Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A peep in the past, to understand the future

From this week on, I am going to post some of my past reports written for various publications. They may seem dated but these writings will also show how more things change, the more they remain the same, at least in some cases.

Take this piece on India's efforts to secure peace in Nagaland.

A decade since this was written the talks between a dominant Naga underground group and the Centre remain as deadlocked as before. 

Read on. (December 24, 2001)

A Healing Touch
Peace could be a welcome byproduct of the PM's Japan trip

It's the season to forgive and forget in Nagaland. Even as two top leaders of the dominant militant group in the state, the Issac-Muivah faction of the banned National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN), were meeting Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in Osaka on December 8, Naga elders, church leaders and NGOs cutting across tribal lines (there are 18 major Naga tribes) were busy organising a reconciliation meeting scheduled for December 20.

Nagas from across the northeast will gather in Kohima, Nagaland's capital, that day to formally launch what is being called the 'Naga reconciliation process' aimed at getting people to 'forgive and forget' any past misunderstandings. 

Vajpayee has given the push but a lasting solution to the Naga problem may not be easy to find.
This unique reconciliation process has been jointly initiated by the Naga Hoho, the apex tribal council of the Nagas, church leaders and almost every other frontline organisation representing the Naga elders and youths.

The effort comes close on the heels of the Centre's initiative to revive the talks after they were derailed in June following trouble in Manipur over the extension of the NSCN(IM) ceasefire to neighbouring states. By meeting the NSCN chairman, Issac Chisi Swu, and general secretary, Th. Muivah, at his suite in an Osaka hotel, Vajpayee has fulfilled the NSCN(IM)'s long-standing demand that the ongoing peace talks be elevated to the "highest political level".

Besides, the 30-minute meeting—with national security advisor Brajesh Mishra, interlocutor for the Naga peace talks, K. Padmanabhaiah, and Intelligence Bureau chief K.P. Singh sitting in—suggested that the two sides have been able to set aside the controversy over the areas that should come under the jurisdiction of the ceasefire. The latest meeting came only weeks after the two sides had agreed on—and set a two-year time-frame to arrive at—an acceptable political settlement of the contentious Naga issue.

The formula for a solution to the 54-year-old Naga problem may not be an easy one. But the immediate question is whether the NSCN(IM) leadership would agree to New Delhi's stand that the venue of the talks should now shift to India. So far, Indian negotiators have been flying to Bangkok, Amsterdam, Paris and Zurich to meet the NSCN leaders.

The peace process had received a serious setback in June after Manipur objected to extending the jurisdiction of any ceasefire to Naga-dominated areas in the state. Following the Osaka meeting, Padmanabhaiah and the Naga leadership are likely to get down to sorting out all contentious issues. So far, the talks have been bogged down in technicalities. Says a senior army official in Nagaland: "By not going back to the jungles despite the breakdown of talks in June, the NSCN(IM) leadership has sent clear signals that it wants to continue with the peace process. Ultimately, only a political solution will bring peace in the state and consequently, the region."

One major hurdle foreseen by analysts in the region is the question of the status of Nagas living in neighbouring states like Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The NSCN(IM) derives a substantial following from among these settlers and one of its major objectives has been to have a 'greater Nagaland', encompassing all these areas. But given the fierce opposition displayed in Manipur, all moves in this direction have failed. Alternatively, a more autonomous administrative structure for these areas is what is being thought about.

Then there is the question of involving the other factions like the NSCN (Khaplang) and the Naga National Council in the talks process. Most observers share the view that unless all factions agree on a common solution, the five-decade-old problem may not be resolved. The Khaplang faction has already warned the Indian government not to ignore the group led by S.S. Khaplang. In fact, N. Kitovi Zhimomi, general secretary of NSCN-K, had this to say to journalists: "The people's mandate is with NSCN-K. The leaders of the other faction (NSCN-IM) who are remote-controlling the revolution from abroad have lost their credibility and contact with people."

The prime minister's Osaka meeting is seen in Nagaland as a significant step forward. Vajpayee has given the push. It is now left to the Naga leaders and the government's interlocutors to carry the talks ahead. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Take on why India must fix Manipur before Looking East

Look to Manipur before looking East
What have economic blockades in India's North East achieved? For one, they choked off the supply chain of an already isolated region. With Myanmar showing signs of warming towards India, New Delhi must establish ties with its eastern neighbour, but first, it needs to fix Manipur’s broken socio-political landscape.
Nitin A. Gokhale
On December 3, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to Imphal, the capital of Manipur, in the midst of an economic blockade that had stalled life in the state, he said, “There are no winners in the Manipur blockade,” He was only stating the obvious. In the last five years, strife-torn Manipur has witnessed at least half a dozen blockades each of which have lasted more than two months – economic work and transport stoppages to protest everything from the creation of a separate district to removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers act. And none of Manipur’s three communities which support these blockades – Meities (the majority comprising 70% of the population), Nagas or Kukis – have really benefitted from these periodic events orchestrated to make their voices heard.
The latest obstruction, called by the SHDC (Sadar Hills District Committee), prevented trucks carrying essential commodities from entering Manipur between August and December. The SHDC, primarily an organization of the Kuki tribe, which lives uneasily with another tribe, the Nagas, across two districts of Senapati and Tamenglong (through which the national highways run), wants a separate district. Opposing this demand is the organisation of the Nagas called the United Naga Council (UNC) which launched a counter-blockade. The combined stoppages sent prices of petrol and cooking gas spiralling. Petrol, when available, sold at Rs. 200-250 rupees a litre – nearly four times its cost elsewhere in India. Ditto with the home-maker’s gas cylinder. This was priced at between Rs. 1500 to 2000. Stocks of essential drugs and medicine ran to dangerously low levels until the SHDC lifted the blockade 96 days after it was launched.
So what have these ‘economic blockades’ actually achieved? Physically, they succeed in choking off the supply chain of an already isolated region. They are called by organisations with conflicting political demands and inter-tribal rivalries. Typically they obstruct the state’s two main road highways—one entering from Nagaland the other from Assam— and create an artificial shortage of food items and petroleum products, crippling normal life for Manipuris.
Politically, they have not achieved much. But disruptive as they are, these are hardly likely to be the last blockades Manipur will experience. For given the volatile mix of population and unique political geography of Manipur, organisations with real and imagined grievances find the method of blocking the main highways the easiest means of registering a protest. Last year, when the Nagas of Manipur wanted Th. Muivah, the leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) to visit his village in the Ukhrul district, non-Nagas found it most convenient to put barricades at the border between Nagaland and Manipur to prevent his entry.  Ukhrul district with its overwhelmingly Tangkhul Naga population, supports the call by the NSCN(I-M), at one time considered India’s most powerful insurgent group, for the “integration of Naga-inhabited areas outside Nagaland into a single political unit” - in other words, Nagalim, or greater Nagaland. Inherent in this demand is an enlarged Naga Land, a claim that threatens other tribes like the Kukis living in close proximity to the Nagas. It also has the potential to alter the map of Manipur, a prospect that the majority Meities both resent and dread.
Adding to this potent mix of struggle to preserve ethnic identity and tiny homelands is the apathy of the state administration and indifference of the Centre. Caught between conflicting demands of warring tribes, the state government often chooses not to act. The people, used to hardships, seemed resigned to fate. The Centre awakens only when VIPs come to visit the state – conveniently ahead of elections.
Writer- journalist Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of Manipur’s foremost daily Imphal Free Press, articulates the dissatisfactions most succinctly. “Everybody seems to have come to accept this as normal in a frustratingly fatalistic way. No accountability is ever fixed by the government for all these failures and equally, no accountability is ever sought by the public either.”
It seems as if Manipur, located at the far end of India, is truly a forgotten land.
But the ‘frustrating fatalism,’ as Phanjoubam calls it, need not remain a permanent feature if policy makers both in Imphal and New Delhi rise above political and ethnic considerations. That will happen only if they start looking at Manipur as an important starting point in India’s ‘Look East’ policy instead as a dead end of the country’s road network.
Manipur shares a 398-km border with Myanmar. But more importantly the Manipuri border town of Moreh has been a traditional trading hub with Myanmar and therefore has vast potential to become a major export centre from India for the South-East Asian region. Here’s why: According to available statistics, bilateral trade between India and Myanmar more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, expanding from US$557 million to $1.2 billion, most of it through Moreh. Disappointingly though, it pales in comparison to the bilateral trade between China and Myanmar which in 2010 amounted to an estimated $3 billion.
So last July, when India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, speaking at the Indonesian resort town of Bali said of India and South East Asia, “We need connectivity more than ever before between our younger generations, entrepreneurs, IT experts, scientists, diplomats, media and students,” he was only highlighting a long-desired need. Krishna’s also announced that a car rally will be held in 2012 to commemorate India-ASEAN trade ties.  “I propose that, unlike the car rally in 2004, this time the car rally begin from ASEAN countries into India and culminate at Kolkata,” Krishna said, underlining the need for deepening geographical connectivity among countries of the region.
In the seven sister states of India’s North-East, Krishna’s announcement was met with stony silence. Many remembered November 2004, when a similar car rally was organized between Guwahati and Singapore, passing through the Indian states of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. Then too, the rally was seen as the beginning of a new era in connecting India’s isolated North Eastern region to East and South-East Asia. Manipur, in particular hoped the new initiative would help it overcome its inherent handicap of being a remote and landlocked state, as it would have brought huge improvement in infrastructure, particularly the roads leading in and out of the state.
Alas, that was not to be.
It is the failure of actualizing intent that rankles in Manipur. That, combined with multiple frustrations emanating from prolonged bouts of economic blockades, a state administration in terminal atrophy and the continued and unchallenged writ of underground armed groups, has left the people despondent. It is this hopelessness that the Centre and State government must work hard to overcome. For that, a solution to long-standing ethnic insurgencies has to be found in double-quick time.
Now is the time to press for peace and security in Manipur - politics in Myanmar are undergoing a dramatic change. With the junta taking tentative steps towards genuine democracy and showing signs of warming towards India, New Delhi must seize this moment to establish lasting trade and cultural ties with its eastern neighbour. But before India can play a larger role in Maynmar, it needs to fix Manipur’s broken socio-political landscape.
The writer is NDTV's Security & Strategic Affairs Editor

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My latest commentary on Sino-India military ties


The latest defense dialogue between the Chinese and Indian militaries had some constructive ideas for improving military ties. Can they follow through?

For all the tension generated by the last-minute cancellation of border talks at the Special Representatives level, India and China not only held their annual defense dialogue in New Delhi on December 9 and 10, but also decided to move forward in strengthening military-to-military contacts.

The defense delegations were meeting after a nearly two year break, with the last such gathering having taken place in January 2010. The extended gap was prompted by Beijing’s denial of a visa to one of India’s top army generals because he was commanding troops in Jammu and Kashmir, a region China says is disputed territory between India and Pakistan.

But the bitterness that has been evident in the past couple of years appeared to be on hold when the two delegations met this time. Led by Indian Defense Secretary Shashikant Sharma and Gen. Ma Xiaotian, the Chinese military’s most visible face, the two sides decided to take incremental steps in improving their military contacts, rather than aiming for big ticket announcements.

Accordingly, two mid-level delegations will visit each other in successive months starting in January. India also proposed that some of the border posts along the 4,000 kilometer Line of Actual Control (LAC), as the border is officially known, could be relocated for administrative and logistical convenience, a request Beijing’s military delegation agreed to consider.

The largely un-demarcated LAC runs along some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. Troops are deployed there at altitudes in excess of 12,000 feet all along the Himalayas, where temperatures frequently dip to anything between minus 20 to minus 40 degrees Celsius between November and April.
While infrastructure along the border on the Indian side is continuously being improved under a comprehensive plan, Indian troops have to spend at least a month acclimatizing to the extreme weather conditions after a steep climb from the plains of northern India. Some posts in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh are still accessible only on foot, after a two-day trek. Chinese PLA troops, on the other hand, have the advantage of being deployed on the high altitude Tibetan plateau, which boasts much better infrastructure.

Although the disputed boundary has largely remained peaceful, transgressions by troops from either side into each other’s territory have been a major irritant in a relationship that’s increasingly marked by rising trade, but a corresponding increase in mutual suspicion over military matters. While China views India’s developing ties with countries around the South China Sea – and its intention to develop a 5,000 kilometer range missile capable of hitting deep into Chinese territory – suspiciously, India regards China’s overt and covert assistance to Pakistan and other countries in the region as aimed at tying India down in the sub-continent.
It’s with this reality in mind that both sides see deeper military-to-military ties as a way of reducing suspicion – and the chance of miscalculation.

To start with, military teams will work out a mechanism for institutionalizing the nomination of officers to each other’s defense establishments to attend various courses.

So far, China and Pakistan are the only two countries whose officers don’t attend a range of courses at the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force War Colleges or the prestigious National Defence College (NDC). It’s not yet clear, however, if the Chinese officers will be allowed to participate in the year-long Higher Command Courses or the NDC course meant for brigadiers and equivalent rank officers from the other two services, or whether they will only be allowed only on a six-week course at the Indian Army War College at Mhow in Central India.

This Higher Defense Orientation Course (HDOC) is meant for colonels and brigadiers or their equivalents in the navies and air forces of armed forces friendly to India. Started in 2006, about 35 officers from countries as diverse and distant as the Philippines, Mozambique and Nigeria undergo the course during the summer months.

Officers spend six weeks working to understand how the Indian military operates, as well as studying geo-strategic developments in India’s immediate and extended neighborhood and the finer points of military-media relations in democratic India. Attendees also learn about the pressures that come with coping with a pro-active media that’s often heavily focused on the military’s operations.

In the past, scenarios and discussion have often centered on India-China competition in Asia and the dynamics of relations between India and its neighbors vis-à-vis China. It will be interesting to see, therefore, how much the HDOC course is altered if and when Chinese officers start participating.

Despite the positive progress this month, there’s been no decision yet on restarting the annual joint exercises that the two countries launched in 2007. Called the Hand-in-Hand series of company level exercises between their two armies, one exercise was held in December 2007 in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, and another was held in Belgaum in southern India in 2008.

No such exercises have been held since, but leading analysts see Ma’s visit as significant. As Srikanth Kondapalli, a noted Sinologist, argued in a recent article published by Rediff:
“Ma is believed to move up the ladder in the Chinese military next year in the crucial reorganization of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the 18th Communist Party Congress, possibly in October 2012.
“If all goes according to the plan, Gen. Ma is expected to become air force commander, and the current commander of the air force could become vice chairman of the CMC. In this context, interactions with Ma could be worthwhile.”

Sino-India interactions have undoubtedly had numerous ups and downs in recent years. However, the very fact that both sides have agreed to continue such contacts underscores the welcome commitment on both sides to keep talking at any cost.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mission Moscow: In photos

Outside the Kremlin

...and Inside

waiting for the Press Conference to begin

India and Russian flags

One of the many Czars who ruled Russia

Vladimir Lenin's Musoleum, just outside the Kremlin

Journos busy at work in the media center

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My changing views on Dilip Kumar!!

December is proving to be a month of nostalgia.

First Dev Anand’s passing away brought back several memories of what he meant to us when we were young and triggered a search for my old scrap books, clippings and photographs.

Rummaging through an old steel trunk, I discovered a virtual treasure trove—a bunch of old science lab journals-turned neatly- maintained- scrap-books, a task Neha undertook after we got married in 1988.

The scrap books contain pieces of my early writings: a seemingly immature critique of the Indian cricket fan for elevating the members of the 1983 World Cup winning Indian cricket team to a demi-God status; interviews with Asha Parekh and Soli Sorabjee in the same week and my close encounter with Atal Behari Vajpayee a month after the BJP was reduced to a two-member Party in the Lok Sabha. The writings reflect my inexperience but they also demonstrate the opportunities one got at a very early stage in the profession.

In The Sentinel, the newspaper that made me a journalist, we were encouraged to write on whatever we wished. The incentive was the extra payment one got: One rupee for a column centimeter of writing. So we often wrote upto 100 cm to earn hundred rupees for an article. And in those days when your salary was all of 736 rupees, an extra hundred bucks was always welcome. So one wrote on cinema and cricket; did movie and book reviews.

Flipping through one of the many scrap books this Sunday I came across a piece—a reappraisal of the inimitable Dilip Kumar after Mashaal was released--I wrote Twenty-five years ago, when I was barely 24.

It was my humble attempt to encapsulate the thespian’s celluloid life.

Dilip Kumar as I saw him in 1986!!
In 1985-86, Dilip Kumar had made a comeback of sorts: Majdoor, Vidhataa, Mashaal, Shakti, a flood of movies had pitted him against the up and coming Anil Kapoor, the reigning superstar like Amitabh Bachchan and the emerging Raj Babbar.

I was never a big fan of Dilip Kumar; For me, his early movies were too morbid, too pessimistic. Some movies of his I did like: Ganga Jamuna, Ram aur Shyam, Azad, Di Diya Dard Liya. Raj Kapoor, I considered a buffoon.

But my favourite stars remained Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor for their never-say-die spirit and the carefree attitude they exuded, something perhaps all of us in our Twenties want to be.  

 And yet in the mid-1980s when Dilip Kumar not only held his own but at times overshadowed the actors of my generation, I found looking at his craft more objectively.

Today 25 years after having written that piece, I am willing to admit that I did not realize the importance of Dilip Kumar to Indian cinema then.

His influence over a posse of actors from Manoj Kumar and Rajendra Kumar and from Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan is now an acknowledged fact.

Some of his songs (Aaj ki Raat mere Dil ki, Dilruba Mein Tere, Tere husn ki kya tarrif karoon to name just three) are now in my favourites list.

Today as the world pays birthday tributes to the Prince Salim of Indian actors, I have belatedly realised that he is right up there among the biggest star-actors of Indian cinema.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My latest write-up in The Diplomat

India’s military establishment is finalizing plans to train thousands of Afghan Army officers. Will New Delhi secure a first movers’ advantage?
On Monday, more than 85 nations began a meeting in Bonn to discuss the future of Afghanistan from 2014, when U.S.-led troops are scheduled to hand over security to Kabul.
But thousands of miles away, plans are already in the final stages of receiving Indian government clearance for an extensive training schedule for the fledgling Afghan National Army (ANA) at training institutions across the country.
The program is the first concrete follow-up on military-to-military cooperation under the umbrella of the Strategic Partnership Agreement that was signed between Kabul and New Delhi in October, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai was given a grand reception in India.
Under the agreement, India, which has the world’s third-largest army, agreed to train, equip and build the capacity of the Afghan forces.
Sources in the Indian security establishment familiar with the contours of the detailed schedule say Kabul and New Delhi have identified three areas to focus on, namely increasing the intake of officers in India’s premier training institutes; providing specialized training to middle and higher level officers already operating in the Afghan National Army (ANA); and training soldiers in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations by seconding them to various regimental centers across India.
This will involve, sources told me last month, when I first did a report on the issue for NDTV, bringing to India more than 25,000 ANA officers and men over the next three years.Finalizing the schedule may take at least another couple of months, the sources added.
The military leadership in India and Afghanistan has concluded after several rounds of discussions that training the officer cadre won’t on its own be enough, since Afghan soldiers also need to be given the skills to take on the mixed role of counter-insurgency operations and providing static security three years from now.
At the same time, military planners have concluded that mid-level officers in the ANA need to be reoriented and given the training needed to assume leadership roles in the post-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. Accordingly, officers at the ranks of Lt. Col. and Brigadier will be provided focused training at three specialized institutions in India: The Commando School in Belgaum in south India, The Counter-insurgency and Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School in Mizoram, in northeast of India, and The High Altitude Warfare School in Sonamarg, Kashmir.
While the Belgaum School imparts soldiers and officers with commando skills over and above their basic infantry training, the CIJW, a 33-year-old institution in India’s northeast, has over the years perfected the techniques of counter-insurgency operations in varied terrain, and has trained contingents from countries including the United States and Vietnam. The High Altitude Warfare School, meanwhile, which is located in the Kashmir Valley, teaches basic skills to allow forces to operate in snowy and high altitude areas.

Initially, the plan is to train select officers and then slowly ramp up training to include small groups of soldiers, too.
But the bulk of the program will be concentrated on training and welding together company-level (100 men) contingents by basing them at various regimental centers run by the Indian Army to train new recruits into the force. These centers, commanded by brigadiers, are the first training stop for every Indian soldier before he joins regular battalions. The training is likely to last for six to eight months. So far, India has trained half a dozen platoon level (30 soldiers) groups from the ANA, but has kept this development well under wraps.
With 25 Infantry regimental centers spread across the country, India is able to train up to 2,500 Afghan soldiers simultaneously.Moreover, India has also decided to double the vacancies for fresh Afghan officer recruits in two of the country’s premier institutions – the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun, and the two Officers’ Training Institutes at Chennai and Gaya. So far, there have been a total of 50 seats on offer in these training establishments.
But there is reportedly an additional component to the training that Indian officials are reluctant to talk about – training by select intelligence officers in Indian Army’s Military Intelligence Training School, located in the western Indian city of Pune. About 20 operatives from the ANA are said to have undergone a six month intelligence course, with more on their way.
New Delhi has also decided to supply vehicles, information technology and sports equipment, a move seen as a paradigm shift in India’s approach to Afghanistan.
So far, India has concentrated on using “soft power” in the development sector, such as helping with the building of roads, hospitals and even the parliament building in Afghanistan. But by offering extensive training facilities for ANA, India has decided to ramp up its involvement, although it’s currently stopping short of supplying any military hardware. New Delhi has also decided not to send training teams to Afghanistan in view of the two attacks on its embassy in Kabul.
The Indian security and strategic establishment has been wary of discussing the Indo-Afghan military-to-military relationship, not least because of Islamabad’s sensitivities. Pakistan sees the growing relationship between New Delhi and Kabul as denying “strategic depth” to its army, and even as an Indian attempt to encircle Pakistan.
Veteran analysts and military officers in India for their part dismiss such fears. Former Director General of Military Intelligence in the Indian Army, retired Lt. Gen Ravi Sawhney, speaks for many in arguing: “India has legitimate interests in Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics and has every right to develop its relationship with any country in keeping with its own national interests.”
But Sawhney, one of the first officers to establish contact with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance in the late 1990s and early 2000s, says he opposes any Indian troop deployment in Afghanistan.
“There’s no advantage in doing so, since India doesn’t have any direct land access to that country,” he says. “Our strength is the quality of training troops, and India is doing the right thing by concentrating on this aspect.”
As the United States and its NATO allies prepare for their drawdown over the next couple of years, the jostling for strategic space in Afghanistan by countries in the region is likely to intensify. By starting out early, India is trying to gain a first movers’ advantage. Whether it will benefit in the long run from such a significant investment of energy, though, remains to be seen.
Nitin Gokhale is Defence & Strategic Affairs Editor with Indian broadcaster, NDTV 24×7

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dev Anand--a personal homage!

Dev Anand with Nutan in Tere Ghar ke Samne--
my personal favourite

Pune city in the early 1980s was a movie-goers delight.

 Some 37-38 theatres (now they are called cinema halls!!) spread across the city offered a rich menu of movies—English, contemporary Hindi films and the Hindi film musicals of the 1950s and 60s.

And if you had the inclination—and money—you could watch three movies in a day!! Which we did on weekends!

Typically, Saturdays started with morning shows featuring Dev Anand or Shammi Kapoor romancing Nutan, Waheeda Rehman or Asha Parekh, progressed into watching a Paul Newman or Robert Redford con act in The Sting and ended with a night show with Amitabh Bachchan bashing Amjad Khan or Ranjeet.

Movies became an integral part of my life in those heady days in the early 1980s in Pune and Dev Anand—along with Shammi Kapoor—my favourite star!!

Thirty years have passed since I left college but Dev Anand and the music of his movies continue to remain at the top of my choice and will remain forever.

As Sunday morning brought the news of his passing away, all those moments spent in watching the debonair star on large screens came flooding back into memory.

Dev Anand had started making movies when our parents were young but watching his black white gems—from CID to Kala Bazaar and from Munimji to Hum Dono—one never felt that he was from another generation.

The happy-go-lucky outlook to life he exuded film after film, the easy charm with the ladies, but above all the romantic songs infused a sunny optimism in you in the dreary 1980s when India was still in the socialist era and the struggles of life were debilitating.

If he was utterly romantic in Abhi na jaao chhodkar(Hum Dono), Dekho rootha na karo (Tere Ghar ke Samne) and Dil Pukare aare aare (Jewel Thief), he infused optimism through the iconic Mein Zindagi ka saath Nibatha chala gaya (Hum Dono) or brought a sense of realism through Jeevan Ke Safar mein Raahi(Munimji).

The love of movies has not diminished over the years but time to watch them in as carefree manner as in one’s college days is unavailable but the songs continue to inspire and lift ones spirit.

There will be a flood of tributes to Dev Anand (can’t think of calling the ever youthful star Dev Saab) in the next few days.

He may have departed this world but his arrival in the next must have been as romantic as in his evergreen song Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar from Tere Ghar ke Samne.