The tall tales of Rajiv’s ‘friend’ : The Tribune India

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The tall tales of Rajiv’s ‘friend’

The tall tales of  Rajiv’s ‘friend’

Rajiv Gandhi. File photo

Shamsher Chandel

ABOUT 10 years ago, I happened to attend the wedding of a rich businessman’s daughter in Ludhiana. I sat at a round table amidst businessmen and was the odd one out. I was introduced to two men, both very suave and dignified, who had come from Gwalior. The three of us sat listening as the others discussed the ever-escalating property prices. Between bites of chicken kebab, they unleashed their sales pitch on the duo.

As soon as the two men found out that I was a journalist, they whisked me off to a quiet corner and bombarded me with questions about my profession and the relations between politicians and journalists.

After I had finished narrating an incident about an election campaign, one of them claimed that he had accompanied his friend Rajiv on the campaign trail. ‘It was Suman who managed the entire campaign so well, but the chap (Rajiv) was unlucky,’ he said.

He went on: ‘You know Rajiv and MS were thick till I broke into their circle and then Rajiv and I became the best of pals.’

After a good half an hour, my curiosity finally got the better of me. I couldn’t help asking about this Rajiv they were gushing over. ‘Oh… I am talking about Rajiv Gandhi. We were together at The Doon School and were the best of chums. Mani Shankar (MS) Aiyar was our senior. Rajiv was in awe of Mani from schooldays. I was a badmash, but he liked me as well. And Suman was his press adviser.’

Now I knew that he was talking about the Lok Sabha elections of 1991, when Rajiv was assassinated during a poll rally. I asked an obvious question: ‘What do you do for a living?’

‘Oh, you know, just the usual routine,’ he said. ‘I wake up around 9-ish, have my morning tea, breakfast and a quick scrub. Then it’s off to the billiards room. Lunch is with friends at our haveli. After that, there is golf, followed by people visiting me, and then dinner. I usually retire to bed 12-ish.’

On hearing this evasive answer, a man who sat with us at the table said, his grin reaching his ears: ‘It seems like a hush-hush land deal is brewing.’

The man from Gwalior said: ‘Yes, I have a little piece tucked away in Jaipur. Just about 100 acres of land and I want to sell it in one go.’

‘Oh, I am a small fish. For this, you will have to get hold of a shark,’ the businessman said before disappearing.

By now, I knew the answer to ‘what he did for a living’. I asked him: ‘How do you look after your land?’

‘Well, back in the 1970s, I used to drive in an open jeep and sometimes, when a chopper was available, I would tell the pilot to raise it to about 1,500 ft. But now, drones are a cheaper option,’ he replied.

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