So much has been said by now about Dr. #Abdul Kalam’s candidature for the Presidency. And a lot of it isn’t very nice. That Dr. Kalam was not the first but the lowest-common-denominator-of-consensus choice. (I mean if merit is all we’re talking about, they hectored, and the presidency is a kind of glorified Bharat Ratna, then why not Sachin Tendulkar?) That it was the result of some really murky politicking and wheeling-dealing in high places. That it was only so that the BJP could have a very fine fig leaf to cover up all that happened and is still happening in Gujarat. (“Look ma, we’ve got a Muslim that doesn’t eat meat and recites from the Bhagvad Gita!” Would we be as ecstatic, I wonder, if we’d found a Hindu that ate meat and recited from the Quran?) That what would a scientist – and that too according to some, not even a great scientist - know about being a President and more importantly, know about being a President which seems to be mostly about keeping one’s nose out of and one’s head above political waters that are more stinking and muck-ridden as the Ganges at Benares?
So much has been said about why Dr Kalam should not be a presidential candidate. Even though it’s almost certain that he is going to be next President of India. And you know what? I don’t care. Because average nukkad-galli Indian that I am, Indian that I am, bankrupt of almost every hero and every god, Indian that I am, paralyzed by cynicism and hopelessness, disgusted Indian that I am because I vote for and am governed by rulers that I respect and have faith in even less than the chewing gum stuck to my shoe, Indian that I am in an India that has the potential to be so great but that is still so little, average Indian that I am, I desperately want this man to be my President.
And this is why…
It’s not because apart from rocket technology, he finds time to pluck a mean tune on the rudra veena and scribble poetry, though that too. It’s not even because he seems to be such an endearing little gnome who wears hair that seems to be sculpted in Brylcreem-‘n-ghee and chappals and bush shirts with such chutzpah, though that too. It’s not because he seems a good, decent man, a man of much learning and some vision, though that too.
Mainly, it’s because if this man can be President, it means that there is hope for me. And hope for millions of young Indians who have nothing – no rich, well-connected fathers, no powerful, power-broking godfathers, no strings to pull – nothing but the power of their own potential, the might of their belief in themselves, driven by a vision of what they want to be that extends beyond the limit of their own bank accounts. It meant that there’s hope that it’s not all hopeless. It means that we still live in a land where every once in a way, merit matters. Merit and talent as homegrown as tair-sadam (curd rice), lovingly cooked in millions of humble little cottages nestled in thousands of obscure little specks on the map, one of them called Rameshwaran.
I watched Dr Kalam at his first press conference. And after I had got past the hair and the buck-toothed smile and the accent thicker than avial, I was amazed and enchanted. This man talked a different tongue, one that our leaders and teachers once talked but is now long forgotten. There was a strange, unselfconscious innocence about him, a refreshing, childlike faith it seemed in things that, if he didn’t refer to them with such conviction, he’d be a laughing stock. He should’ve been a caricature, a cruel joke but he wasn’t….
Maybe it’ll all come to naught. Maybe like others before him, he will be sucked in and destroyed by The System. But till, then, there is hope. So for all those who look at him and talk about what should’ve been but isn’t and what is but should not have been, this is what I have to say - in the words of my next President. “Whatever has happened has happened for the best. Whatever is happening is happening for the best. And whatever will happen, will happen for the best.”