The romance between Aroosa Alam and Captain Amarinder Singh is Punjab’s worst-kept secret.
India clearly has a major problem with hugs. No matter who hugs whom – the hugger and the huggee end up in hot water. Ab dekho – there was our man Navjot Singh Sidhu, doing his bit to improve neighbourly relations with Pakistan by attending his friend Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony. Nothing wrong with that warm gesture, right? Never mind that two other, even closer friends of the ‘Kaptaan’, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, decided to be discreet and stay away, making some bahana or the other.
Sidhu bounded across the border eagerly and behaved like an over-enthusiastic schoolboy attending his first ‘adults only’ party. Then came ‘the hug’. Sidhu, clearly carried away by the mood, temporarily forgot that the man he was ‘galey lagao-ing’ with was none other than the Pakistani army chief – Qamar Javed Bajwa. That was it! All hell broke loose and Sidhu got his err…backside whipped. And what a whipping it was, my countrymen!
“I am not a robot,” whined a visibly upset Sidhu, going into elaborate explanations about the ‘emotional moment’ that led to the jhappi (but mercifully, no pappi).
The sound and fury should have ended right there. But no! The debate continued to rage on, with PM Imran Khan calling Sidhu an “ambassador of peace”, after Captain Amarinder Singh, the Punjab chief minister thundered, “It (the hug) was not a nice gesture and was completely avoidable.” Suddenly, the ‘Sherry on the top’, turned slightly sour.
Ajeeb. Very ajeeb.
It’s now a stand-off between the rugged Kaptaan and the burly Captain.
But such is our hypocrisy that nobody is addressing the tigress in the room – Aroosa Begum – often referred to as the ‘First Lady of Punjab’. This is one of Punjab’s worst-kept secrets! Aroosa Alam is a well-accepted hostess in Chandigarh, where she spends considerable time, as the chief minister’s long-term partner from across the border. I was seated next to the lovely lady at a lit fest in Kasauli a few years ago when she was there to attend Amarinder Singh’s high-profile book launch (‘The People’s Maharaja’) in the presence of an elite audience, which included authors and friends from Pakistan. Not a single eyebrow was raised! She spoke graciously and charmingly to everyone, posed for pictures, and left right after the function, leaving a trail of divine perfume behind. The two of them looked like any other elderly couple. Which they indeed are!
Going by published reports, the romantic Captain fell madly in love with Aroosa Alam, way back in 2004 on a trip to Pakistan. She was married, with two sons. At the time she was described as an ‘investigative journalist’, someone who was very well connected with the Pakistani military establishment. Interestingly, her mother, who was popularly known as ‘General Rani’, and often described as the ‘most powerful woman in Pakistan’ for being the “muse and mistress” of Yahya Khan, had left her six children and husband to better run the country! Reportedly, before her elevation, she used to host elaborate parties, with her well-trained dancing girls entertaining influential guests. So much for that.
The big question then, in today’s context, is: What role does Aroosa Begum play in Punjab politics? Or should we generously say she is nothing more than the chief minister’s adored one? The lady who campaigns for him and is regarded as his wife (she resides in his official residence), for all practical purposes? How can the Captain object to Navjot Sidhu’s public hug, when an ambitious lady who still holds a Pakistani passport is an inseparable part of his political and personal life?
Aroosa Alam, in an interview to Hindustan Times, had said, “It’s a sensitive issue… there are fundoos ( fundamentalists) back home… women are in trouble in Pakistan.” How fortunate for the Begum that she has successfully made her life in India. And India has scrupulously followed the ‘live and let live’ philosophy towards the much-in-love couple.
Perhaps, Captain Amarinder Singh should take the same route and back off from the current controversy. Navjot Sidhu has not broken any Indian law, nor committed a crime. He has only behaved like a bit of an idiot. But we are used to that, coming from him.
Shobhaa De is a columnist, social commentator, journalist and opinion-shaper. She has authored 20 books.