Life lessons from Vajpayee, thanks to a dad who idolised himhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/web-edits/atal-bihari-vajpayee-speeches-death-funeral-bjp-5311688/

Life lessons from Vajpayee, thanks to a dad who idolised him

Atal Bihari Vajpayee's speech at Gol market in Delhi in 1977 was a huge influence on my father, who had come to Delhi from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, and it formed a big part of the life lessons he imparted to his children.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee delivering his speech at United Nations General Assembly on the Challenge of Terror. (Source: Youtube)

As someone who was growing up in the 1990s, my father’s stories about Atal Bihari Vajpayee were an integral part of our lives. My father, a lawyer, was influenced by Vajpayee’s wit and extraordinary oratory skills.

One of the anecdotes centred around a speech that Vajpayee gave at Delhi’s Gol Market in 1977 while campaigning for Morarji Desai. My father, who was then a student in Delhi, was clearly impacted by the leader’s message of “patience is the key to maintain dharma”.

Quoting Mahabharata, Vajpayee spoke about how the Pandavas in search of water reached a lake. Yudhishthira, the oldest and wisest of the five, asked Sahdev, the youngest, to go and have water first. As soon as Sahdev tried to quench his thirst, an invisible voice roared and said: ‘First, answer my questions’. Sahdev did not pay heed and soon fainted. Now Nakul, Arjuna and Bhima came one after the other. They too fainted upon hearing the invisible the voice. It was finally Yudhishthra’s turn. The same voice again sought answers. Unlike his brothers, Yudhishthra patiently listened to the voice and tried to answer all its questions. When the task got over, Yudhishthra was asked who amongst his four brothers he wants to be alive. After a pause, the eldest Pandava said he wanted to save Sahdev. But why Sahdev, he was asked. Yudhishthira answered that Nakul and Sahdev were sons of Matri, while he, Arjun and Bhim were Kunti’s. If Sahdev gets life, both the mothers would have at least one son alive, he said, adding that to his mind would be justice. Pleased at the answer, Dharamraj (The God of justice) appeared and granted life to all the Pandavas. “It was the test of Yudhishtra’s sense of justice. He managed to win by application of mind and patience,” Vajpayee told the crowd, adding: “Here Yudhishthira’s patience leads to his win and this is how it always happens.”

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In 1977, Vajpayee became the external affairs minister in Moraji Desai’s Cabinet. Even in those days, he was the party’s star speaker.

The speech was a huge influence on my father, who had come to Delhi from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, and it formed a big part of the life lessons he imparted to his children.

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This sense of justice is clear even in Vajpayee’s popular speech in Parliament in 1996, before giving resignation as the prime minister. “Satta ka khel to chalega, sarkare aayegi..jaayegi…partiya banegi..bigadegi… Magar Ye desh rahna chahiye, is desh ka loktantra Amar rahna chahiye. (In Democracy, winning or losing elections, parties will come and go. But our nation must remain united, our democracy must remain eternal),” he said, almost reminding everyone why Jawaharlal Nehru had once remarked how this young MP from the opposition showed “immense possibilities”.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as Prime Minister of India for three non-consecutive terms between 1996 and 2004. (Express Archive photo)

Yesterday, my father’s voice was trembling when he narrated another Vajpayee story on my insistence. Apparently, when Vajpayee was an MP, he used to have juice outside Parliament daily and developed an affection for the seller. When Vajpayee became the prime minister, the juice seller went to meet him. Seeing his friend, Vajpayee hugged him with his usual warmth. When the juice-seller came out, he told people that Vajpayee was still the same, simple, generous man he knew.

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Surjeet Singh Barnala with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Parkash Singh Badal. (Express Archive photo)