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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Too much to ask for a woman Prez?

20 Jun, 2007 l 1049 hrs IST,

Tarun Vijay

Abdul Kalam has achieved what others won't even dream --a legendary status in his own life time। An unprecedented position that inspires mothers to say their children should emulate him। If there was a public vote on the Presidential elections, he would win hands down। That a Presidential candidate like Shekhawat would feel good to take back his candidature in case Kalam accepts the Third Front's offer is not a clever masterstroke but shows strength in a name that spells Kalam। Still, I feel he should let a new face occupy the Palace Lutyen built. He has had his best time in the fullest possible manner, had more than a usual quota of books, 'ignited' imaginations and hopes for our future, rode the popular mood, and all this should suffice one life time. While it looks good that just coincidentally a fortnight after my column on woman Prez appeared on (

Too much to ask for a woman Prez? ), we have one. But the choice of Pratibha Patil has left much to be desired. What's there in her nomination that should cheer up the women folks? Has she been truly selected for being a woman who served the women's cause so well that she was considered a deserving candidate to be the head of the state of a thousand million people? Or was she thought to be a fit candidate being herself a Shekhawat to face another Shekhawat, whose stature and long political innings have made him a formidable rival for the UPA? Her comments on the veil, though true to some extent, have also created an unnecessary controversy, though what she intended to say was appropriate in the context of Rajasthan. Incidentally it's still a paper-thin mystery that while Sonia chose to become a Gandhi after marriage, Pratibha stuck to her maiden name Patil, though she married a Shekhawat, originally from Rajasthan. It was left to Sharad Pawar to demystify her name in the meeting that announced her name at the PM house. Now perhaps to be rightly effective in the partly caste-based voting for the top job, she may start using the Shekhawat appendage for the time being. That's her choice, anybody would say.
Accepted Ma'am, it’s democracy. Some time back I had met a gentleman, a medical doctor of high repute who introduced him as Dr. N S C Bose. He was from the right quarters in Chennai so I was amazed and requested for his full name. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, pat came the reply. If that can be the name of a Tamilian who later rose to become the president of the IMA, and another political celebrity can be a Stalin, why can’t Pratibha, too, have the freedom to choose her first or last name whatever she feels like. Well if the top job was considered good enough for a woman this time and Kalam had finally made up his mind not to contest, there could have been different choices for the job. Having seen the superb performance of our outgoing President Abdul Kalam, I, for once, would have preferred a non-political face and there are plenty in my list. Why not Sunita Narain or Vandana Shiva, who are energetic, young enough to represent the 'youngest' nation at the parameter of age factor of the citizens? They take up right issues for Nature and humans, advocate green policies and are not cowed down by any bullish multinational. And what about Sudha Murthy, whose writings have inspired millions, who has really taken up women's issues in a decent and Indian way, has created a niche for herself independently and looks so dignified and graceful? Hema Aziz, the brave mother of Capt. Hanifuddin, who laid down his life in Kargil defending his motherland at 24 would have been another elevating candidate to adorn the Rashtrapati Bhawan. She runs a school now, to train young children in patriotism and bravery called Samarth. For Capt. Haniffuddin's family, the tears have dried up, but the pain is alive. “We are channelising it by opening a trust in his name to run this school,'' she says. A mother who gave her best for the nation can understand the responsibility to keep up the pride and honour of her land and shall never yield to undue pressures under any circumstances. She would also be well qualified to represent the forces as their constitutional supreme commander.
And what about Mata Amritanandamayi? She belongs to a fishermen's community in Kerala, was hardly educated in the formal sense of the term, yet has risen to inspire and show the way to humankind across the globe. She is young, effective, motherly, affectionate and can never be pressurised to act as a rubberstamp. Her spiritual effervescence and aura is too divine and healing for the suffering masses. She represents self-reliance, independence and charms the nation with her innocent smile and reservoir of ancient wisdom. The woman as Shakti, the real power centre, has motivated and inspired the Indian psyche for ages. There is a woman in every man and a man in every w oman, say our old shastras, explaining the concept of Ardhanārīśvara, the perfect symbol of godly attributes. The traditional Sanskrit name for this form is best tran slated as "the lord who is half-woman", and not as "half-man, half-woman". Even the best man in Indian tradition is one who has the attributes of a woman -- love, compassion, steely resolve and an instinct to be unpardonable to the foe. The scene reminds me of the 1964 movie, The Best Man , based on a theatre with the same name. Both were written by Gore Vidal and move around the story of two presidential candidates. At the zero hour, the two known and much talked-about candidates are out of the race and a third dark horse wins. Ultimately in the politics of convenience, the choice for the top post has hardly been decided by factors of real grit and merit. Right from V V Giri's election on 'conscience vote' and Sanjeeva Reddy to Zail Singh, trust along with expectations from the would-be candidate has been the decisive factor. Actions speculating he or she may take in the critical time, meaning when the party's interests are in real difficult spot, decide finally. Though it's all meaningless, because often when the trusted person gets the final job of his life, he likes to mark his name as independent, courageous and objective statesman in the history and may well disappoint the earlier hopes of his mentors.

Readers Opinion

Too much to ask for a woman Prez? 1

Comment:Of course a woman could be a Prez of India. But not because women need to prove a point to the men ! Why is any achievement by a woman associated with male bashing? Also a woman should be Prez for the right reasons not based on her gender. And no matter what the tabloids write, a woman is never a prop or a show-piece and her contributions to society have always been ignored--by men and women alike. How many women would actually think a woman is good enough for the job ? And pray tell me how many would NOT say "She can do it. She is just like a man!" Name:rinku mukherjee Location:denver, usa 24 May, 2007 2052hrs IST

Comment:India is a heterogenous country, with views on a single subject ranging from one extreme to the other. Having a woman president is not going to do our country any good as long as our policy makers continue to pursue their divisive politics. So long as our policy makers have a 'conservationist' and 'protectionist' attitude towards women and their affairs, this half of our population is not going to have the strength needed to develop as an equal vis-a-vis their male counterparts. Name:sanjay pandita Location:delhi 24 May, 2007 1650hrs IST

Comment:I totally dig the idea. India could, seriously, use a women president. I think we should jazz things up, in our political system, a little and a women president would be a good idea, for starters. Name:rahul Location:kerela 24 May, 2007 1407hrs IST

Comment:In Greece, a couple of thousand years back, even great people such as Plato and Aristotle, debated in the senate, that whether women were 'humans'. And now, after so many years, having acquired the human status, women are still subjected to doubtful concerns about whether they are talented and skilled enough to do any kind of work, let alone be the president.
Name:rini Location:delhi 24 May, 2007 1359hrs IST

Comment:An excellent, thought provoking article I must say. To be honest, being a woman myself, I dig the idea. More women should think in that direction.
Name:lolita Location:uae 23 May, 2007 1332hrs IST

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