Remembering Rajiv Gandhi

Published : Nov 07, 2003 00:00 IST

The Rajiv Gandhi Ninaivakam in Sriperumbudur near Chennai, at the site where the former Prime Minister was assassinated on May 21, 1991. - VINO JOHN

The Rajiv Gandhi Ninaivakam in Sriperumbudur near Chennai, at the site where the former Prime Minister was assassinated on May 21, 1991. - VINO JOHN

ON October 10, the ceremony of dedication of the Rajiv Gandhi Ninaivakam took place at Sriperumbudur. President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presided over it. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra sat a few paces away from the "Place of Martyrdom". Present also were the Chief Ministers of Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Pondicherry. Also members of the CWC. It was an occasion to remember. Rajiv Gandhi was at once present and absent. His benign spirit was felt by all.

The Rajiv Gandhi memorial is the creation of architect K.T. Ravindran. It is an outstanding architectural feat. Nothing like it exists in India. It combines beauty with powerful symbolism and artistic imagination. The seven columns represent seven ideals and are erected in an elliptical circle. The seven ideals are Nyaya, Vigyan, Tyaga, Shanti, Samriddhi, Dharma and Satya. The columns stand sentinel over the Place of Martyrdom. This is not all:

A circular platform in yellow Jaisalmer stone, six metres in diameter, covers the earth upon which Rajiv Gandhi fell. Inlaid into the platform are hundreds of champa flowers sculpted in white stone, as though scattered in tribute to him. A rock of red jasper is inset into the platform, marking the place where his head lay. Behind it is a monolithic piece of granite from Kanakapura in Karnataka (the stone has come from the quarry owned by D.K. Shiv Kumar, a great admirer of Rajiv Gandhi) bearing his portrait in stone inlay, using the traditional pietra dura technique. This portrait in stone captures a serene and luminous Rajiv... . To the south of the circular platform is a stone wall, intricately sculpted in bas relief, in the great tradition of Mamallapuram. Carved on it are Rajiv's poignant words, "I am young and I too have a dream... ."

It is, if I may say so, a sublime creation. A fitting tribute to a star who illuminated our lives.

NEW DELHI is the capital of a great country. It is also the home of a police force that is underpaid, over-worked and more often than not clueless. The rape of a Swiss diplomat near the Siri Fort is shameful and shocking beyond words. Are we to join the ranks of lawless, unsafe, unconcerned, hedonistic states, where the law of the jungle prevails. The Delhi police are under the Central government. Far too many policemen spend countless hours on routes, which so-called VIPs use. The number of tin pot politicians who have police protection is a slur on our democracy. The rape of the diplomat must get India a terrible reputation. The culture of diabolical pleasure-seeking is one of the spin-offs of globalisation. A moral underpinning is indispensable for any civilised society.

I am not for a moment suggesting that rapists are the norm. Far from it. Yet, even a single case is a cause for alarm and distress and disgust. The punishment for rapists should be so severe and so prompt that it will put the fear of law in the hearts and minds of these sex maniacs.

THE weather in Delhi has changed. The mornings and evenings are no longer hot and humid, but cool and cooling. The air conditioners are off, the heaters not on yet. We have had a bountiful monsoon and that is great blessing.

The election temperature in Delhi is gradually rising. The Election Commission is doing its bit. No posters on walls, no hoardings, no loudspeakers. Delhi under Sheila Dikshit is poised to return the Congress to office. I keep trying to persuade my colleagues that those of us over 70 should make room for younger comrades. New faces are needed. So are new ideas. More important, there is life after elections. Electoral politics is being reduced to competitive populism. We cannot afford a democracy of the unqualified. Politics and politicians are being given a bad name. Some of us deserve it. Many of us do not. A politician is accountable each day. He/she can make no excuses. The voters are for accountability and transparency. Politics is a noble calling. Why else would Gandhi, Nehru, Mandela choose to go to prison, when they could have adopted a life of ease, comfort or luxury. In our freedom movement, the best and the brightest took to politics.

In the 21st century, we not only need new ideas, but we need to get rid of the old ones. This, as Keynes, the great economist, said "is not easy". Yet persevere we must.

Finally, a word of high praise for our great neighbour China for sending a man to space. It is a great achievement and we should all be proud of it.

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