You Were Wrong Mr. Shakespeare
A true statesman, Atalji was an icon of this era and that icon has left us today, leaving behind a legacy that is as inspirational as it is admirable
“What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
- William Shakespeare
It’s rare to find someone who was named even before he was born. I am one such individual.
On a hot sunny afternoon in the year 1977, crowds poured onto the streets of a small town in Central India, Jabalpur. People jostled for space, rubbing shoulder to shoulder with one another, causing traffic to come to a standstill right from the landmark Clock Tower to the popular theatre, Jyoti Talkies. Such incidents were extremely rare. The entire city had come together to witness a young leader addressing them at a public event. When he took to the stage, microphone in hand, people listened to the bright and energetic young man for hours. He spread a strange energy among his listeners as they listened in rapt attention. They could not stop admiring and appreciating his gift of the gab and he spoke for all of four hours – he was tireless, so was his audience. The event catalysed several changes for India. A new student leader, from the Janata Party, - Sharad Yadav - was born. Former PM Indira Gandhi lost the elections for the first time ever and a resurgent new India was born.
At the event in Jabalpur, there was another young man who had been listening with admiration to this bright and talented young man’s speech. He decided to name his unborn child after this charismatic leader – and this is how I was named:
And Shakespeare once famously said – What’s in a name?
From my birth to this day, not a single soul would have called out Atalji’s name or heard the name as many times as I have. He has always been with me – inspiring and motivating.
There are quite a few things in life that are destined – like my name, and an unmistakable connection to Atalji’s life. I was born in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India and studied at Gwalior which is Atalji’s birthplace. At the age of 8 years, when I first held a microphone in my hand and delivered a speech on stage, people knew instantly that I was inspired by my distinguished namesake. With the passage of time, Atalji travelled across the world and brought glory to the country with his oratory and back home, I, like a true follower, shone at speech competitions, debates and recitation competitions. My name made me an object of attention among people – whether it was in jest or in appreciation. Some told me they would never forget me for being Atal Bihari. Others asked me if I was married!
His went through several highs and lows during his journey starting from the Foreign Minister in the Janata Party Government to becoming the Prime Minister of India, leading the BJP Government. However, the manner in which he conducted himself with courage, dignity, and generosity is commendable and unparalleled. A great man is admired by friends and foes alike and Atalji was one among such rare gems – a true Bharat Ratna.
He was born and brought up in Gwalior, and it is here that he lost an election, though he would go on to win from Lucknow. But he continued to grow in stature. Atalji was the only politician who won the Parliamentary elections from four different states – M.P., U.P., Gujarat, and Delhi – he was a true representative of a rich and diverse country like India and clearly, his appeal transcended all barriers. Throughout his journey, some things in his life never changed – truth, courage, and dedication. Till this day, his contribution towards creating the image of India as a solid, robust, liberal economy for the rest of the world, is unmatched. For years I have followed the great man, through his writings, speeches and debates and my name always reminds me how labour and courage can help me win any battle in life, just like he did.
A true statesman, Atalji was an icon of this era and that icon has left us today, leaving behind a legacy that is as inspirational as it is admirable. I am fortunate to have shared a name with a person who was an era in himself and an inspiration to many generations to come.
Today, this insurmountable void that has left me feeling incomplete. Though he is no more with us, his name- my name- will keep inspiring generations of Indians in the times to come.
I would be eternally grateful to father for naming me after him.
My most heartfelt and respectful tribute to Atalji.
But Mr. Shakespeare, you were wrong!!
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