So yesterday, while the entire nation was mourning his loss and paying him tributes during his last rites, I was wondering what do I write about this persona who touched the lives of many, in many unsaid ways and stood out to be one of the humblest and most visionary Prime Ministers of developing India.
I was a school going kid back then when Atalji was serving his tenure and apart from the fact that he was a ‘good man’ I barely knew anything about his real contributions. In an attempt to know his greatness posthumously, multiple tabs were opened in google and I was unearthing all his courageous moves right from Pokhran nuclear tests to Lahore declaration and proposed political template of ‘insaaniyat’ for the controversial Kashmir.
Just then a colleague sent me one of Atalji’s old pictures on Instagram that instantly caught my attention and to my surprise, aptly gave a testimony of all the facts and facets behind the ‘good man’ I once knew. A rare picture of him merrily cooking in his kitchen in a simple white kurta pajama, probably making curry in a vessel and waiting patiently for the cooker to whistle!
A vague but simple thought crossed my mind.
“Managing a country and managing a kitchen, is so different yet so much on the same lines. All it needs is some amount of patience, ability to keep an eye on everything that is on the stove and an understanding of when to put off the flame, pay heed to blowing whistles and stop stirring so you can serve something that comes out just the way you want and is edible for everyone. Mind you, all of it with a smile.
It was clearly a thought that for no reason crossed my mind but made sense to me and all the pieces I was juggling with to learn about him, fell in place. He did know the analogy way before me and he also put it into practice. For a common man to interpret him, there cannot be an easier way.
Be it brewing the Quit India movement, or actively adding spoonful of enthusiasm to the RSS and Jan Sangh, stirring the Indo-US relations for better binding of overpowering ingredients, trusting his gut and risking beyond the normal intake by sanctioning the Pokhran nuclear tests, trying to strike a balance between the sweet and sour with Lahore declaration and victorious Kargil war call to action, everything had a great amount of thought, effort, trust and alertness involved in it, so much like prepping for and making a meal that is to be consumed by important people of your family.
Here it’s a four walled house, there it was a country. Family and home were common factors.
Yet again, how do we handle emergencies and contingencies in the kitchen? We try to correct the dish gone wrong and stock up! Wasn’t it similar when Kashmir turmoil raised its ugly head? For me and you, who barely know political science, this example should suffice.
Kashmir was and is a dish that probably has had the right ingredients but was cooked in a wrong manner. It was Vajpayee ji who chose to add three new ingredients of kashmiriyat (respect for Kashmir’s unique identity), jamhuriyat (genuine respect for the democratic aspirations of Kashmiri people) and insaaniyat (respect for their human rights) to repair the dish and serve it right!
Though it didn’t satiate the appetite of many, it still is to date, considered to be one of the most accepted political templates of India.
Like these are many other iconic decisions he made when the whistles were blowing. Be it visiting China and convincing them to declare Sikkim as a constituent of India or peace deal with Musharraf that failed at the last moment but made it to the history. These and many other measured decisions throughout his tenure, were nothing but an honest attempt to serve the best for survival!
He was and will always be one of the most balanced witty, unbiased man with his own morals and a kind hearted PM a nation could ever have. Maybe that’s why, several opposition party leaders and within the party leaders too, often called him the ‘Right man in the wrong party’, especially in regards to his honest but moderate response on religious issues, unlike other party leaders and the disparity in his core ideas about socialism and religion as compared to others in RSS and BJP, to which, again mind you, he didn’t succumb to.
What we mustn’t forget is that he was he was the man who pulled off the party, in the right way and showed us the right path to take. His wit, sobriety, timely decisions, ability to foresee and a deep sense of responsibility are the assets he has bestowed upon us, the gen next that is supposed to keep the tricolor flying high. Not to forget, his ‘Ekyavan Kavitayen’ that is a treasure trove for litterateurs and generations to come.
For every Indian, he’ll always be,
A PM thrice,
a man beyond wise,
and a poet who will always be alive despite the mortal demise!
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, you’ll always be a lighthouse for Independent India that houses millions who still yearn for freedom!
With great pride and in absolute grief of losing a gem that’ll always be cherished…
Content Writer, Team MMFPL