President Kovind's everyday lessons
With his emphasis on subtlety, simplicity, and sophistication, President Kovind is carving a unique niche for himself in India’s Presidential history
President Ram Nath Kovind has been residing in India's imposing architectural wonder, the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, for more than a year now. He has quietly, with grace and deep dignity, carved new instruments of functioning and reduced the extravagant frills and expenses of the Rashtrapati Bhavan with his simple living and high thinking.
He has added to the devotion of service to the nation in his insistence on the paring down of timings and embellishments that echo huge inputs on time, tradition and human resources. If one has to go by the litany of literary geniuses in the President's Estate in India – Gita documentarian and philosopher Dr. S Radhakrishnan, distinguished statesman and thinker Zakir Husain, commentator and astute politician KR Narayanan, and the ever-popular author and inspirer APJ Abdul Kalam – Honourable President Kovind has to light his own candle and carve his own history in the corridors of Lutyen's greatest monument.
But, in a matter of reaffirming his low-profile functioning and bringing in changes in an understated manner, he has proved in a sombre and subtle fashion that dharma is about doing one's duty and serving society in myriad ways – it is not about blowing one's own trumpet and indulging in overwhelmingly exuberant excesses. President Kovind's humility weaves itself through his many visits through the length and breadth of the country too. His love and loyalty towards India's foundational values of sovereignty, peace and justice within its diversity and composite heritage loom large and clear through his everyday lessons for reasoning and aiding development in the tenets of peace of brotherhood.
One cannot forget the crux of his maiden speech on assuming the office of President of India when Kovind noted: "The key to India's success is its diversity. Our diversity is the core that makes us so unique. In this land, we find a mix of states and regions, religions, languages, cultures, lifestyles and much more. We are so different and yet so similar and united."
President Kovind's words at different points of time make for a very seasoned and calculated understanding of a human philosophy that dwells on universal values of knowledge and human dignity. These are words that must be repeated and highlighted to the Indian youth in colleges and schools in myriad languages. "The pursuit of knowledge and the quest for human dignity are interconnected. These twin goals have been at the centre of the Indian ethos and of our composite civilisation. They have contributed to our diversity, which is our great strength, as well as our open-minded approach as a people. Mutual respect, learning from each other, sharing with each other, and acceptance of alternative ways of thinking and living are not just slogans in our society. They are India's natural way of life."
In a few months, President Kovind has emerged as an ambassador of plurality, and perseverance and patience in one's occupation, no matter where or in what state we function. If Dr. Radhakrishnan was an accomplished scholar, a distinguished philosopher, a consummate statesman and an effective diplomat, Kovind is evolving as a collaborator of ideas and a philosopher who wants to create his own map of a pragmatic and perennial thinker who wants to understand India on its own terms in the modern millennium.
Kovind's personal diaries must be made more public to India's masses. In "Mashobra's Mutualism" penned on May 25, the President wrote of his observations during a morning walk near the presidential retreat in Shimla. "The Wildlife Sanctuary I visited," he wrote, "does not distinguish between one and the other. It provides water to all. Its trees provide shade to all. Its clean air nourishes all. Fraternity and compassion are written into nature's DNA. Whatever else we do as a society, that sense of compassion and fraternity, of civility and mutual dignity cannot be removed from our hopes and dreams for India."
He further expanded his reflections: "Nature does not compartmentalise. Its instinct is integrative and holistic. Nature promotes mutualism... There is a rhythm to its togetherness. And, there is an almost cosmic bond that allows every living being, small and big, silent and loud, to live in harmony, to flourish and to thrive. Human beings can learn from this."
It is indeed a treat to read and reflect on his words. One has to appreciate that President Kovind's love for nature is a Tagorean constant. Rabindranath Tagore's love of nature was profound. For Tagore, the wide-open skies, spaciousness, and tranquillity of the countryside symbolised freedom. Like Tagore, Kovind has, in meticulous descriptions, told us that he also loves haunting woodlands with a textured filigree of sunlight hatching and sombre trees silhouetted against a jewel-like sunset. In more ways than one, President Kovind personifies Leonardo da Vinci's age-old words when he said: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
(The author is a senior art curator and critic. The views expressed are strictly personal)