The crowd was cheering “Jab tak Suraj Chand rahega, Atalji tum Amar rahoge” and just then a coffin draped in the tricolour came out of the gates of BJP headquarters on the Gun-Carriage truck and the cheers just burst louder with petals of rose falling on it as if the Lords in the heaven were paying their tribute to “Bhishma Pitamah” of India, and then I saw a face,blackened due to the embalment with white silvery hair as fresh as they could be with a mark of that known ‘serious serene silence’ on his face. It was BHARAT RATNA SHRI ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE. For a moment it carried me into years of nostalgia where I forget the place where I was standing, and just as my hand brought out the few petals of flower which I had carried all the way from Pushkar along with the threads of the Ajmer-sharif, the voice from within said “Ye…achi baat nahin hai” (in the typical style of Atalji),just then a SPG staff took the thread and the petals from my hand and laid it on the coffin. This was that moment where along with that coffin the most identical memory of my childhood was also going, tears rolled down my eyes,as a part of me rested in peace,I silently marched along the procession,making its way through the sea of humanity.
Rarely are people paid tributes in their own words but rarely do people like Atal Bihari Vajpayee also take birth. The only words that could have described his journey in the best way were his own, as in a lifetime there can be only one Vajpayee. That line “मेंजीभरजिया, मेंमनसेमरूँ, लौटकरआऊँगा,कूचसेक्योंडरूँ”. He lived his life fully to see his prophecy come true about a day when his LOTUS will bloom all over India and today even when death knocked at his door step he kept it waiting till the end of Independence Day so that the Tricolour doesn’t fly at half-past and the country mourns his death instead of celebrating the birth of India. When have you or when will you now see in this century the President, the Vice President,the Prime Minister and around 30Governors of different states, 23CMs from different regions and nearly Thousands of lawmakers marching behind the corpse of a statesman? When will you see heads of 7 SAARC countries and their representatives coming down to pay a leader floral ridge on behalf of the citizens of those countries? When will now ever the diametrically opposite ideologues stand hand in hand,shoulder in shoulder to pay their homage to a leader with a Pan-Indian appeal. When the top LEFT WING leadership keeping aside all differences enters the headquarters of The RIGHT WING, when the congress workers put up posters condoling the grave loss,it speaks volume about the person. Certainly he was the one and the only Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji.Again in his own words “में अटल भी हूँ और बिहारी भी हूँ”
Amongst the crowd that had gathered to pay their respect and have a glimpse of their beloved leader there were many who were of my age group or as I may say “the kids of the 90s”. Those were genuine loves and affections pouring out on the streets of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg. Most of them may have never had the privilege to meet Vajpayeeji in person because by the 90s he was the PM of India. To be honest whether for 13days or 13months or , for that time period of 13years(1996-2009) he was there in our concise as India’s one and only Prime Minister figure. Vajpayeeji self-exiled from public life in 2005 after BJP celebrated its Silver Jubilee, but thanks to the soft spoken and rule book type Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, we kept on missing the voice, the poems and the persona of Atal Bihari Vajpayee ,whenever someone mentioned about the Prime Minister of India. BJP may be boasting about “Modi-wave” or “Shah-Neeti” but not to forget even in his silence and exile,his mere presence was a reason why many first time voters in 2014 actually voted for the BJP because it’s “Atalji’s Party”. I am no political expert but I can certainly say that even in the years to come this lot will still support the BJP as long as the mere name of Atal Bihari Vajpayee is attached with it. I have not seen Gandhi, Nehru or MGR who as I have heard had some of the biggest number of funeral attendees, but they were all actively active when they died so sudden emotional outburst is obvious, but our Atalji was out of sight for 11years yet he ruled our hearts and minds. He lived,he lives and he will continue to live with us through his poems, through his speeches and through his wits and humours.
Anyone who aspires to become an orator should follow Atalji for it takes guts to silence once worst critic without even using a single derogatory word.That famous speech during the ‘96 no-confidence motion where people said “वाजपेयी तो अच्छा है, मगर पार्टी ग़लत है” to this his one lined reply “अच्छा तो अछे वाजपेयी का क्या करने का इरादा है?” Was powerful enough to shut all his critics and impactful enough for all his admirers. Probably this is why the sea of humanity that poured in to see Vajpayee was chanting “People’s PM”. He was truly the People’s PM and only he could have given this country its People’s President in the name of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
The youth of today especially those of my generation, those born in the 90s will remember Vajpayeeji as the PM who brought cellphone and internet to our lives and thus it was obvious that #Vajpayee ruled the Trends of every damn social media from Twitter to WhatsApp, Google to Facebook, Instagram to Quora, YouTube to Smule it was all coloured in the flavour of this great Son of India. Many of which probably Vajpayeeji himself never saw in his active lifetime. By the time Facebook came in and around 2009-10 Atalji had delivered his last public speech in 2007 yet Facebook was flooded and is being flooded, hopefully continues to remain so on every 25th of December to wish Atalji “Happy Birthday”. Alas! Wish he was fit enough then to have at least read all that love, may be his health would have had some positive effect. The roads on which we smoothly travel today all around Indian and the roads that brought close the villages of our country to basic amenities of life are all but the brain child Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He was like 70 or more when he became the Prime Minister of India but with his vast experience of over 40years of being in opposition he grasped the real need of this country and gave its economy the real boost, our defence the timely sharpness and our neighbours the right message of peace. Rail-Road-Air all connectivity improved like never before in his period and then he dreamt of connecting the River- this if implemented ,probably the floods of Kerala and droughts of Bundelkhand will be a matter of past. Be it the dream of Chandrayaan or the coining of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan Jai Vigyan” all of it shows why Vajpayee according to me should be called the “Father of Morden India”. Gandhi- the father of independent India saw a dream which was truly lived in person, spirit and power by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This is the legacy, this is the euphoria, this is the flavour of Vajpayeeism that kept him in our mind and heart even in his absence from public life.
Today when all these emotions were marching along the streets of New Delhi, the world was griefing the loss of a second Mandela and India was probably bidding farewell to its real “Bharat Ratna”, the only Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He was not Gandhi, he was not Nehru, he is even not Indira and certainly Modi will never be he, he is the one and the only. “Atal” in his identity and “Bihari” in his acceptability….
Many great writers,poets and leaders remember Vajpayeeji in many ways but in the last 72hrs I have been churning about one thing, how do I remember Vajpayee.? A child who lived his entire school and college life with a nickname of “Vajpayee”, I was speechless as to what I have to say. Many of my old friends, teachers and others who knew me and my passionate love for Vajpayeeji as a mimickry artist of his,called me up to condole me, I wondered why? I am not even the distant of the distant relative of Vajpayeeji,nor am I a BJP lawmaker or ordinary worker…but then when those petals from my hand fell on his coffins the picture of 1999 flashed before my eyes, wearing a white kurta and dhoti,above it a golden ‘Nehru-coat’borrowed from my politician grandfather and a lens-less thick framed specs I stood in my colonies annual fancy dress competition and said “Aap sabko Atal Bihari Vajpayee ka namaskar………[winks][winks]….”. Since then Vajpayeeji became my identity. What school, what home, what friends or neighbourhood all started calling me ‘Vajpayee’ so much so that for years I thought he actually lived with me. Vajpayeeji may have given his last public address as latest as 2007 but I have last mimicked him as latest as 2017. With every passing time the aura of Vajpayee and the persona of Atalji started getting into my character and a lot of my lifestyle,my thinking and my working revolved around Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As and as i started reading him and his works, he drew me closer to him, his poems would send a current of emotions across my body and his powerful speeches at times made my hairs stand. That time I was not mature enough to understand the physical achievements of Vajpayeeji but I was, I am and I will always remain a mad follower of Atalji. As a child people idolise their parents, or someone very prominent in their family or in their close circle but for me that place was only for Atalji. He was my conscience keeper and soul-guide. While copying his style of speaking don’t know when he became my style of living,but it’s true he is my guiding star.
The first time I saw Vajpayee ji speak live was in 2002 during some government function in Bhubaneswar and that day when I saw my hero speak, I felt ashamed that I am trying to copy this great man, he is unique, for years I tried to ditto the action and voice tone for his that poem “क़दम मिलाकर चलना होगा” but it’s difficult even today. Then the last time I saw him speak was in 2004 when he had come to Odisha for the election campaign,this time I was lucky enough to see him as close as possible and by luck the flag of the BJP which he had waved at the crowd came to me by somemeans and since then it’s become an integral part of my room. Everyday since then for years that flag has taught me lessons from Vajpayeeji’s life and that is how the invisible bond between Atalji and me grew. When the news of his getting admitted to AIIMS came in June I could not stop myself from going to see him, this time I entered AIIMS as a doctor, all arrangements were made by one of my friend to let me reach that very secured and isolated ward, but as and as i was approaching the ward while discussing the health parameters, I lost the zeal to see my leader in such a state of apathy, that Atalji who once said “झुक नहीं सकते… यूँ कहिए थोड़ा मुड़ गए थे” was lying there at the mercy of advance medical science.
There were times in my school when I was at the peak of my popularity and a lot of it had to be owed to the Aura of Vajpayeeji but then soon I lost some of my best friends in those peak days,there was this sense of betrayal and grief that had engulfed me, then came this poem of Atalji before me-
“टूटे हुए सपनो की सुने कौन सिसकी?
अंतर मान को चिर व्याथा पलकों पर ठिठकी
हार नहीं मानूँगा,रार नयी ठानूँगा
काल के कपाल पर लिखता मिटाता हूँ
में गीत नया गाता हूँ।”
And since, whenever I have fumbled in any phase of my life these lines of Atalji guided me to write and fight with my destiny.Vajpayee became an integral part of my existence, he is there in every possible manner before me, be it my computer’s home screen or my own writing everything had a mark of his. Recently in my graduation years when I was heading one of the largest events of my university the biggest challenge before me was to carry all the factions with me. The unity of all the small and big groups of the college was a key to our success, thank to the college politics. While in search of guidance when I looked upon my idol, I got the answer “ छोटे मन से कोई बड़ा नहीं होता, टूटे मन से कोई खड़ा नहीं होता।”. His large heartedness and empathy for all and apathy for none is not a lesson to be learnt by politicians of today alone, the generation of today and the future must imbibe these qualities of acceptance,humility and benevolence in order to make this world a better place. “वसुधेय कूटुंभकम” is a term many are using now a days, its easy to preach but only a few like Atal Bihari Vajpayee can practice it, live it.
I can go on and on about Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the emotions that are flowing now are too intense to be expressed in words. When the news of Atalji’s failing health started making rounds, as a student of medical science I was knowing that his sufferings are nearing an end but somehow I like the million others was wishing he lived a little longer even in his this silence. Today as India’s that grand old umbrella finally bowed down the heat was scorching and the rains were raging havoc at some places but still once again the nation had come together to shout “राज तिलक की करो तैयारी, अब की बार अटल बिहारी”. In that procession that carried the mortal body of Atalji to its final resting place,my childhood also took rest. Officially having completed the Vedic Age group of Brahmacharya Ashram I was just a day older into my 26th year and that last living memory of my childhood bid us good bye. Yet my leader, my idol even made death wait for his permission. Just like Bhisma Pitamah waited for the ‘Uttarayana’ the Pitamah of our time waited till the end of celebrations of ‘Independence Day’ and then fullfilling his own wish as expressed in one of his poems he himself opened the doors for the waiting death-
“पृथ्वी लाखों वर्ष पुरानी
जीवन एक अनंत कहानी
पर तन की अपनी सीमाएँ
यद्यपि सौ शरदों की वाणी
इतना काफ़ी है अंतिम दस्तक पर,
ख़ुद दरवाज़ा खोलें!”