The habit of leadership

| 3 MINUTE READ | A childhood memory with Jyotiraditya Scindia


Jyotiraditya was a childhood friend from age 6 to 10, before he left for boarding school. I recall an incident from 1976 when we were all new recruits to Class I at Campion, under the tutelage of the austere Miss. Boyle.

From the warm colours of my nursery school, the relative sobriety of Campion enveloped me into the fearful grip of rules. My early impression of Miss. Boyle was centred around her cold piercing eyes and stern gravelly voice. My resolve to never give her a reason to notice me is how I grew to inculcate a disciplined childhood.

My bag was full of books, neatly covered in brown paper. A diary with a time-table organised our weekly schedules. A sharp bell signalled the end of one period and the start of another. At age six, I was easily conscripted and willingly regimented. Education as a means of economic empowerment may be close to its sell-by date, but its ability to tame people into alignment and allow a semblance of order in a fractious world endures.

There was a long platform in front of the blackboard in our classroom. It faced 40 small tables with chairs tucked into them. I sat on the first row at one end of the classroom. One afternoon as Miss Boyle moved back towards the edge of the platform to make full use of the board, she tipped over and fell onto the floor right in front of my desk. I had never seen an adult fall before and looked with quiet awe at the sight of this symbol of authority lying crumpled before me. A murmur of awkward surprise and chaotic uncertainty echoed through the classroom. Miss Boyle lifted herself up with her elbow and asked everyone to remain seated. Her steady voice comforted me and I waited for her to climb back onto the platform.

But Jyoti walked up to her, gave her a hand and asked if she was alright. Miss Boyle’s eyes turned soft as she thanked him and shared a word of admiration for him with the whole class. I remember being very confused. He was being disobedient and she was being hypocritical. Before I even knew what these words meant, they had already begun to exert themselves in the world around me.

Many years later, as he rose to prominence in public life, I was able to untangle the memory of this incident for what it was. Even as a child, Jyoti had that rare but spontaneous instinct to stand apart amidst an unfamiliar environment and do what he believed in. Our unscripted moments are what grow to most authentically define us.

While the DNA of leadership is a part of the Scindia legacy, all our lives are left to the spectacular whims of chance. From losing his father early, Jyoti has come to a point in his life where a nation seems to turn its lonely eyes to him, to paraphrase the poet singer Paul Simon. The political landscape over the last few decades, cutting across party lines, has thrown up leaders who personify a more earnest sensibility even as they strive to navigate the inevitable rough and tumble of politics.

While he embarks on a new political path, his decision reverberates like a passing wave through a media in constant search of a story and a readership in constant hunt for distraction.

As markets tumble and the fragile interlinkages of globalisation unravel, a leader is one who can inspire confidence that extends beyond the sum of their actions. A kind of illusion and paradox that is large and hypnotic enough to accommodate the unwieldy hopes of a crowd.

But the habit of leadership probably begins, when we learn to ignore the advice of others so that we can reach out and lend them a hand.

(This post was also published in ‘The Sunday Guardian’)

17 thoughts on “The habit of leadership

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  1. Nice to recall such childhood memories and narrate them for the benefit of readers…particularly so as the other person involved is a public figure of current prominence. But the “Tharoorian” language is of particular significance as he claimed to be a good past friend of “Jyoti” – but now agonizes over the political choice made by him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Its always the small things that set people apart. A kind gesture, an out of turn act, something unexpected – these are markers of character and we often miss them. You have captured a moment in time so effortlessly. Thanks for sharing.

    Someone else who was in college with both Rahul and Jyotiraditya once told me these were really good people, kind and considerate and bright. Jyoti must have sensed that the structure he was trapped in was not going to let him contribute on a larger canvas. He jumped off a sinking ship. Lets see what he does with his new-found freedom.

    Thanks for a beautiful piece of writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always read your blogs from start to finish , in one shot.. While thats not intended as a reflection on my reading skills, its definitely intended as a statement on your writing skills, which has a noteworthy characteristic … a smooth storytelling style delivered through a fine vocabulary. A pleasure indeed , given its paucity in today’s written and spoken world of communication.
      And the piece de resistence is always the slice of life anecdotes.
      In this one too , you’ve made us all visualise Jyotiraditya beyond and above his public persona.
      Anand thank you..
      And God Bless


  3. Dear Anand,
    How poignantly you have written about your childhood memory.

    Your style of writing,your vocabulary never seizes to amaze me.
    You are truly talented.
    You have this art of transporting the reader into your narration.
    The way you weave your stories, your vocabulary skills are par excellence.
    God bless you.


  4. Dear Anand,

    As always, your blogs are a “joy” to read. Ananda truly!! The use of words and the short crisp sentences made me read them again and again.

    Thank you and do continue writing. And thanks for sharing this personality trait of Jyoti.

    warm regards


  5. When a childhood companion grows up into a prominent position in public life, the curious mind does tend to go back and plumb the depths of memory to figure out if there was any signs of the later man that he had become, in the earlier child that he was. New meanings are read into old incidents.
    A pleasurable, introspective exercise for a people whose hobby is ‘watching the world’!


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