|Illustration by Satish Acharya|
The girl had black hair, big almond eyes, and cheeks like ripe guava. When she was born, someone might have definitely proclaimed that Goddess Lakshmi had arrived. We should find that person, and if he or she is still alive, make him or her our national soothsayer, for the girl did bring immeasurable and unaccountable wealth and fortune to the family.
In the following paragraphs, I have enumerated a few extraordinary virtues and qualities of this girl, who went on to become the head of state of the largest democracy and the second most populous country in the world.
1. Strong-willed and ever ready to push the limits: Born in a nonpolitical family on December 19th, 1934, Pratibha was the only girl child in the family. Her father Nanasaheb Patil was a wealthy lawyer and a strict patriarch. He encouraged her to study humanities, though she wanted to study medicine. Despite the limited freedom, Pratibha Patil pushed the limits and excelled in studies and sports, and went on to become the youngest Member of Parliament at the age of 27.
Forty-five years later, when she became the President of India, she still kept pushing the limits, spending Rs 205 crore on her 12 foreign trips to 22 countries. Never did any other President have such a good time. Sadly, at the end of her tenure, her last push for a post-retirement home has been thwarted. Due to negative media, she has returned the land, which was allotted to her in the cantonment area of Pune. Her demand for Rs 80 lakh for the renovation of the same home has also been denied and she has been granted only Rs 20 lakh, which will be barely enough to buy peanuts for the guests. So much for the time she spent in the wilderness of Rashtrapati Bhawan in the service of the nation.
2. Family-oriented, respecting the elders, pativrata, traditional: Though she entered public life early, she has successfully maintained the balance between her career and family. Before marriage, she respected her father’s wishes and always dressed modestly with her head covered with a pallu and face sans makeup. And when she became an MP, Nanasaheb found it difficult to find a groom for his high-profile daughter. It is said that Devisingh Shekhawat’s family took a year to do a background check on the prospective bride.
During her tenure as President, besides the usual entitlements, the son received extraordinary political mileage and free rides with mommy to far-off countries for personal business. The husband also got a free hand in influencing appointments etc. For your information, the husband and the son have their independent careers, and both of them are worth crores of rupees. The family is united in all their efforts, and their love for land is exceptional and well known.
3. Kind, loving, benevolent: You might have heard about the insolvency of sugar cooperative and the cooperative bank founded and headed by Pratibha Patil. She had been extremely generous as to waive the loans for her relatives, amounting to crores of rupees. Some people accuse her of depriving the depositors—poor farmers, laborers, rag pickers—of their hard-earned money. Seriously, even if those people had gotten their money back, they would have frittered it away on booze and other trivial matters. Any sane person would look after the interest of his family and relatives against the beggarly and destitutes out there. Her Highness also saved some of her relatives from murder charges. She has proved herself to be a true friend, protector, and a benefactor.
4. Simple trusting nature: Pratibha Tai is such a trusting person that if some conman with strange hair in white or orange robe tells her that he is God, she believes him. A woman, called Hridaymohini Dadiji, once conned Pratibha Patil into believing that a dead god-man Baba Lekhraj's soul had entered into her body and he was speaking through her. People, please stop making fools of our dignified leaders!
5. Loyalty: It is a well-known fact that Pratibha Patil's honesty, devotion, and loyalty to the Gandhi family have made her the President, but when a Rajasthan Minister, Ameen Khan, repeated the same while addressing party workers, for reasons unknown, he was asked to resign from his post. Her loyalty has certainly paid off well. Let us hope that a few jealous people do not spoil her lavish retirement plans. Even dogs are kept in full comfort by the owners when they get old.