Of Prizes and People

First Prize

We humans instinctively categorize, especially people. We are amateur primitive set-theoreticians. There are infinite ways to categorize people since humans have a humongous number of characteristics.

Consider the categories of people who award prize and people who win prizes. In my view, people who institute prizes belong to the most prestigious set. I order the sets as:

  1. People who institute prizes.
  2. People who win prizes.
  3. People who don’t win prizes.
  4. People who award themselves prizes.

For example, Alfred Nobel belongs to the first set; Einstein to the second set; ordinary grunts like us, who never come within shouting distance of any prestigious award make up the majority of humanity, belong to the third set. We are mostly harmless and generally unimpressive.

When we get to the last set, we are trolling for bottom feeders. That belongs to worthless people who usually happen to also be in the set of tinpot dictators. They award themselves medals and military honors. These people are not harmless in the least. They rule and ruin countries, as tinpot dictators usually end up doing.

Examples: Nehru and his equally autocratic daughter Indira.

Nehru and the Bharat Ratna

The Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian honor awarded by the Government of India. The protocol therefore is that the prime minister as the head of the government has the sole authority and privilege of nominating someone for the award and the President of India has to act on the recommendation and grant the award. Nehru was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1955 by President Rajendra Prasad on the recommendation by Nehru.

As the Hindi saying goes, apna haath, jagannath.

Giving a new angle to the old “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” idiom, Nehru recommended Rajendra Prasad for the Bharat Ratna in 1962 to President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Nice little racket he got going there.

Nehru’s daughter Indira grew up to become an autocratic ruler like him. The fruit definitely didn’t roll far from the tree. In 1971, she recommended herself for the Bharat Ratna to President VV Giri. In turn, she recommended VV Giri for the Bharat Ratna to President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed in 1975.

You might suspect that this business of self-awarding of Bharat Ratnas runs in the family. You’d be right.

Indira’s son, the naive but crooked Rahul Rajiv Gandhi, was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1991. No doubt had he not been assassinated in 1989 1991, he would have as prime minister recommended himself for the Bharat Ratna to some president Mr X, following which a few years later, recommended the Bharat Ratna for Mr X as a quid pro quo.

Alas, he died too young. (I write alas but don’t really mean it.)

Self-awarded Titles

I should not leave you with the impression that I am obsessed with Nehru the Nabob of Cluelessness, his worthless spawn and the Bharat Ratna. I don’t really care who gets that award; pretty worthless people have received it. The Bharat Ratna is India’s answer to the Nobel Peace prize — and is equally as useful as a corrupt political tool.

I was merely using prizes as a specific instance of categorization. People in high places receive titles all the time. Some confer it on themselves.

For instance, former president of India, Mr APJ Abdul Kalam referred to himself as “Dr” APJ Abdul Kalam. For more on that sorry spectacle, see this. Another notable conferred not one but two “Sri’s” to his name. That’s hilarious, pathetic and pitiable in equal amounts.

C’est la vie! as they say. Or as I say, it’s all karma, neh?

Author: Atanu Dey


6 thoughts on “Of Prizes and People”

  1. You are possibly prescient in saying Rahul instead of Rajiv in the post above. Please correct it for now. Given enough time Mr. Pappu will earn the family title, Bharat Ratna. With regards.


  2. @ “The protocol therefore is that the prime minister as the head of the government has the sole authority and privilege of nominating someone for the award and the President of India has to act on the recommendation and grant the award.”

    There is a simple solution to avoid the conflict of interest. Make a clause that the sitting PM and President are not eligible for the BR title.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: