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Padma Awards: High Time We Question Them

Padma Awards: High Time We Question Them

October 12, 2010

If a western organisation recognises you, or you are dating Kareena Kapoor, you may be in for a Padma Award!

For those who don’t know me personally, most friends call me g2. I am in a long term relationship with c2, my imaginary cat! c2 speaks with a sexy Spanish accent like Penelope Cruz while g2 whines like Woody Allen. Excerpts from a conversation:

g2: Why are the Padma Awards given?

c2: What do you mean by why? They are among the highest civilian awards given every year to honor citizens who have made significant contribution to national life in the field of arts, education, sports, social service etc.

g2: Interesting words aren't they? Significant contribution to National life!

c2: What are you getting at now?

g2: Nothing, I was just wondering how these awards are given.

c2: There is a committee that gives recommendations which go to some minister for approval and then the Home Minister has to approve the approval. Later the President, with the approval of the Prime Minister will approve the approval of the recommendations after Sonia Gandhi has given her blessings. That is how everything works in Delhi!

g2: Wow! I am impressed with your understanding of the Indian bureaucracy. But my question was what does “significant contribution to national life” really mean? Is it contribution over a long period of time, like a lifetime achievement award or do they just factor in the last one year’s work?

c2: It makes sense for it to be a lifetime achievement sort of a thing. Don't you think?

g2: Then why was Sania Mirza awarded a Padma Shree in 2006? From what I remember, all she achieved by 2006 (and to this day) was one trophy in Dubai wearing a red skirt!

c2: May be she was an exception! The whole nation had a crush on her before she married that Pakistani guy.

g2: Forget Sania, as many as six members of our current test cricket team have Padma Shree to their names! If it is a lifetime achievement thing, why give it before they even retire?

c2: May be it is not a lifetime achievement thing. May be recent work is the sole factor in determining the award…

g2: In that case, why was Akshay Kumar given a Padma Shree in 2009? Was Singh is King so ground breaking that it is now “significant contribution to national life”? If one masala movie is all that it takes for a Padmashri, then Salman Khan should get one because Dabangg is doing great. Oh my God! They are going to give one to Salman!!!

c2: Don't be so negative. May be sometimes they do this and sometimes that depending on whether the nomination is for sports or social service.

g2: In ANY case, why did Saif Ali Khan get one?

c2: Well, he has a good sense of humor and he does those kinds of roles well....

g2: Pardon me for interrupting but we're talking about the highest civilian awards here... not the fancy dress competition for the kids in your apartment! The way I see it, Saif Ali is a Padma Shree because a popular actress decided to hook up with a prominent one eyed cricketer 40 years ago!

c2: Hey, that was mean. Saif did say in his acceptance speech that he did not deserve it but he will try to live up to it.

g2: so what? He accepted it!

c2: That is what people do when they win awards they don't deserve! Remember Barrack Obama and his Nobel Peace Prize?

g2: Alright! But I think a Padma Shree is more of a fashion statement in Bollywood these days. They probably say “you should get one of these Lotus-things ya. They sound so cool” to each other at weekend parties!

c2: Ha, “lotus-things”

g2: My question is… Why is Padmashri a piece of cake for some celebrities whereas it takes a lifetime for legends like Ilaya Raja and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam?

c2: I’ll agree with your observation but don’t you think you are only concentrating on the bad apples?

g2: Of course I am concentrating on the bad apples. They are the ones that need attention! These few bad decisions are enough to make a dent on the prestige of the awards. The sad thing is that citizens like you and me are okay with it. We just don’t care!

C2: First of all I am not a citizen, I am a cat. And secondly, there have been some good decisions by the committee too. Resul Pookutty, the guy who won an Oscar for slum dog was awarded a Padma Shree. Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan was given a Padma Bhushan.

g2: Mind you, Resul Pookutty and Venkatraman Ramamkrishnan were awarded only after they got international acclaim. It's not like our govt. Committee has identified their potential and picked them from among thousands of people!

c2: So what is your point?

g2: My point is this... I think the committee that gives these Padma Awards is full of lazy ass people who do not look beyond Film Fare magazine and the front page of The Times of India to find people worthy of the honor!

c2: Filmfare and Times of India?

g2: Look at the recent trend! If some prestigious western institution does not recognize your work and if you are not dating Kareena Kapoor, then you don’t have a chance at the Padma Awards! That is how it works these days!

c2: But there are a lot of recipients outside cricket and Bollywood too. Are you suggesting that those awards were free from bias, politics and lobbying?

g2: No. why would I say that? How can anything be free from politics? I am sure there are a lot of wonderful people whose life stories can inspire a whole generation of Indians but their names are seldom mentioned by the media. Padma Awards are always reported with a headline like “Akki and Ash get Padma Shree” The whole coverage is limited to what Sari Ash was wearing.  

The media’s attitude towards the whole thing is like, “Hey, a whole bunch of guys got the honors but we know only Akki and Ash. They’re even acting in a movie together. That’s an interesting story! Why bother writing about boring doctors and selfless activists who dedicated their entire lives to the service of the nation?”

c2: hmm…

g2: Also, over 2200 Padma Shrees were awarded since their inception in 1954 and more than 1000 of those were given away in the last 10 or 12 years it self! The statistics for Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan are similar. A lot of great people have been recipients of these awards in the past and these committees with their lobbyists are insulting those greats by giving the same awards to a few undeserving celebrities!

c2: And why does that bother you?

g2: I don’t know... As a potential winner, I am not comfortable with some of those people in MY club!

c2: Yeah right… “Your” club!

g2: It’s an interesting idea. Padma Shree Jayanth Tadinada. Maybe I can write a blog on this!

c2: You and your stupid blog... That is all that you care about! I am getting sick of you! Everything we talk, you write in your blog... Sometimes, I feel that you talk to me only when you want some ideas for your blog!

g2: Honey, it's not like that... This is for The NRI

c2: The blog, The NRI... They are all the same. You are all the same. All men are assholes! Get out of here and don't talk to me now!

g2: …….


  • Rajpriya
    03.05.12 06:34 PM
    Hey Jayanth,

    I have applied for life membership in the g2 Club.
    Long live g2 club and long live Padma Shree Jayanth Tadinada but throw c2 out for throwing dirty stuff @ U.

    I might take few days to stop laughing. Post your next after 4 or 5 days.

    By the way is Sania Mirza the one who wore very short shorts and foot her fot on the Indian flag?

    Why did she get an award? Was it for trying hard to play tennis?


  • Chaya
    03.05.12 05:17 PM
    ha haha.. Good one..
  • anon
    04.05.11 11:00 PM
    Harbhajan Singh got a padmashree? Really, I am disappointed with dipping society's moral standards and ethics.
  • Narasimha Rao
    Narasimha Rao
    31.01.11 10:23 PM
    Congrats Jayanth.A good satire.After reading it I am influenced to agree with you.
  • subbarao,Rjy
    30.11.10 08:25 AM
    Congrats, Jayanth. A good critical satire which should be an eye opener to the relevant, if at all they dare to care.
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    14.10.10 05:09 PM
    I think the idea that the Padma Bhushan committee is exceptionally egregious in the awards they hand out is a bit, well, iffy. Just about every "prestigious" award that is handed out here in the US has about the same proportion of questionable awardees.

    Being a plugged i Indian I'm guessing you're intimately familiar with why the Sania Mirzas, Akshay Kumars don't deserve their PBs. A familiarity that you (probably) don't enjoy with their western counterparts that win similarly ill deserved awards. Its a bit like what I'd say if my wife were to win the humanitarian of the year award. I'd be like, "What?! Do you guys know what she did when I forgot our anniversary last year." I'm kidding, but you get the point right?

    The Padma Bhushans are fine. c2 is right, g2 needs to chill ;-)
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    14.10.10 03:47 PM
    @A Singh: lol! Could be... It is like the most mischievous boy in the class being made monitor so that he'll "behave" and learn to be responsible!

    @Avinash: Thanks man!
  • Avinash
    14.10.10 01:21 PM
    Now you are cracking something solid bro...nice :)
  • A Singh
    A Singh
    14.10.10 01:05 AM
    Maybe Bhajji got one for showing restraint. He could have punched him you know....
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    13.10.10 11:34 PM
    @Dharme: I was kind of getting at that in the Obama statement! But with the Padma Awards, it is even worse because over 1000 nominations were screened by the committee in just over an hour, which shows how much they care about the awards!

    @Afshan: I am not against the awards going to popular movie stars and cricketers for their contribution. I just want the process to be more transparent. How can we justify a Padmashri for Harbhajan Singh in the same year he slapped his teammate while the definitely more accomplished, and non-controversial V.V.S Laxman doesn't even get nominated? And there are dozens of examples like these!

    btw... Thanks for the compliment :)
  • Afshan Mujawar
    Afshan Mujawar
    13.10.10 06:03 PM
    Nice cat.

    This 'dilution, as Dinesh mentioned, is more or less world wide. True, the Padmas sould be given to more deserving people, but it is also tre that more people are interested in knowing who won since Movie stars and sports personalities have been included. Its all about commercialism now and with people hungry for 'masala', this dilution seems inevitable.

    Jayanth: You have an amazing style of naration. I look forward to reading more of your work. Say HI to C2 for me.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    12.10.10 11:25 PM
    @flawsophy: exactly ;)

    They'll have to strip them of their awards and do things like that!
  • flawsophy
    12.10.10 10:37 PM
    " If it is a lifetime achievement thing, why give it before they even retire?"

    Very good rule of thumb, they shouldn't be "given the award before retiring" ... what if one of those misses the century ... and they just take one wicket and scratch or dig a hole in entire pitch in a fit of anger?

    Sonia Gandhi is going to be so embarrassed !!! :)
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    Jayanth Tadinada
    12.10.10 10:32 PM
    @KP: thanks

    @sharjeel: there is a story to explain the creepiness :)
  • Sharjeel
    12.10.10 08:19 PM
    gets a bit creepy towards the end
  • KP
    12.10.10 06:54 PM
    haha.. good article :)

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