The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Happy birthday, Razia to ride
- 20 years after another defeat, Atal to celebrate with family

Gwalior, Dec. 22: Easy lies the head that no longer wears the crown.

In 1984, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a 'free man' after he lost to Madhavrao Scindia in his hometown. He shrugged off the defeat by taking his entire family ' 62 in all ' to watch Kamal Amrohi's Razia Sultan.

Twenty years later, free from the trappings of power, he has promised to take his family out for a picnic on Sunday ' a day after he turns 81 ' at Tigra Reservoir near Gwalior. Another movie may have posed a bit of a problem as his extended family has now swelled to over 250.

Family insiders said the former Prime Minister's nephews Anoop Mishra, a minister in the Madhya Pradesh government, and Karuna Shukla, a BJP MP from Chhattisgarh, and others have planned an elaborate lunch. The spread will include Vajpayee's favourite dishes ' raw salad, dahi vadas and an assortment of sweets like besan til, Mawabati, malpua and mungare laddoos.

After the meal, the family plans to take him out on a boat ride. Two huge boats have been requisitioned, but the ride will be subject to the Special Protection Group's clearance.

Vajpayee's relatives ' both close and distant, including dozens of grandnephews and grandnieces ' are also preparing to wish him a warm happy birthday on Christmas Day. They will all gather at Shinde-ki-Chavni, Vajpayee's ancestral house in Sindhi Colony.

'Bade Baba', as Vajpayee is affectionately called by everyone in the family, will be celebrating his birthday in his hometown after 14 years. Sources said he would spend three days in Gwalior.

His family members are not the only people who are out to make a splash. Residents of Gwalior, too, have drawn up plans to celebrate the day.

A huge 'Atal idol' is being installed in the heart of the town at a newly constructed temple that has been named after Vajpayee.

City-based advocate Vijay Singh Chauhan said the move to instal the idol has mass approval. The idol has been brought to Gwalior after 'holy dips' in four 'sacred' rivers ' the Ganga, Yamuna, Indus and the Kshipra. The idol will be installed in the temple at Gende Wali Gali on December 25. 'The temple will be a source of inspiration for future generations and would serve as a tourism destination, too,' Chauhan said.

While in the south it is a common to find 'star-struck' fans building temples to their favourite actors, it is rather unique across the Vindhyas.

On December 24, Vajpayee is scheduled to inaugurate the famous Gwalior trade fair, which completes 100 years. The fair has always been a favourite with him. As Prime Minister, Vajpayee had said he particularly missed Gwalior on two occasions ' during the fair and on Raksha Bandhan.

Besides traditional goods, including works of art from all corners of the state, the fair attracts nearly all consumer durable and automobile majors. According to a conservative estimate, it should do a business of around Rs 100 crore this year.

For those with a literary bent, Vajpayee will be a guest of honour at the Madhya Pradesh Hind Sahitya Parishad, which too completes 100 years of existence. The gathering here could have a glimpse of the other side of the politician ' that of a poet.

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