‘Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna restored India’s self-confidence’

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|Politicians & Literature|

Ravi Shankar Prasad | 58 | Bihar
Rajya Sabha MP, BJP

Ravi Shankar Prasad Photo: Vijay Pandey

I TRY TO read as much as I can. My favourites are biographies, books on Indian history, contemporary political and economic issues, and our spiritual heritage.

Vivekananda has had a profound influence on me. I recently went to Chicago, where I had the privilege of visiting the hall where Vivekananda made his historic speech of 1893. But to understand him, you also need to understand his mentor Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Together, the two of them tried to restore India’s intellectual self-confidence that had been lost in the tumult of western impositions. So I see Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s discovery of Vivekananda as almost divine intervention.

Vivekananda made me an optimist. I’m aware of the problems that we face, but I have an inherent belief that India has a distinct role to play in the world, economically, militarily and spiritually.

Books have also helped shape my political thoughts. I became an RSS Bal Sangh sevak when I was in Class III. So, I have always had ideological commitments, but my intellectual commitments have been formed reading the biographies of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan. I was fascinated by Narayan’s evolution from a Marxist to a Gandhian.

Then there were the writings of Deendayal Upadhyaya. I have read a lot of Ram Manohar Lohia and Ambedkar.

I recently had the privilege of reading the autobiographies of two eminent journalists, BG Verghese and Kuldip Nayar. Another interesting book that I finished in 2012 was India: A History by John Keay. I found Making India Work by William Bissell particularly engrossing. Here is an American, born in India, who realises that poverty is the result of the government’s criminally inept management. It is not inevitable, nor fated. There is hope in this realisation.

The latest book I have got is a collection of the cartoons of Balasaheb Thackeray. Uddhav Thackeray gave it to me when I visited him to pay my condolences. Balasaheb was a lovely cartoonist. I see striking similarities between his work and that of RK Laxman.

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