Losing our heroes

One of the lessons we had in our primary school Malayalam textbook was a leaf out of Letters from a Father to his Daughter, and I think it was something about rivers and sands. As a kid I found the lesson too tough to understand and wondered how the daughter in question _  Indira Gandhi _ understood such profound stuff. The pencil sketch of the daughter is still etched in my memory. And the father who wrote it continues to hold a special place in my heart as the maker of modern independent India.
I grew up respecting and loving all our freedom fighters, and especially the Father of the Nation (though his idiosyncrasies and experiments seem a little weird to me as an adult) and the first Prime Minister.  Maybe the history lessons in school were carefully planned but it was just cursory information and nothing deep. The deeper stuff, Discovery of Truth and Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, came as gifts from dad and which I preserved but didnt read. I was more interested in M&Bs as a teenager.
However, in these times when the name of the first Prime Minister is much vilified and his legacy belittled by the right-wingers in power, I  see a lot of support and nostalgic invoking of his ideals pouring in, even from the Left wingers who had earlier liked to protest against anything the Congress did. But in the face of a dangerous enemy that is destroying the country's secular polity, they have rallied in support.
 The comment section under Newsfeeds in social media is unreadable at times for the profanity involved. A victim more flesh and blood than the first Prime Minister is his great grandson who has taken over as the President of the Congress Party. To me, coming as I do from a family that has been Congress supporters (as is a good part of the Christian population of Kerala), Rahul Gandhi offers hope - of an energised Congress shedding its corruption tag, of an idealistic leader who offers a politics of decency and courage despite the mud-slinging and online maligning by the IT machinery of the party in power. His speech at Berkeley showed us a confident young man who fielded questions with courage, and not like the masquerader who shies away from meeting the press except for  giving a choreographed interview or two to fawning pressmen. To speak with decency to a smaller audience requires culture and education and is not easy as giving election rally speeches to the masses; playing to the gallery or being a rabble rouser is what the incumbent PM thrives on.
RG's speech on his ascension where he called on all political parties to dialogue and debate instead of a politics of hatred and communalisation was a refreshing one. The ideals of love and harmony he held up was reminiscent of the teaching of Jesus and Gandhiji. Of course, comparisons with Jesus would be enough to brand him a Christian (in the garb of a Hindu) though he is trying hard to shed that image with his temple hopping.


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