Missing the Message
Congress veteran Mohsina Kidwai’s biography (as told to historian Rasheed Kidwai) will be out this week and promises to be full of interesting anecdotes, for she is one of the few Congress leaders who can claim to have worked with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv, Sonia and Rahul such as this one. (Interestingly, Ghulam Nabi Azad too has the same distinction, but that’s another story). During a chapter on foreign visits, Mohsina recalls how H.K.L. Bhagat, a strongman from Delhi, mistook Begum Nusrat Bhutto, the mother of the then Prime Minister Benazir, to be the daughter instead. At the time, Benazir was Pakistan PM and leader of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. Apparently, Bhagat mistook her to be Benazir and kept complimenting her on her “youthful” looks, etc. The faux pas was obvious to everyone but Bhagat. The situation was turning awkward, until Natwar Singh sensed Begum Nusrat’s discomfort and gently told Bhagat about Begum Nusrat’s relationship to the PM. On the way back, when Natwar Singh told Rajiv Gandhi about the episode, the latter had a good-natured chuckle at Bhagat’s ham-handed attempt at diplomacy.

When the 6th G is for Gym
The Minister for Telecom & IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, kicked off Sunday Guardian Foundation’s Capital Dialogue series last week. The minister met with industry heads, thought leaders and other stakeholders, fielding questions on 5G, semiconductors and Digital India for nearly an hour. However, his trademark sense of humour was also apparent when he was asked a question by Aditi Phadnis, political editor of Business Standard about the “hefty” nature of his portfolio, Rajeev was quick to quip that, “For a minute I thought you used the word hefty in relation to my weight for I haven’t had the time to go the gym in the last few weeks.” As Capital Dialogues plans to host one such town-hall style interaction between ministers and other policymakers with stakeholders every month, the first interaction had a very auspicious beginning, rounding off with an informal chat over a cup of tea and lots of selfies. Watch this space for our next guest.

The Last Word
Veteran actress Shabana Azmi has always played strong, distinct unconventional roles on screen, that match her off screen personality as well. Her latest film, where she shares screen space with the delightful Divya Dutta is about nonbinary relationships. The duo were featured on the NewsX show “We Women Want” recently where Shabana was asked to comment on the hijab controversy where women in Iran are fighting against wearing a hijab and some in India are fighting to wear it. As both Divya and Shabana pointed out, the question and the fight are really about the right to choose. And Shabana added with a smile that this reminds her of a couplet she wrote during Covid times: “Do din mein mask pehen kar thak gaya woh admi, jo kehta tha aurat ko parde mein rehna hai (the male who wants women to cover their faces with a veil could not keep a mask on for two hours).” That’s Shabana Azmi for you, outspoken and candid.