Navjot Singh Sidhu has the makings of a Mani Shankar Aiyar. Except that Aiyar can hardly make anyone laugh and Sidhu laughs from deep down in his throat at the lamest of jokes. Genuine humour is neither man’s forte though both have a way with words.
Now we see that both have something else in common, too a fondness for Pakistan! Aiyar’s Pakistani friends are a circle of high-end Pakistani achievers diplomats and politicians of the Old Guard. Ones who wrote books and held conversations on subjects intended to shape Indo-Pak relations. Aiyar specialises in trashing and thrashing policies that shape ties between both countries.
Sidhu, however, is a recent revelation. Though not a novice in politics, Sidhu could never be taken as a serious politician. The guy is so full of anecdotes and so good at making stock statements called Sidhuisms it became difficult to believe if he carried them in his head or mugged them in between programmes on Star and Sony. Pak cricketer Imran Khan (once a cricketer always a cricketer!) has the kinship of bat and ball with Sidhu.
However, Imran will pass on the road or corridor, and not give Aiyar a second glance unless he is trailing in Rahul Gandhi’s wake at a respectable ‘family-retainer’ distance. So, even if Aiyar calls Pakistan his “third” home he has one each in Delhi and Chennai Imran has not invited Aiyar to his inauguration bash. This will be the first time in his long association with Pakistan that Aiyar will see a Pakistani PP who he doesn’t know enough take charge. It will rankle that he didn’t get invited but, what the hell, you can’t have it your way every time, can you?
But Imran Khan has invited Navjot Singh Sidhu. The invitation went Wednesday evening to Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sidhu and actor Aamir Khan. Sidhu was first to accept. Maybe because Sidhu was a set opener for India and the first to face an Imran bouncer from the pavilion-end. A stoic, stodgy opening bat, who could tuk-tuk-tuk entire sessions away between start of play and tea, Sidhu must have frustrated Imran Khan enough for the Pakistan PM-elect to remember the ‘Sardar with the Patka’ all these years later.
For, mind you, India’s great Sachin Tendulkar is not in Imran’s guest list. It must be the age-difference. Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar are of Imran’s vintage though age-wise Kapil will claim an age-advantage denied to Gavaskar. Imran towers over Gavaskar and Sunil must have had some good things to say about Imran in his autobiography some ‘Sunny’ things! If Sunny accepts the invitation and goes to Imran’s inauguration, the both of them will not get the time or opportunity to sit and yak of the old days.
Out of the four, Aamir Khan is the last man standing, still doing what he set out to do in the first place acting! The only cricket Aamir has played is on the big screen, in the movie Lagaan, which with modern technology has fit in very well on the small screen, too. Imran Khan must have sat Lagaan through. The odd bat and ball featured in the film must have appealed to the Pathan with the ability to reverse swing. But, more than Lagaan, what must have made Imran not forget to invite Aamir is their meeting at an India Today Conclave where they were seated side-by-side and at the end of everybody gushing over Imran, Aamir declared prophecy-like that he will be at Imran Khan’s inauguration as Pakistan PM! It’s such talk that grabs a man by the biceps and tugs at his heart.
So, there have you, India’s ensemble cast at Imran’s inauguration to Pakistan’s top post an ex-cricketer-commentator; an ex-cricketer; an ex-cricketer-cum-politician-cum-laughter-buff and a superstar of Bollywood with all the trappings of a Khan except for the little time he felt India was too scary a place for his wife to live in.
There is talk that Imran might do a Modi and invite the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his inauguration along with other Saarc leaders. But that will require some deft manoeuvring and Pakistan Army’s permission will have to be taken because, for all of Imran’s reverse swings, there are some things Pakistani he cannot swing on his own!
For now, Sidhu has accepted Imran’s invitation. The rest might, too. But it could depend on whether Modi gets invited and if or not Modi accepts the offer to sit and watch a confirmed India-basher take the oath to screw India every which way the Pakistan Army wants to.
Sidhu will no doubt pick from where Aiyar left and crack jokes that might, hopefully, bring Pakistan’s house of cards down in a heap though that is a heap too much to expect from Sidhu the Punjabi Aiyar!
(Author is a senior journalist)