We, the people of India- create the heartbeat of India ~ Rashmi Subramanian
My parents have the knack of preparing the best filter coffee. On a rainy July morning, I was busy with the routine of sorting files in my laptop and getting accustomed to the ‘New normal’. My father keeps a cup of steaming filter coffee in the steel tumbler near my study table. At that same moment, I encounter a folder within my backup folder that is titled ‘Political Science Assignment Pics’. The double click on it took me down a trip so nostalgic that I felt amazed at how things fall into place in this life.
7 Years Ago
The 16-Year old me entered the office of the corporator of Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation. I am sceptical about too many things. But, the target to interview her for my political science assignment keeps me motivated and instills the necessary confidence. The term ‘politics’ excited me like nothing else. When the rest of my class opted to create a small section for ‘civics’ within an existing history notebook, I was the child who dedicatedly maintained separate notebooks for both the subjects. The same dedication made me continue these subjects in college.
The topic of my assignment is ‘Women Reservation in Urban Local-Govt. Bodies’. I actually saw my peers hunting for easy answers and solutions on Google while I decided that nothing can beat the depth of a field visit or an in-person interview. After a series of approval and permission seeking rounds in my college, I seek her appointment. The corporator is friendly and is also very crisp about the answers that she provides to each of my questions. At the end, she excuses herself for a committee meeting and tells her secretary to provide me with the handbook that details all the work being done by her. Indeed, women have received so much empowerment with the reservation policy (I say to myself). But the answer is never so straight and easy. Petal by petal, the world of politics in my country will open up and give me answers both sweet and sour to absorb.
Such memories always remain vivid in my mind. Some memories indeed become life lessons leaving indelible impressions in our personality.
Seven years later..................June 2020
I became a part of the ‘She-Represents’ program cohort at the Indian School of Democracy (ISD as it is fondly called). We are 22 women who dream to rethink and redefine women in public leadership. There is always a unique power vested with working collectively. A group of ambitious women surely can make mountains move, oceans shake and ignite the fire of change. This is the year the Covid-19 pandemic did not leave any area of our lives untouched. This is the year Dr. Abdul Kalam had written an entire book about (Vision 2020).
I join the cohort as a budding entrepreneur working day and night to reform and improve the untouched aspect of the education system. I shared the most amazing relation with political science and public administration for almost a decade now. At, She-Represents, I realized that there is so much one can learn everyday and politics is no exception. From group discussions to mock parliament, from individual assignments to panel interaction, we as a cohort soak ourselves in learning the nitty-gritty of politics.
I can surely think about the fact that there is dissatisfaction among many about our existing systems and processes. People today are on a constant exploration to find better gateways that talk about welfare that caters to all sections of the society. There are speakers from all segments of the school of thought. There are contrasting and conflicting views but you listen to them. You listen to every perspective to understand how difficult decision-making in politics is. I had a chance to speak and present my arguments in favour of the Women’s Reservation Bill.At the programme, I came back to the subject in a ferocious manner. But, I started questioning the importance of execution.
As I sip the coffee now, I remember Steve Jobs who said that when you look back at life and connect the dots, you see a beautiful pattern emerging. I could see my pattern becoming visible, but it is still too early and just the beginning steps in the journey of public leadership I aspire to take and travel.
What is the need of the hour in politics?
As an individual, I always believe that becoming a citizen requires nurturing of minds extensively. As citizens, there is always a bit of work that involves stepping out of the comfort zone. Politics cannot become an equivalent to social service. Serving the people and working for it is a part of the activities but sustaining your position remains a priority in politics. There are multiple layers involved to the power game. It is for this reason that politics is considered a game every individual plays in all walks for their lives. From NGOs to media groups, politics has taken deep roots in our country.
But the need today is to fill the gaps and realize the importance of collaboration. We cannot succeed in any development or growth project by staying in isolation. We need leadership in politics that harnesses the potential of its people. India needs leadership at every level and all types of institutions. While tussles and fights do exist to highlight achievements, we need to give our citizens the strength of contributing in their ways and methods.
We need e-governance, transparency and accountability to become the talk of the day. We need to start baby steps of creating a culture where citizens realize the importance of every constitutional value. The need for creating informed citizenry automatically translates into a nation that works not just for ‘Good’ but ‘Better governance’ everyday.
How does ISD cater to these needs?
I am a person optimistic and pragmatic at the same time. I do not live in a world that is utopian. I do not dream of ‘clean politics’ very soon. Our society has its shares of pros and cons.
We have made the beginnings at ISD, but I believe that implementation is the key to success from macro-level policies to micro-level programmes. ISD is the launchpad- for brainstorming of ideas and discussions for pressing issues. It is the catalyst that brings forth the need of change. But change is a long process. It is our investment today that will create aspirations of tomorrow and execution the day after it. It’s ultimately the individuals destinations and mode of transport that will yield meaningful results.Change for betterment starts only when an individual creates change at the micro-level.
Today, when I look back at the journey of politics in our country, I am amazed and spellbound at the magnitude of work that has been done. When we attained independence and eventually drafted the Constitution of our independent nation, there were questions raised on whether a country as diverse as India would survive as a nation.
It certainly fills my heart with pride and joy that our country remains a glorious example of embedding practices of democracy from the inception of the first general elections. But our journey ahead is to create bigger and better roads within democracy. A democracy that is not just tall but deep and wide enough for the future generations to walk and take this path without fear.
As a country, we need to start choosing our priorities. As a nation that is looked upon as a bold example of democracy, we citizens need to start fixing leakages one at a time and break every bit of hypocrisy. Every act that we do today will give our democracy the strength or weaken this fabric. It is the apt choices that can paint multiple colours on this canvas to create a bright and beautiful painting of India
(Rashmi Subramanian, Maharashtra, Founder- Paheli Education is a participant of She Represents, Indian School of Democracy)