The philosopher king


Uploaded on February 25, 2021

The philosopher king

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

There was never a doubt about it. Never! That Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari happens to be one of the wisest and noblest Indians. His latest work, By Many a Happy Accident, vindicates widespread feelings of respect for this man who comes closest to Plato’s idea of philosopher king. 

Although he was not the king, but a vice-regent who, with his extraordinary merit, grew out of the shadow of the king. His trajectory, moving from a career diplomat’s suave life to greater public engagement as the Republic’s veep, was never easy, or smooth.

He was publicly sought to be slighted. Hooligans of a certain stripe never stopped taking potshots at him as a private enterprise. To their dismay they never really succeeded in their efforts, for such men are above honour and affront. 

Over the years I have heard him on many occasions. He has often generously granted me an audience. Meanwhile, a number of professional tormentors have made it a point to snipe at his heels as he moves on unfazed. Such oafs have not heard of the garima and maryada of men like Vice-President Ansari. 

The book, in some of the best prose, dwells on serious issues of national life during his lectures in seminars, ceremonial addresses and other occasions of public life. The profundity of discourse and range of subjects is spellbinding. 

The following is a brief mention of an innocuous episode in which Mr. Ansari was invited by me to inaugurate an IOS conference in Kozhikode. As usual a “controversy was sought to be created” about his visit. He describes the sorry episode in 14 lines, and moves ahead to issues more worthy of his time and attention:

“In the last week of September 2017, I was invited by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam of the Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi to open a conference in Kozhikode on the Role of Women in Making a Humane Society. Given that the sponsor and the audience were both principally Muslim, I focused on the impact of patriarchy on gender issues in the Indian Muslim society and the resultant socio-educational backwardness of Muslim women and its very evident negative impact on workplace representation. 

“After the lecture, a controversy was sought to be created about my visit being associated with some local ‘Islamic’ body that had also participated in the function. It was clarified by my office that I had been invited by the Institute in New Delhi, had nothing to do with any local organisation, was the guest of the state government as per standard GoI procedures and was accorded appropriate courtesies.” 

It is rather a long sad reflection on our times.

Mr. Ansari has described two meetings with Mr. Narendra Modi (once while he was chief minister of Gujarat, and then as Prime Minister). No two people could be so dissimilar, an interesting study in contrast. 

All said and done, we find ourselves lucky to have lived in the same period as Mr. Ansari. Men like him do not come along too often.


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