When Benazir enjoyed ‘Pakeezah’ in Shimla

New Delhi: When her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto discussed peace with Indira Gandhi in Shimla, his daughter Benazir was busy viewing the Meena Kumari-starrer ‘Pakeezah’.

So says M.K. Kaw, a highly respected Indian bureaucrat who was then posted in the Himachal Pradesh capital and who had been assigned to look after the young Benazir Bhutto.

Assisting him was Veena Datta, lady officer of the Indian Foreign Service. “She helped me keep Benazir in a good mood,” Kaw says in his just released book “An Outsider Everywhere” (Konark Publishers).

The year was 1972 when the senior Bhutto travelled to Shimla to sign a peace pact with Indira Gandhi after the breakup of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh following the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

Kaw says Benazir wanted to see “Pakeezah”, a hugely successful Kamal Amrohi production in which Meena Kumari played the role of a ‘tawaif’. The celebrated actress died soon after the movie was made.

Kaw says he spoke to Shimla’s deputy commissioner and a special show was organized at the Ritz cinema.

“There were only three of us in the cinema hall: Benazir, Veena and myself. Benazir enjoyed the film immensely.

“I retained the picture of the young and innocent Benazir all through the years of her tumultuous career till she was assassinated.”

An IAS officer, Kaw served the government for 42 years in various capacities before retiring in 2001.

The book is replete with his numerous interesting experiences as well as encounters with leading politicians and officials at various levels all over the country.

Kaw says when he was a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) in Delhi, he realized that station house officers or SHOs, who head police stations in the capital, knew all the criminals in their area.

“The general impression I got during my tenure was that the SHOs were aware of all the criminals in their area and all the crimes were flourishing with their knowledge if not their connivance.

“Of course there were some rituals that had to be gone through. Once in a while, the police raided the bootleggers and recovered a lot of material. The accused appeared in our court and were duly punished.”

Referring to the late Satya Sai Baba, whom he considered his guru, Kaw says the holy man once gifted a watch to his (Kaw’s) mother — a watch “unlike any other we had seen.

“It did not carry a name or the manufactuer’s address. It worked perfectly for one year. Then it stopped.

“One day we all went to a watch repair shop in Middle Bazar, Shimla. The Sikh mechanic opened the watch from the back and peered long at the innards with his magnifying eyepiece.

Then he gave a sigh and asked: “‘Was it really working at any stage? It is a strange watch. There is no machinery at the back!'”


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