India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal was on Sunday night elected as the National Convenor of his newly-formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and said he will tour the country for the next one year to expose the Congress and the BJP while trying to convince people on why they should support his outfit.
As the party works to gather support, here is an interview with parents Geeta Devi and GR Kejriwal.
Q: How was Arvind as a child?
Geeta Devi: He was very studious. We never had to run after him with a stick asking him to study. I remember when he was in class 5 or 6 in a school in Ghaziabad. I went to receive him from the school bus when one of his classmates told me that he had been weeping whole of that day. I thought he had an altercation. It turned out that he had scored a mark less in a subject.
G R Kejriwal: Ours was a typical middle class family. Whenever we had guests visiting us and Arvind had to study, he would go to the roof or lock himself in the bathroom.
Q: In terms of career, what were your expectations from him?
Geeta Devi: We never forced anything on him and allowed him to follow his heart. We trust his decisions.
G R Kejriwal: In those days, medicine and engineering were the only career options one could think of. We were no different. In fact Arvind’s babaji (grand father) kept aside a piece of land in Hisar on which he thought Arvind would open a clinic. But he had other plans.
Q: So, the IIT exam was his choice?
Geeta Devi: Yes. It was his decision. And he filled only that form after his class 12 exams. As a back up, we had obtained admission form of Kurukshetra University (Haryana). But he never filled that one.
G R Kejriwal: He is strong willed. He is clear in his head on what he wants. IIT exam is one example. In 2007, I had a cardiac arrest and was in ICU for 40 days. People break down in such situations. But Arvind did not return home in those 40 days period. He had declared he would go back with me and he did that.
Q: What made him different from his siblings?
Geeta Devi: He was and is more practical and strong as compared to his younger sister and brother. He deals with situations in a much mature manner. But after seeing him working over decades, they are also changing and thinking like him.
Q: How come the shift from IIT to IRS?
Geeta Devi: I think he saw some of his colleagues at Tata Steel, preparing for IAS. He decided to give it a chance. During day time he would in be office and study at early morning hours and night. He cracked the exam in the first attempt.
Q: Were you happy, when, after all this, he took study leave and then quit his government job to work as a social activist?
Geeta Devi: It was not an obvious choice for an IRS officer and hence, we were a bit concerned as parents. We asked him that without that government service, how he would take care of the family. He had two kids to take of. He did not budge. He said life was anyways uncertain. One can die in an accident. And then he went ahead.
G R Kejriwal: (smiles) I think God is with him in all this.
Q: You said you were concerned about him leaving his government job. What were the other occasions when you got concerned or worried about his activities?
Geeta Devi: Never. There is nothing to be worried about. (after a long pause). Thoda darr laga when Salman Khurshid said that he would see how Kejriwal would return from Farrukhabad.
Q: Sir, did you also feel the same?
G R Kejriwal: No no. I was not. She is a mother, you know (laughs).
Q: What were the turning points in Arvind’s life? Events which changed him as a person?
Geeta Devi: There was nothing which had a drastic impact on his life. But the two months stint with Mother Teresa in Kolkata influenced him a lot. That was before he joined the IRS. There, he was exposed to poverty and hunger. It made him very humble and giving person.
Q: Who were the personalities, living or dead, who you saw, inspiring Arvind?
G R Kejriwal: We had a good collection of books on Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. At times, Arvind used to read them.
Q: We have seen him participating in TV debates and addressing rallies. Is he articulate while at home?
G R Kejriwal: Don’t ask. He is blunt. To the point…straight forward! If he needs water, he would not say ‘please give me water’. He would just say ‘water’. He speaks only what is required.
Q: When was that last time he went on a holiday with you?
G R Kejriwal: I am not sure. I think it was in 2007 or before that.
Q: Do you miss spending more time with him?
G R Kejriwal: He became busy when he started social work after quitting his job. Now it is part of routine.
Geeta Devi: He spends time with family whenever possible. He is very fond of movies since his college days. He takes his wife and kids for movies almost once in two months.
Q: Arvind is a celebrity of sorts at least in North India. How do people react when they get to know that you are Arvind Kejriwal’s parents? Did you face any awkward moments?
Geeta Devi: I never create a fuss about it. I go for satsang daily, but even a few days ago, people there did not know that I am Arvind’s mother. There have been occasions that I have introduced like that in a social gathering. It feels good. But that’s about it.
G R Kejriwal: Those who don’t know me as Arvind’s father, ask me if I am from the same caste as his. They say…are you that Kejriwal? Others pay regards. Some of them say, ‘really?’ You are Arvind Kejriwal’s father? I don’t know how to answer that question really.