The Incomparable

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 18 Aug 2018 10:53:47

 “May you live a hundred years. We were just remembering you”, said a swayamsevak (volunteer) of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to another swayamsevak who arrived that very moment.

“In the West, they say, ‘Take the name of the Devil, and there he is’. This is the difference -- between the Indian idea of life, and the western way of thinking”, pointed Atal Behari Vajpayee, then a leader of the Jan Sangh, at a public occasion in Nagpur in the early 1970s.

CONSCIOUS that he was engaged in a great process of building and shaping an organisation based on Indian ethos, Atal Behari Vajpayee, then one of the leading lights of the Jan Sangh (the earlier avtar of the Bharatiya Janata Party - BJP) never missed a chance to emphasise the Indian values. There, when people were gathering for a public function in Nagpur, he did not miss the chance to assert how the Indian idea of life talked of granting a hundred-year life-span to everybody, and how, in contrast, the westerners likened the man in discussion to Devil. Naturally, the people around smiled in agreement, and noted in their minds what their leader wished to communicate in essence.

“The leader has to be motivated, thus, to pick up opportunity to stress the right point. This is the essence of the teaching in the RSS. We are constantly expected to remind ourselves and others that the Indian way of thinking is based on sound values and human virtues, on immortality of human soul, of the awareness of the long history and tradition of India, and how it can enrich the global thought”, Mr. Vajpayee had said in an impromptu and informal interaction with a few swayamsevaks. Conversations with him were often lively, full of laughter that stemmed from humour out of various incongruities of life which Mr. Vajpayee never missed pointing out.

“The leader is a leader all the time, even when he is resting, even when he is eating his meal, even when he is alone and there is no one around. He has to be alert -- to the cause of team-building. In the leadership role, there is no respite from responsibility. Everybody looks to you. Everybody reads you all the time. Everybody learns from you even when you are not conscious,” he had said to swayamsevaks who gravitated towards him when they realised that he had a few spare moments. There were a few others, too, who were political workers. And each of them felt mesmerised by Mr. Vajpayee’s personality, his easy manner, his openness of mind, his willingness to communicate with all. Quintessentially, he was a man of the masses -- with an innate capability to create a cocoon of internal silence within. He would appear to drift somewhere else even when he was in the midst of people.

Perhaps, a poem was being born in those moments, a political activist who worked closely with Mr. Vajpayee, had said to a couple of curious journalists in Gwalior during an election campaign.  “Atalji, when is a poem born in your mind? Do you become conscious of that process? Do you sit tight when words flood into your mind, perhaps indicating the birth of a poem”, a young reporter asked.

Mr. Vajpayee just smiled, indulged in a slow blinking of his eyes, and then said, “Haa aur naa.” (Yes and no.). That enigmatic answer was typical of Mr. Vajpayee. He let the young man to find the answer for himself, ponder over the process. That was his way of an enriching communication.  On another occasion, however, Mr. Vajpayee was freer in expression. He said, in effect, a poem was not words; it was emotion. It sprang from deep within. It may have a trigger from outside, but the thought operates deep within, and then takes the shape of words. The poem is born, the poem is formed, in this manner.

That free-wheeling conversation, also, was part of Mr. Vajpayee’s effort to communicate a sound thought, a good idea, to a youngster in whom he pinned the hope of future. As an organisation-builder, Mr. Vajpayee often sought such conversations and let people around him know the creative potential each one had. Many of his poems, many of his speeches, many of his humorous expressions were aimed at making an appropriate sanskaar on every possible mind, young or old.

A senior Intelligence officer who was assigned to shadow Mr. Vajpayee during a difficult political period in the mid-1980s, felt rather elated to know how the leader under his scan dreamt and thought and acted and motivated people around him. “I did my job as dispassionately as possible. But I could not help being impressed by him. By that token, I was not the right person to shadow him. For, he had already won me over,” the Intelligence Officer said years later.

Such was the magnetism of the personality of Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, such was his charisma. Individually or collectively, people fell for him, beyond politics, beyond ideologies, beyond difference of opinion. As the nation bids him farewell, as tears roll down the faces of countless lakhs of people, various facets of his personality rush up in one’s mind. In that condition, one feels humbled by those nuances that shaped the personality of Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee the poet who turned politician and an organisation-builder a nation-builder.

There would never be anybody like him. There may be poets among politicians. But there would never be an Atal Behari Vajpayee among them, simply because he was born unique. Actually, everybody is supposed to be unique. Yet, Mr. Vajpayee’s uniqueness was altogether different. For, in him, all of us saw a human soul all the time making effort to liberate his self from the definable, physical being.
Three cheers to him.