Shobhaa De | Dream Man CJI, Lottery King and a missing royal

Exploring the Phenomenon of India's CJI D.Y. Chandrachud Fandom

Confession: I have the biggest senior citizen crush on our CJI. What is there not to love about a man who provides daily inspo to millions each time he opens his mouth. In court. During interviews. And, most of all, when he delivers tight public thappads and puts the pompous in their place. Like Hema Malini is India’s forever Dream Girl, D.Y. Chandrachud is our hameshawala Dream Man. Suave, cerebral, sharp, sensitive -- sub kuch! I have started taking an exaggerated interest in all things law ever since our CJI took over and captured my weary heart. Last week, he put Mukul Rohatgi on the mat so smoothly, it’s a wonder that Rohatgi didn’t go into hiding! A friend commented: “These high- profile lawyers remind one of Disraeli’s wonderful put down of his rival, Gladstone, whom he described as being “inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity…’’ I watched the clip with glee -- nothing personal. But it’s good to see a few bigwigs squirm and eat crow.

“No case is too small for the highest court,” declared the CJI, and he meant it. “Our mission is to stand by the common people…” These are not empty words going by the CJI’s track record. Sure, the knives are out for the outspoken man, and Dilliwallas love whispering behind his back, pointing out how arrogant and aloof he is. Why not? Why should he waste precious time on fools and flatterers -- Delhi is full of them. Why should he hobnob with dodgy netas and dodgier moneybags -- Delhi is infested with both. He has candidly stated that his best friend is his wife Kalpana. I am so “j” of Kalpana. They share so much in common, being vegan and followers of a strict ayurvedic diet. For a man whose day begins with yoga at 3.30 am, 64-year-old Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud is India’s Superhero No. 1. We have till December to fawn over him as he presides over India’s complex and convoluted justice system. He retires at the year-end. Sighhhh! A lot of heavy-duty stuff is scheduled to happen before that momentous retirement day. But let’s not spoil this moment by bringing in the national elections. Jo hoga, who hoga!

The electoral bonds ka monumental joke is actually on us – tax-paying citizens/bakras… A clever meme featuring Ratna Pathak had the last word on the perplexing subject: “Monisha Beta, Electoral bond bolo… hafta vasooli is so middle class…” Still haven’t quite wrapped my head around all the luminaries featured. But one particular name intrigued me no end – “Santiago”. How many Indian parents would name their son Santiago, after a capital city in South America? Unless the child was born in Chile, which is not the case with Santiago Martin, who was born in the Andamans (1961), was a daily wage worker in Myanmar and came back to India to start working in a tea shop. The lottery craze was taking off big time and Santiago soon figured where the money was! Another smart chaiwalla! Today, Santiago’s name is known across the country for a dodgy reason. As the founder of Future Gaming Pvt Ltd, Santiago heads the list of donors to political parties, released by the Election Commission, with a whopping donation of Rs 1,368 crores. Chances are, till Santiago popped up prominently across media platforms as a generous donor, nobody outside the shadowy world of gaming had much of an idea about the mysterious man’s existence. Admission: I still don’t know what “gaming” involves, apart from placing bets.

I promptly Googled him, captivated by his antecedents and exotic name. Santiago sounds like an incredibly smooth operator, capable of tackling the most formidable political opponents and swiftly changing sides. As it happened in 2003 when then Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa banned the lottery trade in the state, believing it was destroying the lives of countless underprivileged people addicted to lotteries. At the time, Santiago’s lottery fortunes were riding high, after he successfully launched his own lottery business with multiple brands and attractive prizes. Santiago moved his operations to Nepal, Bhutan, the Northeast states and Kerala. By this time, the glib talker was on a roll, hanging out with top politicians, along with his wife Leena Rose, who joined politics after Santiago’s arrest in 2011, when he was charged in 14 cases of land grabbing, illegal lottery sales and cheating. There’s a picture of Leena Rose on the dais with Narendra Modi when he visited TN back then. Just saying…

The I-T guys raided his Coimbatore home last year, leading his loyal wife to claim: “Maybe the searches were meant to intimidate him. But we conduct our business legally.’’ Of course you do, honey!

The electoral bond disclosure has put the spotlight on a man, whose life reads better than any masala film script. More so, since Santiago’s modus operandi is so unique. India is familiar with several self-made business tycoons, who rise from obscurity and succeed spectacularly. But Santiago is in a league of his own.

His various “accomplishments’’ include an honorary doctorate of business, a gold medal for excellence in business and his appointment as consul-general for the Republic of Liberia. The “Lottery King” was publicly credited for “uplifting and providing credibility” to the lottery business in India. The Great Gambler (1979) was a fun film starring Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Neetu Singh… but Santiago Martin’s biopic is way funnier, though I don’t really see Leena Rose in Zeenat’s stilettos…

In a line: Santiago Martin gamed the system. Shabaash!

On to some more salacious and sizzling breaking news: At the time of writing, Kate Middleton was still missing. People asked me: “Are you her chaachi? Why do you care where she is?” No, dearies, I am not the chaachi of the future Queen of England, but I am madly interested in the story of her disappearance, now that a fresh angle has been introduced and one more conspiracy theory added. I’m spilling the tea like any other neighbourhood aunty with no other kaam dhanda: If indeed the 40-year-old Sarah Rose Hanbury, mother of three (official title: Marchioness of Cholmondeley -- and no, it’s not in Tamil Nadu, but Norfolk), the rumoured mistress of Prince William, is indeed pregnant with his child, will the offspring be officially “next in line” for the throne -- provided, of course, that the throne continues to exist??? Just asking for a friend.

Thank God for the capricious royals -- life would be so dull without their daily dalliances!

Next Story