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Editorial

India’s ‘Awaara’ Philosopher-King

August 17, 2018 06:41 AM

COURSTEY ET AUG 17

India’s ‘Awaara’ Philosopher-King
That Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born on Christmas Day, could be seen as being quite portentous, considering that among India’s long roster of politicians, the sobriquet of ‘Santa’ probably suits him the best. This was a man who, both as a politician and later as a statesman, understood that bearing a sense of humour — and being public about it — in no way diminished the serious job at hand. Even as PM — especially as PM — his mirth, encapsulated in his trademark chuckle, gave proof to the fact that a wise man wears his wisdom lightly. He also saw no contradiction in his being a shayar as well as a hard-nosed leader who knew his own negotiating prowess from the nitpickings of others. His ‘Musings’, written during his year-end vacations at Kumarakom in Kerala in December 2000 — his ‘Musings’ from Goa two years later were more tactical to placate a confused-by-his-liberalism RSS — were not just paternal ‘fireside chats’ to the nation. Written in two parts — the first dealing with the pasts of ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Ayodhya’, the second with what the future must hold for a peaceful, prosperous India — there were genuine reflections, thoughtful, wise, sanguine.

Vajpayee has been seen as BJP’s Nehru (to L K Advani’s Valabhbhai Patel). One could also make a case that he was BJP’s Shastri — for coming across as not only for the people, but also from the people. But the love — and there really isn’t any other word for it — that people across the social and political spectrum felt for him never came at the cost of him ‘dumbing himself down’. Eleven days younger than Raj Kapoor, Atal Bihari may have also seen himself as an awaara, one with the requisite empathy, wisdom, courage and charm of a vagabond, in its most poetic sense

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