Delhi talks: Author Kishwar Desai says govts will come and go, but people's spirit will keep country going

Editor's Note:  This is the second in a ten-part series of interviews with well-known residents of Delhi on issues that they believe define the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Read other articles of the series here

If marriage has worked well for anyone, it has for Kishwar Desai (formerly Ahluwalia) It completely transformed her: she earned a title and graduated from being a commoner to a Lady by virtue of her marriage to Meghnad Desai: a Baron, an economist and Labour party politician. It was a marriage that almost grabbed headlines: an unequal match in the sense that Meghnad was some twenty years her senior; had two marriages behind him and three children. Kishwar was then working in a publishing house and was editing one of Meghnad’s several books. So the relationship started with work and ended in love.

 Delhi talks: Author Kishwar Desai says govts will come and go, but peoples spirit will keep country going

File image of Kishwar Desai. Kumkum Chadha

Since then, there was no looking back. It was as if Kishwar suddenly reinvented herself. She turned author, set up the Partition Museum in Amritsar and helped install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in London. Governments have been kind and have generously allotted space be it for the museum or the statue. Therefore there is no sense of regret: “My country, my India is a mix: it is young and vibrant and at the same time old and wise”.

“The India I would like to see is one without poverty and corruption because poverty is disabling and corruption sucks. My kind of India is one which must be strong and stable; where everyone is free to choose and pursue without fear or favour: an India where we respect our differences and can debate freely and fearlessly”.

But things are not as they should be: “Sadly, something has gone out and there is a turmoil: the young are looking for guidance, some groping in the dark, their desire to do something new and different yet to be fulfilled. But there is a silver lining and light at the end of the tunnel. I am an optimist and always see the glass as half full. I continue to be inspired by an India which is on the move. I travel a great deal and interact with people from different countries and continents but I have not found another country like mine: exciting and complex; layered and culturally rich like India, my India”.

For Kishwar change is the essence: “My vision of India is one where there is no stagnation: change is the essence and countries and people must experience it. People will change as also the politics. There could be confusion, sometimes chaos and maybe even disruption but no matter how much people may complain I only need to look at an ancient monument, feel a weave in a sari, touch the wave of a sea, enjoy a sensitive verse and conclude that my India, which is culturally rich and vibrant is going strong.

“Change is the only constant and one must expect and accept that this is a phase of transformation so if one story get you down there is another to lift up your spirits. India’s greatness is in its people, its diversity and its never say die spirit. Governments will come and go, stay or change but India the country will never be down and out. It is the spirit of its people which will always keep it going”.

Driven by faith in people, Kishwar is optimistic about the future: “The people of India are smart and willing to work and work hard for change, growth and development. Don’t mistake this for change in the narrow sense or merely from rule of one party to another but change in the broader sense: change in the lives of the people and the ordinary citizens and those who work on their own; creating their individual spaces. They are benefitting from technology and the free flow of information through social media platforms. The people are the backbone of our economy: neither governments nor politicians. India does not exist in the realm of television channels and the cacophony of elite opinion. The real India is in the heart and hands of the common man: good decent people who work extremely hard and believe in democracy. As long as they are there and democracy remains vibrant only good things lie ahead.

Singing paeans of the BJP, Kishwar says: “Elections will happen and they must happen but we need to see beyond the din. It is difficult to any one party to fulfil aspirations: the Congress could not even after sixty years. Worse still it got embroiled in corruption and thus failed. Therefore it could not match up or address the basics. Even today the NYAY programme is designed to keep the people dependent on the government for doles. Words like common minimum programme should be thrown out of the Congress lexicon if it wants to even appear aspirational.

“By comparison the BJP has done much better. Its vigorous anti-corruption drive, headed by a 'chaiwala turned chowkidar' gives hope in a country beset by poverty and low income jobs. What goes in the favour of the BJP is that it comes across as an enabler for the youth and encourages skill development; gives young people a platform as against Rahul Gandhi hugging an impoverished old woman. Instead, he should be standing with young India to signal that he will shape their dreams. On this count Prime Minister Narendra Modi is way ahead and comes across as a doer and this works with the younger generation: the aspirational perception the way BJP has handled it works much better than the Congress which clearly has messed it up.”

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Updated Date: May 02, 2019 11:23:38 IST