Indian films head for Uzbekistan

Before Putin, Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was in India. He and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already met twice during the past year on the side-lines of the SCO summits in Astana and Qingdao. Uzbekistan’s stunning locales, especially of Tashkent, have started attracting Indian film industry. A Bengali comedy, Hoichoi Unlimited, shot in Uzbekistan and featuring Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara, is set for a Durga Puja release this October. Hoichoi Unlimited has been directed by Aniket Chattopadhyay and produced by Dev Entertainment Ventures (DEV). It stars Dev, the Bengali actor who is also Trinamool Congress’ Lok Sabha MP from the state. This collaboration follows close on the heels of the establishment of the Indo-Uzbekistan Film and Culture Forum in Delhi earlier this year. Several Bollywood films are now expected to be shot in Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, the two historic cities Samarkand and Agra have been declared as “Twin and Partner Cities.” This partnership will enable to build a multi-sectoral local connection, which will further allow trade and business ties.

Man wanted Indian visa home delivered

A war of words on India-Pakistan relations was played out at the recent annual FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations) Congress in New Delhi. Founded in Vienna on 31 May 1926, FIATA represents an industry covering about 40,000 forwarding and logistics firms, employing around ten million people in 150 countries.

At the inaugural session, Robert A. Voltmann, FIATA’s secretary general, pointed out that a world congress had never been addressed by a secretary general. That was because the FIATA president, Babar Badat from Pakistan, was not present as he had not been given a visa by the Indian government, he claimed: “The Indian government says it has given a visa, but it has not.”

Voltmann added that “the Indian government has decided to interject their politics into FIATA by denying a visa to our duly elected president simply because he is a Pakistani… We reject this action by the Indian government.” Asking the gathering to stand for Badat to show “our protest”, Voltmann said “the show must go on.”

Immediately, Vandana Aggarwal, Economic Adviser, Ministry of Civil Aviation, interjected. As the senior most government bureaucrat present in the gathering, she pointed out that Voltmann was wrong. Badat had been given a visa and she had a copy of the email that had been sent to him as proof. “The allegation that Indian government had politicised the issue was totally wrong,” she emphasised.

Finally, it was discovered that Badat had indeed been given a visa but he did not want to collect it from the Indian High Commission and instead wanted it to be delivered to his home. The Indian diplomatic mission was unwilling to do so.

Badat, however, “joined” the conference through a video link. Badat in the past had travelled to India on business on many occasions.

Khrushchev, Bulganin rode a prison van

As Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in New Delhi on Thursday, a retired civil servant, R.K. Puri sent an interesting anecdote to this columnist about the visit in 1955 of Comrade Nikita S. Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of USSR and Nikolai Bulganin, Prime Minister of the Soviet Union.

Khrushchev and Bulganin spent one week, visiting various states and were welcomed by millions of people everywhere. At Jaipur, then a much smaller city, over a million people arrived from nearby villages and towns to welcome them. Jaipur in those days had a small aerodrome for handling limited flights of Indian Airlines. The airport had to be extended to receive the Soviet VIPs’ large Illushyn aircraft. “I was then a college student and had gone to the airport to obtain the autographs of the two Soviet leaders. As the aircraft was about to land, the pilot sighted a large crowd surging towards the tarmac. He promptly aborted the landing and kept circling till the ground was cleared. The Soviet security officers on board had become apprehensive about a stampede taking place on landing and insisted on a covered vehicle to be provided for the drive of the VIPs into town, instead of the planned ceremonial drive in an open top limousine,” Puri says.

According to Puri, the state police had kept a covered prison van standing by for carting away any criminal or unlawful elements. It came in handy and was pressed into service for ferrying the two Soviet leaders to the Ram Bagh Palace of the Maharaja of Jaipur in the town.

The Maharaja, who was also the Raj Pramukh (Governor) of the newly formed state of Rajasthan, hosted a lavish banquet in their honour in the evening. The VIPs agreed to drive in an open limousine the next day to watch a polo match arranged in their honour. The flamboyant Maharaja Sawai Man Singh decided to drive the Soviet leaders in his open top Lancia, with Bulganin sitting by his side on the front seat and Khrushchev on the rear seat. Cheering throngs of people lined both sides of the road.

“A hilarious gaffe was, however, waiting to happen,” says Puri. Just as the VIP car was driving past the local medical college campus, the Maharaja heard a rumbling sound emanating from the rear seat. Glancing back, he saw a panic-stricken Khrushchev trying to send some distress signals. Quick to sense that the feared “Jaipur belly”, the result of previous evening’s repast, was acting up and causing discomfort to the comrade, he quickly swerved the car into the driveway of the Medical College hostel.

It transpired that all the occupants of the hostel were out watching the VIP guests drive past. One lone occupant of the hostel chose to stay back and concentrate on his medical journals. He was startled at the sight of the Maharaja, accompanied by the Soviet leaders, trooping into his room and signalling to him that one of the guests needed to use his washroom. The young man escorted Khrushchev to his humble washroom. A few minutes later, a smiling Khrushchev stepped out, warmly shook hands with the young medico, patted him on the shoulder and thanked him as best as he could in his own language.

Egg, a lethal weapon in Manipur

A Northeast activist, Madhu Chandra has asked, “Why has egg become a lethal weapon in Manipur in N. Biren Singh government?” The Manipur University Student Union, Manipur University Teachers Association and Manipur University Staff Union are protesting, seeking the removal of VC Adya Prasad Pandey. The university is shut because of this and education is badly hit. The Manipur High Court has rejected Manipur University VC Pandey’s petition challenging the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s decision to form a two-member committee to investigate allegations of irregularities against him. Over 89 students and six professors were picked up at midnight on 10 September after an FIR lodged by the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Y. Yugendro Singh. On the streets in Manipur and in social media, the news is viral, allegedly saying that the arrested people had attempted to murder Yugindro “by throwing eggs at him”. Since then the joke is that “egg” is the most lethal weapon in Manipur.

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com

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