K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Although it is usually younger ladies who disturb people’s sleep, very strangely, today an elderly lady is robbing the entire nation of its sleep. Prathiba Patil is all set to step into a pair of shoes which are not just unlikely to fit her but are also bound to look incongruous as they all belong to men who have so far been the only incumbents of the post she is eyeing.
So it looks like she is going to have to exchange her humble but dignified Kohlapuri chappals for a pair of Italian sandals. And if she thinks a special dainty pair is being flown in especially for her she is mistaken as I am sure that what she will be made to wear eventually are the ones that have already been worn in the past by two other owners.
Although it would be a refreshing change for us to have a lady President, every-thing seems to be ill fitting for this lady right from the name of her future abode to the sandals she is going to wear with the blessings of Sonia Gandhi alone and no one else.
And although it seems certain that she is going to have a very lonely time in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan I think it is now equally certain that she is going to stay there for the next five years, undisturbed by the ghosts of its previous occupants or the principles they stood for. I have not been able to read a single article in any newspaper or magazine that says that she even slightly deserves to occupy the high post that she is literally being levered into.
Her appointment which will give us nothing beyond a sense of victory and relief to some women’s support groups who may feel they have finally stormed a hitherto all-male bastion, is actually going to be a great embarrassment to all the women of our great nation.
Although a leading weekly has gone as far as captioning her picture on its cover as an “Embarrassing Choice”, this lady is going around giving statements that she wants to “serve us all” as our president. What surprises me most is that after all this open resentment and angst that the whole nation seems to be showering on her so generously, if she still wants to get into the saddle she must be made of pretty tough stuff.
This resolve certainly does not look Indian to me as any Indian lady would have thought it more important to walk out of the situation with her modesty and dignity intact rather than staying in the middle of all the mud-slinging just to prove her loyalty to her lone supporter.
And if this is the loyalty she has, I wonder what her commitment will be to the country of her birth and the sentiments and expectations of its citizens. But it is perhaps precisely for this unflinching, though shameful, loyalty that this frail and artless lady has become the undisputed choice of the much tougher and more artful lady who is now certainly holding the reins of the nation very firmly for her progeny.
The president of any nation irrespective of whether it follows the presidential form of government or not, and whether he or she has any real powers or not, is still the most obvious and important symbol of its stature in the international arena.
It is important therefore that we have in this high position a person of good calibre and public standing with a spotless reputation both in his or her public and private life. It is also important for the whole world to know that he or she has been a candidate with a near unanimous mandate that has been free from petty internal politics. But what Indian efforts usually fail to achieve in a show of comradeship and solidarity the Italian hand can accomplish with a snap of its steel fingers.
It is not for nothing that foreigners could rule us for so long at such a huge cost. I know that Indian politics is murky and messy but if this is any indication of how we are going to “elect” our presidents in future, I think it is the right time for us to do away with this highest of high posts instead of allowing its image to get tarnished with the same grime of politics that greets us every morning.
The Rashtrapathi Bahvan has seen some very eminent and illustrious occupants, notably our second president Dr. S. Radhakrishnan who was a world renowned philosopher and Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam the out-going one who is a world class scientist.
Now if we do not seem to have anyone of substance and calibre who can do justice to its traditional prestige and dignity we can at least preserve whatever of it is left for posterity by converting it into a museum of all the relics of everything that made our country great instead of being sadly but aptly depicted with a Congress cap atop its dome as was done in a cartoon recently.
Our nation certainly seems to be passing through a long tunnel of despair today. What remains to be seen is whether there is going to be light at the end.
Dr Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a regular column in Star of Mysore where this piece first appeared