New Delhi, July 9 (ANI): In more of a tete-a-tete over pink gin at the Press Club (Praful Bidwai’s oft weekend indulgence in Delhi) kind of an atmosphere, Ritu Menon, Pamela Philipose, Harsh Kapoor, Anil Chaudhary and other friends of veteran activist-journalist Praful Bidwai gathered here at the India International Centre yesterday to conduct a memorial meeting ‘Remembering Praful’.
Just as there was no video livestreaming during Bidwai’s funeral ceremony at Lodhi Road but words to give expression to memories still fresh in the minds of his friends, social activists, academicians, journalists and many representatives from the country’s Left political spectrum, including D. Raja, were among those present during the meet, which saw no podiums, no seminar kind of a setting, but a ‘spontaneous overflow of strong emotions’ interspersed with Mirza Ghalib, W.B. Yeats recitals and the hauntingly powerful voice of Hindustani classical singer Kemar Gandharva that Praful loved.
“I cannot bring myself to say ‘obit’ today. I’d say this is just our way of wishing Praful was here with us. Without any podium or a seminar kind of environment, we are here today to chat in a way he would have entertained his listeners,” said Ritu Menon, one of his old friends .
Reminiscing about Praful’s passion for politics as a young student activist in IIT Bombay to raising his voice against injustice in print through syndicated columns that became a household name across the subcontinent and one that could only be challenged by great columnists like Kuldip Nayar and Khushwant Singh, much was shared to underscore the deep void that the world of Indian journalism would now face with the passing away of Praful.
His colleagues shared how Praful was creating a South Asian consciousness, using his journalistic skills to write for at least one paper in every South Asian country about the challenges plaguing the region.
Achin Vanaik fondly remembered his days at the Transnational Institute and co-founding of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace with Praful and did not desist from sharing the brand-turned-joke ‘nuclear family’ that they had become for their family and friends in their long road to fight for nuclear disarmament.
A huge critic of communalism, Praful was also remembered for his ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’ perspective about the Indian Left.
But what made the meet ‘memorial’ were the little tidbits from his life that could not be found either in his books or in any of the internet archives, things only his close aides knew and invaluable to people like me who did not have the good fortune to know him personally.
The crusader of climate conservation, Praful drove a small electric car, Reva, to prove that he practised what he preached, so much so, that even when his car broke down in the middle of the road, he would walk, but never use an automobile running on fuel.
A connoisseur, a bird-watching enthusiast, the two things in life he was disinterested in were marriage and sports. Proudly single all his life, he left no opportunity to disapprove the idea to his married friends with statements like, “Why are you still married?”
As for sports, he would doze off with scotch by the side during a World Cup Football Final and wake up to say ‘yeah yeah great great’ only if it was a Latin American team winning!
‘Remembering Praful’ will go on. It will go on through new discourses with the posthumous publication of his latest book titled ‘The Phoenix Moment: Challenges Confronting the Indian Left”. It will go on when his compiled works are read over and over again. It will go on inside Press Clubs and outside too when, maybe, one chances upon Praful’s favourite Hindustani composer.
By Srija Naskar (ANI)