, though considering the exclusivity of the event you would be surprised how few are keen on receiving the invitation or attending it. This could be because no liquor is served, though I do not think so. In any case, nobody wants liquor at 5 o'clock in the evening. The reason, I think, is Bombay's healthy disregard for government patronage. You are judged not by whether you are on some bureaucrat's list of invitees, but by how much money you make and in what manner you make it.

In Delhi, the at home is helf by the President in his gardens at Rastrapati Bhavan. Official Delhi and its wives stand in five-deep rows, discreetly pushing forward and trying to catch the President's eye and hand. It is a sad show and one Independence Day tradition that may be dropped. Perhaps, the BJP will do it when it comes to power. Though, as things stand, it will be a long, long time before it comes to power; it had one chance and it muffed it.

There is another tradition that is difficult to understand. The prime minister beginning the day by visiting the samadhis of the departed leaders. Mahatma Gandhi's samadhi is understandable, after all he is the father of the nation, and today and for ever our conscience keeper. Even Jawaharlal Nehru is acceptable, he was the first prime minister. But to visit the graves of all the dead prime ministers. In another 100 years, there would be many more dead prime ministers and the incumbent then would be spending his entire I-Day visiting their graves. Besides, New Delhi itself would start looking like a large graveyard for dead prime ministers.

 
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