Yet another year has come and gone, and I am older by one year. Seventy, going on seventy-one. When we were young we used to think, my God, seventy! This guy could drop dead any time now! But I still feel okay, touch wood -- BP absolutely normal, blood sugar under control with a little bit of help from 50 mg of sitagliptine, uric acid ditto with 40 mg of Febuxostat, cholesterol & tryglyceride ditto with 10 mg of statin and acid reflux with 20 mg of delayed-release rabiprazole. Those are the only medications i take regularly. On the family front, by the grace of God, it’s been mostly good. My daughters are very happily married, the elder has given me two very bright grandchildren, and my world lights up when I’m in their company, Pity is, all of them are far away in the land said to be flowing with milk and honey -- US of A, that is. Still, one can't have everything.
But in a lot of ways it has been an extremely momentous year. I have been repositioned by fate (acting, in the premises, through the President of India), relocated and forced to thoroughly recast my life. Here's how.
Sometime around the middle of May I had made one of my usual trips to Delhi for one or more of the several arbitration cases that I had in hand over there, and had, as usual, put up with my Didibhai (cousin sister), Mrs. Chirasree Chakraborty (Mahua) and her husband Sudhangshu Chakraborty at their house in Saket. Their daughter Simantini (Babi) who lives in the Greater Washington area in USA was visiting and had taken us to dinner at the Chinese Restaurant at Hotel Imperial. And suddenly, bang in the middle of my Kung Pao chicken, I am informed over telephone that i have been made the Governor of the state of Tripura! The spate of telephone calls that followed, together with the shaking that the good (?) news gave me, completely spoilt a very delectable dinner.
The spate of calls congratulating me followed, and I was frankly at a loss to decide whether to be happy or sad. Happy, for obvious reasons; and sad, because it would put a stop to my political activities, and would seriously curtail my independence that I value so much. It would also cause me a considerable loss of income – I was making very good money as an arbitrator and was in great demand.
I realized that I couldn't possibly refuse to accept the assignment. So like an automaton I came to Agartala, got sworn in, and took up residence at Raj Bhavan Agartala in what used to be called Pushpabanta Palace and had been occupied by Tagore more than once. It felt like a gilded cage.
First I had to do the unpleasant task of resigning from all my arbitrations. Unpleasant, principally because I realised what a huge inconvenience it should be for the parties. Then I began to go through the rituals. I had already seen Rajnath Singh while I was in Delhi. Now in Delhi again after having been sworn in, I met President Pranab Mukherjee and presented him with a copy of my book ‘The Life and Times of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee’.Then I met my idol Narendra Modi. Then Arun Jaitley.
As happens with all things in life I gradually began to settle down in my gubernatorial duties. I saw in this post an opportunity to read and write – in fact unless I kept myself occupied with something other than ribbon-cutting I’d go crazy. So I took up writing the Bengali version of my own book ‘My People Uprooted’ which was lying neglected all this time because of pressure of politics and arbitrations. Simultaneously, I resumed my autobiography, which was progressing very lackadaisically. I am now well set into both and am keeping myself occupied. And happy – to that extent.
Governorship of Tripura is a very cushy job in the sense that the state government is very firmly in the saddle and the governor has little to do by way of running administration. It is also an eventless life. Just one event occurred in the course of my last seven months – and that arose from a tweet of mine. Tweeting is a habit I had picked up sometime in 2010, mainly to comment on the writing of my most favourite journalist, Tavleen Singh. I did not realize at the time how addictive it can be. And a bit dangerous too.
Now, after the terrorist Yakub Memon was hanged there were the usual controversies on twitter in which I joined. No trouble so far. However, it irked me that some 15,000 people had joined in his Janaza or funeral procession. Fifteen thousand people to follow the corpse of a convicted and hanged terrorist! A bit thick, won’t you say? So I idly tweeted, while sitting at breakfast, that intelligence ought to keep a tab on all those followers, because many among them could be potential terrorists.
Frankly, I was not ready for the outburst that followed – praise, endorsements, retweets, vituperation and plain abuse. I made one or two replies then thought better of it and let the storm rage. And rage it did, for three or four days. But the attack was on two fronts: first, how could someone say this – he’s an islamophobe, etc.etc.; and second, how can a Governor say this.
The first is a factual question in which I feel I was vindicated by a statement by Mumbai Police two days later to the effect that D Company had ordered and/or financed the mourners. The second is a legal question, and I challenged my detractors to show me the law which prevents me from saying something that concerns the security of our Indian state. No answer.
The other disappointment I had as Governor was with my annual autumn holiday. Since 2005 we have been visiting our daughters in USA every autumn, usually October-November. But this year I was asked (very politely, of course) to cut down on my holiday and I’m a little sore about it.
Most other things about being a Governor are great. My wife had had a total knee replacement operation this November, and the thing went incredibly smoothly, no doubt because of my being Governor. Of course I miss my anonymity. Now a motorcade must follow me, part of it of commandoes with AK-47s, even when I am going for a haircut in Kolkata (in Agartala haircuts are in-house). I can’t go shopping in South City Mall, something I used to enjoy doing. But one place I can go to, and I will go to, is Calcutta Club.
This year in December I paid a visit to Bangladesh and had a tete-a-tete with the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, no less. This is my third visit this year – in January I went to Dhaka and in March, to Khulna. I must confess I love to go to Bangladesh – my roots pulling me, I suppose. Which is why being driven out of that country makes me so sore. In January the former President Ershad had called on me – why, even our High Commissioner was surprised when I told him later about this. Both in January and December I visited our ancestral village Satgaon, district Brahmanbaria. The first time my eyes watered and my voice choked. In January I also visited my mother’s village Kalikachchha, in the same district. I was impressed by the way they have preserved old relics associated with non-Muslim poets of yore – Tagore’s kuthibari in Shilaidaha and his wife’s place in Dakshindihi, Jessore.
That’s it, more or less. See you next year, on 31st December 2016.