A better democracy is a democracy where women don’t only have the right to vote and to elect but to be elected: Michelle Bachelet, head of UN Women, former president and defense minister of Chile, in The New York Times
Woman in politics are like daffodils of the garden. But when we talk about their influence, our instinct is to search for the list of most powerful women politicians of the country or the world. Small surprise, there are power lists of active women leaders in prestigious magazines to satisfy our power instincts. However, we shall look beyond the list of powerful and famous to understand the world of women’s empowerment and women’s suffrage.
Besides, we have often complained about lack of female politician in addition to lack of their active involvement.
Meera’s grand father-in-law, Acharya Narendra Dev (Born 31 October 1889, few weeks before Jawaharlal Nehru) was one of the outstanding socialist theorists, His writings on socialism and national revolution, socialist concept, theory and practice, ideals and principles have inspired generation after generation a multitude of Indians, including Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister.
A democratic socialist who founded the Congress Socialist Party and later remained with the splinter group, Praja Socialist Party, Dev is acclaimed for introducing Marxism and Buddhism to his peers of socialist movement. Lohia, JP, Mulayam Singh and current socialist leader like Akhilesh had been looking up to his ideals of socialism for inspiration towards establishing a socialist welfare society, founded on the non-violent means as matter of principle and Satyagraha as a revolutionary tactic.
Carrying forward the humanistic legacy of India’s great socialist Acharya Narendra Dev is Meera Vardhan, his grand daughter-in-law, and the constant companion of his fine gentleman son, Yasho Vardhan. Her journey into generous and genteel world of social work began with the foundation of Acharya Narendra Dev Academy, for educating the children of downtrodden section of society. In the leafy environs of posh Butler Palace neighbourhood, she turned her husband’s home into a nursery for underprivileged kids.
Her mission statement was ‘Each One, Teach One.’ It was the year of 1995 when she created this meaningful edifice in charitable education for children. Subsidized fee structure along with introduction of hygienic nutrients in meal for kids of nursery to fifth standard reflected her pious ambition to serve the humanity. High and mighty were the residents of the neighbourhood. They were encouraged to enroll their servants’ ward for better and caring instruction. His guests from overseas joined her crusade during their Indian sojourn and taught slum children beauty and value of English and other languages.
Meera was born in 1963 to an affluent Hindu merchant family from Peshawar who migrated during the horrific months of India’s partition in 1947 to Delhi. Five years later, Meera moved over to Lucknow. She joined the prestigious Loreto Convent for her elementary and higher secondary education. Meanwhile, her would-be husband, Yasho Vardhan was a next door neighbor and he was studying at St. Francis. For realizing her dreams in design work, she returned to Delhi again and enrolled in interior designing at the South Delhi Polytechnic for Women.
Furniture is meant to be used and enjoyed. Meera looked at every piece of object and furniture as an individual sculpture. There is a beautiful instinct in her to design furniture, interiors, architecture and lifestyle. During her three year-stint at Delhi Polytechnic, 1982-85, she became an elegant artist assembler of designs with cutting edge imagination and innovation.
At the zenith of her interior design career, she designed wooden TV cabinet for Uptron India Limited in addition to helping her entrepreneur father, a renowned automobile tycoon of the heartland in his own right, sell Ambassador cars to ‘Movers and Shakers’ of Lucknow. In many ways, she seamlessly blended her passion and habit between both ‘fortunate and unfortunate’ of the ‘City of Nawab.’
All these days her heart was entwined with the rich heritage and socialist legacy of her grand father-in-law. His advocacy for the abolition of poverty and exploitation appealed to her conscience more than any other stream of social and political ideology.
She aspired to walk in his footsteps and carve a niche in the democratic socialism where more than politics, social democracy occupied centre stage. She would go on to set up Women’s Polytechnic in the Capital and stun everyone with a resounding response. Her reputation as a pioneer of vocational education for women grew from strength to strength. By all accounts, she was winning laurels from all quarters.
With the advent of the millennium, Meera trained her attention towards serving the children of poor and needy through Acharya Narendra Dev Academy. Social work, it is said, is the art of listening and the science of hope. Her heart and mind was in sync with the noble cause in which her entrepreneur husband offered generous assistance.
Goodness is about character-integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage. It is however, more about how we treat other people. Meera is the perfect epitome of these attributes.
Gifted with spirit of service and altruism, 54 years old Meera Vardhan has become the choice of Samajwadi Party, Asia’s largest socialist party, for the Mayorship of capital city Lucknow. Most notable for observers of socialist movement, after three generations of civility and professionalism, a member of Acharya Narendra Dev family has taken the plunge into active politics.
All the credit for the debut of Meera Vardhan goes to dynamic leadership of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and charismatic socialist leader, Akhilesh Yadav, who is also the newly elected national president of the Samajwadi Party. Akhilesh places stalwarts like Narendra Dev, Lohia, JP, Karpoori Thakur, Madhu Limaye on very high pedestals in the pantheon of India’s socialist titans. Imbibing their ideals, philosophies and directives have come natural to the young Turk who has displayed admirably remarkable maturity in handling with knotty challenges modern politics throws.
Once upon a time Samajwadi Party was identified with village and small towns of the hinterland when one goes back to the halcyon days of socialist patriarch Mulayam Singh who cultivated the soil of socialism by dint of hard work, perseverance and confidence in the Lohiaite’s ideals of ‘Hindi Language movement, anti-Technology plank and representation of the socially-and-educationally backward classes.’
However, Akhilesh’s arrival has revolutionized the campaign stops of the party and breached the boundary of its traditional bastion. Urban pockets, of late, have confirmed absolute belief in the ‘Look Ahead’ policy of Akhilesh. Meera has faith in the new-age democratic socialism where women’s political empowerment have received a shot in the arms with the reassuring presence of gentle woman of substance like Dimple Yadav, Juhi Singh and others. Her efforts would be engineered in the direction of advancing the cause of gender equality and more push for leadership positions vis-à-vis women workers are concerned.
Like many others across the country, Meera hails Akhilesh as pioneer of Tech-socialism and torchbearer of socialism. A year after Akhilesh was sworn in as the youngest Chief Minister of India’s most populous province, Meera had an opportunity to call on Akhilesh in his office. And, the reason for soliciting the attention of Chief Minister in 2013 was not merely a simple reason.
She was fighting with the authorities for renovation and maintenance of her grand father-in-law’s cemetery or memorial in Moti Mahal area, which had been in a very dilapidated condition. Hearing about the absolute neglect of the tomb of socialist ideologue, Akhilesh was deeply concerned and he wasted no time in issuing strict direction to his officials for the renovation work.
Meera was impressed with the clarity of thought and focus in Akhilesh’s personality. She found him a straight-talking young leader with a large heart for the poor and powerless section of society. At the same time, Akhilesh maintains reverential relationship with the elders of the family and socialist organization, which by all measures, could be considered a very seasoned behaviour.
Meera Vardhan, wants to follow the ‘Action Man’ feat of Akhilesh in improving every aspects of the city of Lucknow. Already, major landmarks of Lucknow, such as Metro Rail, JP International convention centre, International Cricket stadium, glittering renovation in walled city area, bears stamp of Akhilesh’s ‘#KaamBoltaHai’ development saga.
Each of us must decide what kind of legacy we want to pass on. Being well-educated and a disciplined porofessional, Meera wishes to emulate the ideals of her grand father-in-law as well as mission statement of national president Akhilesh in pursuit of her electoral dreams as ‘Female Mayor’ of Lucknow.
Clearly, education is at the heart of her social initiative. Narendra Dev himself was an academic par excellence. He served as a popular Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University, BHU and Kashi Vidyapeeth in early decades of post-Independence before passing away in 1956. The inspirational figure was a renowned philanthropist. He would make it a point to distribute his salary among the poorest of the poor.
Indeed, as Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of United States, said, Education is transformational. It literally changes lives. That is why people work so hard to become educated, and that is why education has always been key to the great dream, the force that erases arbitrary divisions of race and class and culture and unlocks every person’s God-given potential.
As a representative of the city of Lucknow and bearer of the key, Meera hopes to speak for those, both men and women, who don’t speak or who do not have a voice. Her motto is simple and straight, “Logo ke beech mein, logo ke saath ho, logo ke liye ho’ on the lines of Lincoln’s legendary statement-Democracy is of the people, for the people and by the people.
The size of her dreams can exceed her current capacity to achieve them. Like her illustrious ancestor, she is raring to go for the battles ahead with spirit of a warrior. Meera Vardhan, to speak the truth, is a workaholic as she puts in about 14 hours in pursuit of her passion.