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No song at Anne on Lalu’s last leg
- Usha Uthup prods but lord of the lost manor in no mood for music

Patna, Feb. 2: The goddess with the veena prolonged Lalu Prasad’s stay at 1 Anne Marg by an extra 24 hours, but a day before moving out ' lock, stock and cowdung ' the railway minister was in no mood for music.

Even if the offer came from the original goddess of Indian pop.

Usha Uthup, in the Bihar capital to perform at a doctors’ jamboree last evening, made the most of a flight delay by dropping in at the state’s most famous address today. Her usual peppy self, she asked Lalu Prasad to send for a dholak so she could belt out a number or two.

“I want to sing. I am a big fan of yours,” Uthup offered.

But to the Rashtriya Janata Dal boss, having to vacate the mansion from which he ruled Bihar for 15 years was bad enough without having to make a song and dance over it.

His refusal was prompt, almost curt, though not without a touch of the trademark folksy humour.

Hum ghar khali kar rahe hain aur inko gana gaane ka man hai (I’m vacating the house and she feels like singing)! Not today, madam. Come over during Holi and you can sing as much as you like,” Lalu Prasad replied.

Uthup gave up, but only to spring a second request. “I want to meet Rabriji,” she announced. But it turned out that the former chief minister’s mood was worse than her husband’s: she had just snubbed a television crew that wanted to shoot her.

Lalu Prasad knew about it and politely turned down Uthup again. “Aaj madam nahi aayengi (madam will not come out today),” he said.

A few minutes and a cup of tea later, the pop icon left the place, smiling and promising to be back.

It would have to be the new address, 10 Circular Road, though, if she decides to keep her word sometime soon.

The railway minister explained why he and Rabri weren’t keeping their word to shift house today.

“This year Saraswati puja, an auspicious day for shifting house, has fallen on two days -- today and tomorrow. The puja is tomorrow and so we will stay here tonight.

“We have packed up and shifted our luggage to 10 Circular Road, the new house allotted to madam (Rabri),” he added with disarming charm. “Everything has been shifted except for a few goats and cowdung.”

But his mood changed as he reminisced about his glory years in the house, when he was the master of all he surveyed.

“This was the house from where I made two Prime Ministers and solemnised the wedding of two of my children. It was from here that I executed the arrest of Lal Krishna Advani (in 1990, during the BJP leader’s rath yatra -- the arrest leading to the V.P. Singh government’s fall).

“But I’m not really going away; I’m merely changing compounds (the two bungalows are set across an adjoining road).”

He began teasing the reporters for missing the “breaking news” of the movement of his luggage.

“You kept waiting at the main gate while everything was moved out from the side gate during the night,” Lalu Prasad laughed.

But the media’s hunger for quotes wasn’t satisfied yet. Cameras focused on him as a nervous television reporter shot his poser: how did it feel leaving the house'

The railway minister was clearly unhappy with the question but didn’t disappoint. He shot back: “Kya bolna hai' ‘Hum bahut udaas hain, bahut gussa mein hain. Hum loot gaye’' Yahi naa' (What do you expect me to say' That I am very sad, very angry' That I am finished' Is that it')”

The reporter didn’t press him any further, perhaps mindful that in the days to come, the television crews would again be required to haul their gear and make a beeline for 10 Circular Road, seeking those incomparable quotes.

The address has changed but, after all, the man hasn’t.

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