Madras Cafe…Stirring up some old memories

Posted: September 9, 2013 in Rajiv Gandhi
Tags: , , ,

My friend Edwin Skau probably thinks I am inhuman for referring to Rajiv Gandhi the way I did in my previous blog. I still believe that if Rajiv Gandhi had wanted he could have stopped the violence after the assassination of his mother. After all, he was the prime minister, but whether he was forced to allow the massacres to continue by the hawks in his party or didn’t honestly know enough of what was going on in Delhi, is something we will never know. In journalist Tavleen Singh’s book she has documented that he knew.
It’s a coincidence that I wrote about it in my blog, because just a day later I watched Madras Cafe. The film is riveting. That’s the perfect word to describe it. It also brought back some very unpleasant memories. And just in case some people think that I dislike Rajiv Gandhi, I don’t and I never did. I think he was genuinely a nice guy, who I believe would have made a much better prime minister the second time around. Fate willed otherwise.
I don’t know whether Rajiv took any money in the Bofors deal. And if I remember right Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave him a clean chit in Parliament. That’s good enough for me. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to produce hard evidence, not innuendos and crazy assumptions, like some silly name like Lotus, which means Rajiv in English! Just like my friend Edwin, I refuse to accept that he was a corrupt man. Immature…maybe, naive..maybe, But crooked…I find hard to believe. And then he’s dead now, so he can’t refute innuendos.
I remember May 21, 1991 very clearly. I had left for home early from work that day, and I had just reached when my colleague Mathew Fernandes called me back to work. He said there had been a bomb blast and Rajiv Gandhi had been injured. By the time I reached the office all hell had broken loose. News was trickling in and it wasn’t good. Then we got an official confirmation on the wire and rushed off to redo the pages. Unlike today, page designing was a cut and paste operation, so it took double the time it takes today.
All the phones in the office were ringing simultaneously and, remember, we didn’t have 24×7 coverage as yet. I think STAR News (although I am not sure) was the first channel to have news coverage apart from Doordarshan, which had flashed the news. We didn’t have a photo service that could have flashed pictures to us then, so we had to depend on grabbing the image from TV connected on a desktop.
I remember people calling us up to confirm the news and breaking down on being told. I don’t think there were too many dry eyes that evening in the newsroom. When the pictures flashed on the TV and they showed the body of the former PM lying on its stomach, we were shaking our heads in disbelief.
What shook us all was the manner of his death and the fact that someone could have been so committed to taking a life and giving up her own with a press of a button. It completely freaked most of us out. I for one was deeply saddened. I remember telling my mother and aunt, that he was too young to die and this was a blow the country would never recover from. And I don’t think the nation has recovered from that blow. And I am not referring to those nonsensical advertisements published about his dreams by the Congress Party!
There was another reason I had a soft corner for him. When my brother got married in 1986, my mother sent Rajiv Gandhi a wedding card! You see my brother and sister-in-law had the same first names as the Gandhi couple! On returning from the wedding our house help told us that the postman had been bringing a letter everyday and had refused to hand it over to anyone except the person who the letter was addressed to — my mother! She, of course, hadn’t breathed a word of it to anyone, fearing a lot of leg-pulling from everyone.
The next day the postman arrived with the letter and imagine my shock when we saw the letter. It was from the Prime Minister’s Office and had his seal. The message inside left me speechless. It read “Dear Mrs Sinha, Thank you for the lovely invitation card informing us of the wedding of your son Rajiv to Sonia. Sonia and I wish the couple the same happiness that we have had in ours.”
My first reaction was “What a smooth PR guy!”
So as I watched Madras Cafe these memories came flooding back, and as I watched the scenes leading to the assassination, I felt sick in my stomach. I closed my eyes, only to open them a few seconds later. I didn’t want to miss THAT scene.

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Comments
  1. What a touching little post, Sir. I was all of 5 when it happened, and even I remember the pall of depression and gloom that hung in the air in the days following the assassination.

    On a separate note, I have been fascinated by the history of the LTTE for many years, so I quite liked Madras Cafe, even though the film should have had better actors. Also, I yearn for the day when we can take names directly in our cinema, as opposed to inane pseudonyms like Liberation of Tamils Front.

    Also, you mentioned December 2, 1989 as the day of the blast. Wasn’t Rajiv Gandhi assassinated on 21st May, 1991?

  2. Kiran says:

    Very Nice piece sir!

    Must thanks you for the interesting information on Rajiv Gandhi.

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