It is not quite often that you get to hear the stories of how leaders got to be the leaders that they are from the horse’s mouth. I had the terrific experience of listening to one such story.
The main protagonist in this interaction is a senior politician belonging to Kerala. Known all around for his simple looks and impeccable character, he is someone who has stood by his socialist ideals all along. One drawback we can associate with him (although not a fault of his) is that he owes to allegiance to a party that is usually a one man team in the assembly, but scrapes through due to coalition support from the communists.
He was in my office last week, and spent some time in my cabin interacting with me.
Below is an excerpt from the eventful part of the treatise:
“It was the year the Chinese invaded us… it was Nineteen Hundred and….”
He was fumbling with the dates….
I helped him out to compete the date. I was, and still am a good student of history, so I don’t bungle up with dates of historical significance much.
“Yes… 1962… That was the year I was studying for my SSLC” – he responded. SSLC is the equivalent of matriculation in Kerala.
“I had a gold ring on the small finger of my right hand. It was a golden one… quite small and insignificant by today’s standards. But there were very few school going boys of that time who would be decorated with even such a small piece of ornament. But I had it, and was proud of it. It was a gift that was given to me by my mother’s sister, and even though it was worn on my finger, it was close to my heart.”
“In those days of war, there was severe financial crisis across the country. We were all small boys then, and could not comprehend much of what was going on then, but we all understood that our country was in trouble and needed us to come forward and help in whatever way possible from us.”
“Then there came the day when there was a collection going on in school for contributions towards the national fund for helping out our soldiers. The amount that came in as donations from my school was nothing much to be impressed about. After all, there was a limit to what school children of those times could contribute.”
“Something inside, pushed me to do something that would change my world. A moment of truth.”
“I moved towards the bucket where the contributions were put, removed the golden ring from the little finger of my right hand, and dropped it there.”
“There was pin drop silence. When everybody realised what I had done, I had become an instant hero of the school. The hero – who gave up his most valuable belonging for the benefit of the nation.”
“This episode reached the ears of all those responsible. I was soon selected as the school leader, and from there began my journey of service to the nation. From school leader, soon I rose up the ranks, to be a MLA, Member of Parliament and even a Minster in the State Cabinet.”
“There is one small anecdote too, after this incident, till this date, I did not have the luck to wear a golden ornament ever….”
The above chronicle generated quite a lot of interest in me. It brought about an instant refreshing thought about how destiny works out its own ways of identifying the leader from among the group. To borrow a quote from John Davison Rockefeller, the famous American industrialist and philanthropist, “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great”.
This is exactly what he did, and he achieved success soon after.
And thus is the story – how Ramachandran PV became Ramachandran Kadannapalli.
*As told to me in a casual conversation in Malayalam by Shri Ramachandran Kadannapalli, ex MP, MLA and Minister for Government of Kerala.