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Goodbye Skipper

Thousands throng to pay last respects as the Nawab of Pataudi is buried in his ancestral village.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Pataudi |
September 24, 2011 12:00:14 am

A day after Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi passed away,his burial at the ancestral palace on the outskirts of Delhi was reminiscent of the way he lived — a public figure who remained intensely private in his personal life.

Pataudi was buried at 2 pm on Friday afternoon but till then,the crowd hardly seemed in mourning. Before his body was brought out for the burial,over three thousand people from Pataudi and surrounding areas,jostled in the grounds around the palace for one last glimpse of their Nawab. As some of the actors and cricketers were whisked into the palace,with some making fleeting appearances on the balcony,the crowd cheered and pushed to get closer. The police had to resort to mild lathicharge to control them and were seen pulling people off trees.

The crowds were expected,given that in his life,Pataudi had successfully brought together two of India’s biggest draws — cricket and films. His marriage to actress Sharmila Tagore added to the glamour and with two of his three children — Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan — following her footsteps,the entertainment industry was expected to make its presence felt. Karisma Kapoor,Malaika Arora Khan and Kareena Kapoor were among those who were present. From the cricketing fraternity,Kapil Dev and Anshuman Gaekwad paid their tributes.

The palace doors were open to only a select few,among them being sarod exponent Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. “We spent so much time together. He even used to play the flute and tabla with me,whenever we met. It relaxed him,” he said.

The mood changed at 2 pm,when,Saif led a procession carrying Pataudi’s mortal remains into the compound. The crowds followed while the women,including Sharmila Tagore,Saba and Soha,watched from the first floor in dignified silence. The final namaz was read outside under tents before the burial at another spot.

But there was still a lot of commotion and Anwar Ali,whose family have been the Pataudi family caretakers for generations,said,“Arrey bhai,shant ho jao. Namaz to dhang se padhne do.”

Soon after,Saif and the rest of the family went inside the palace and the doors shut. But outside,the signs of morning were littered around.

A sign which read “only residents allowed inside”,lay by the wayside,disregarded. Traders in Pataudi said that they would keep shops shut for a week in his memory. A framed photograph at the entrance of the house,of the 1946 India-England series,lay broken. The palace garden,which gardener Rameshwar Lal said was Pataudi’s “favourite place in the house” was unrecognisable after the onslaught. Trees drooped under the weight of those who climbed them,pots lay broken,the grass was uprooted,and flowers were strewn everywhere.

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