Was Kangana Ranaut's 'Padma Shri' a 'bheekh', award or a reward?

In an open letter to Kangana Ranaut, Darshan Desai sympathises with the actor's 'experiments with Truth' and 'discovery' of India

Kangana Ranaut received Padma Shri award
Kangana Ranaut received Padma Shri award

Darshan Desai

Dear Kangana,

You may wonder as you read this letter why I addressed you with the word dear. Well, my upbringing taught me to refer to everyone with respect and humility in all circumstances. These words might be alien to you since you walked out of your home and on your parents without providing them any opportunity for your upbringing. And then, as you told media interviews, you fell into bad company and into drugs.

Destiny was indeed rude to you, but then you emerged from the ashes and destiny helped you more than you asked for as it flung the Padma Shri in your lap. Many, including me, say that you don’t deserve even a millimetre of that high civilian award for doing nothing. Albeit, my opinion or of thousands like me don’t count for you.

So destiny -- it is not an alm but a gift from destiny, you may say. It is not something akin to what you say that the 1947 Independence was a ‘bheekh’, but for you, it’s a gift after the actual Independence that came your way in 2014.

My referring to you as Dear Kangana has also to do with the principle of justice and non-violence that Mahatma Gandhi taught me and many like me -- no, not you, I refer to lesser mortals. Yes, this has very much to do with non-violence -- since you were in a celestial world in a bad company before 2014, you may not know that being uncouth, arrogant and insulting is also violence that hurts more than the physical variety.

This has nothing to do with you getting a Padma Shri, but the booster dose of arrogance it injected in you. That happens when you receive a reward you don’t deserve and so, obviously, you are woefully unaware of its value and ethos. Not your fault, again, since you may not have heard of humility (Google dictionaries can help there) that goes with recipients of such civilian honours.

It is never too late to learn. So, let us try here.

I write this from the home state of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel -- they didn’t give you your 2014 independence, they had died much before that (as a primer refer to Google about who these two gentlemen were), but they did sow the seeds of my freedom. That was not an alm, but a lifetime gift that I regret I will never be able to return with full respect. Albeit, that may not be so much of a burden on you since a ‘bheekh’ is seldom returned.

Then, there was a gentleman called Jawaharlal Nehru -- you must have surely heard about him (only heard) since your post-2014 Independence teachers must have repeatedly told you that he was the biggest villain leading the pack of ‘freedom beggers’ in 1947. For you, “Discovery of India”, maybe like Amar Chitra Katha! And “My Experiments with Truth” is too boring as compared to your own experiments with various truths.

Forget all of them for a moment. But there was another gentleman, about whom you must know. Don’t worry, I can surely empathize if he is a wee bit difficult for your intellectual faculties to fathom, but then you are a good actor who can digest any script. This person was called Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. He wrote a non-fiction book called the Constitution of India (Google can help) many years ahead of the 2014 Independence.

Kangana Ranaut-Ji (did you notice I can’t forget that small expression of respect, Ji, though you are some 20 years younger to me), I repeat, Kangana Ranaut-Ji, the very reason that even after receiving the country’s highest civilian honour you can spew venom at thousands of freedom fighters who laid their lives for all of us is that this man Dr Ambedkar guaranteed you the Freedom of Speech and Expression. It is the strength of the Constitution of India that allows you today to spew nonsense and still get away with it and also keep the Padma Shri. You may want to know that the Padma awards were instituted in 1954, only seven years after my Independence and 60 years before yours.

This is your ‘bheekh’ Kangana Ranaut-Ji and the moral courage, magnanimity and the principle of non-violence of our heroes of 1947 that they allow you to use foul language against them and get away with it. The Padma Shri is your ‘bheekh’ also because the award and your arrogance don’t spawn from the body of your work as an artist, but by the largesse bestowed on you by the political dispensations for their own interests.

Dear Kangana, make no mistake, the civilian honour you have got out of turn is your ‘bheekh’, not a hard-earned reward for the dirt that you spread. You will discover it someday when it is too late.

Best Wishes

Darshan Desai

(The writer is Editor, Development News Network (DNN), Gujarat. Views are personal

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