It is odd to address a chief minister, especially one who is a former royal, as one’s subject. But such are the circumstances under which I write this Sunday piece, which, is to talk about my journey while writing The People’s Maharaja, the authorised biography of Captain Amarinder Singh. Also, to congratulate him on his electoral success and, of course, bring to attention, what Punjab chaunda (wants) from Captain, since Punjab has given a mighty verdict on the ‘chaunda hai Punjab Captain di sarkar’ campaign. Frankly, for a biographer, nothing else can be more gratifying than to see his or her subject flourishing, rising and attaining new heights. For not only does it vindicate the biographer’s position as to why he chose to write about that particular person, but it is a reassuring feeling that the time spent penning the biography was well worth it. In my case, five years.
Writing a biography is akinto a sea voyage whereby you keep refuelling your pen and riding the waves even if turbulent at times. It isn’t like ‘tel andar, gaddi Jalandhar’. It comes with its set of challenges and experiences, finally leaving you enriched. One important takeaway from the voyage was how my subject set himself as a model for an objective biography, and never even once tried to dictate the narrative. Is there any other political leader in India open to an impartial biography? This is a question I leave to the discerning reader to decide.
The biography is done with, and it is business as usual for me. I am back at my Sector 11 coffee shop in Chandigarh, writing this column.
However, in Captain Amarinder Singh’s hands is the future of Punjab. The task undoubtedly is odious, but that’s precisely the reason people have voted for him. They have shown faith in his ability to overcome the odds, even though the impediments are many.
However, they can be vanquished through good intention, well thought out policies, and a constructive narrative. As a biographer and a commentator on Punjab for the last so many years, I can tell you that the new chief minister’s body language is positive, and so is Punjab’s state of mind, respectively. Punjab is in an upbeat mood. It is ready to shun the despondent narrative, which was unleashed on it during the elections. It is ready to soak in the new path their leader will choose for them. In other words, this momentum should not be lost hargiz.
WALK THE TALK
To achieve this is not rocket science, and all that the government has to do is walk the talk. Its policy has to be carved out in a manner where it’s just not with the intention of fulfilling poll promises. There is marked difference when you plan a manifesto and draft a good policy. For example, agriculture will never come out of its crisis till it becomes viable. The perfect yardstick would be when a young non-farmer seeks this as a profession too.
World trends are changing quickly. In fact quicker than the time a sarkari file takes to reach the adjacent table. Punjab will have to go for ‘Punjab on top’ position to latch on to global opportunities. A crack team with some of the most efficient and brilliant brains will do the government no harm. No, purana type babu please. He’ll just huff and puff. School education and infrastructure needs more than just a revamp. On the ground, schools have turned into kitchens. Jokes apart, the tabs or smartphones are the new slates, and policy has to be ideated and designed with such thoughts. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and money.
Obviously, all this is in the notice of the new government, and the column rant is an outside view. However, what is clear is that the stage is set for the new chief minister to metamorphose himself from being the People’s Maharaja into an architect of modern Punjab. Go for it.