He is the quintessential gentleman. Mild- mannered and soft-spoken, lawyer –turned-politician, Raashid Alvi is a connoisseur of Urdu and Arabic literature.
Born in a middle class family in Chandpur, Bijnore, Uttar Pradesh, on 15th April 1956, Alvi is the eldest of six children of freedom fighter, the late Malik Irfan Ahmed, and the late Islama Khatoon, a devout Muslim lady.
“My life has been full of struggles,” Alvi reminiscences. “I lost my father when I was yet to complete my education.” From thereon, he undertook his professional quest as a journey of learning and living. “And perhaps this is how a science graduate decided to pursue LL.B. from Agra University and soon found himself assisting the illustrious lawyer, P.P. Malhotra, in the Delhi High Court, in whom he found his mentor. Later on I joined Mr Kacker, former law minister of the country. It was a learning experience to assist such stalwarts of law. I gained immensely from them,” says Alvi.
Several transitions mark his life and, perhaps, the most significant one was when Alvi forayed into the Indian political scenario and joined Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) under the leadership of Mayawati. “Law took a backseat then and I devoted my entire time to politics… I always desired to serve the people of the nation and politics gave me that opportunity.” he quips.
Prod him further and this history and art aficionado cites Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Azad as his inspirations to enter public life and endeavour to serve the nation. “Moreover, I was always involved in student politics and performed well as an orator and a debater. All these activities added up to strengthen my political vision,” he reveals. This comes as no surprise as he has participated in more than five thousand national and international debates on the television.
Personifying the adage that change is the only constant, Raashid Alvi’s journey did not stop at becoming BSP’s Member of Parliament from Amroha, UP. He was the leader of the Parliamentary Party representing BSP in the Lok Sabha from 2000 till 2004. Yet again, it was time for him to take an important decision; and this time it was about leaving the BSP and joining the Congress. Presently, he is the party’s national spokesperson. Honorary Advisor of the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Parliament of India.
Far-sightedness and individuality of thought are two essentials in the making of a good politician and leader, opines Alvi. “Knowledge of history is important.” History helps one shape one’s vision for the future. If you want to govern the nation, you should have a perspective, a visionary thought,” he emphasizes.
Taking a walk back in time, this seasoned politician recollects the trials and tribulations that were instrumental in his metamorphosis from a small-town boy to a name to reckon with in the arena of Indian politics. “Times were hard. To sustain oneself on a small salary in a city like Delhi was quite a task and that too with the responsibility of five younger siblings and a mother. It was a handful but I was unrelenting and never lost sight of my goal,” he recounts.
Unperturbed by the humdrum and mayhem that are a part of political life, Raashid Alvi prefers to live a simple life. “I do not have time for gadgets or gizmos,” he states in his unpretentious style. “Instead, you may find me indulging in a game of chess with either of my two sons, especially my younger son. He has the potential of being a good chess player,” he quips with a hint of paternal fondness. Reticent to discuss his personal life, Raashid Ali chooses to describe the role of his wife, Nayyar, in his life in a simple yet meaningful statement. “My wife is an M.Sc. degree holder from Aligarh Muslim University. She could have pursued a professional career. Yet, she chose to stand by me as a support and relegated to herself the job of raising our two children and managing the household.”
A man with an unostentatious lifestyle, he likes simple home-cooked meals. His eyes shine with childlike exuberance as he describes his love for mangoes. In his free time he likes reading or writing. “I love books, especially ones on Indian history.” “If we do not know our roots well, we shall never be able to set our future right,” he remarks. His penchant for writing has resulted in resulted in several published articles in newspapers and magazines like The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Hindu, India Today as well as various research papers on Urdu literature.
Besides being a books zealot, Raashid Alvi is an avid traveler. His work has taken him around and beyond the territories of India. “Yet India is the destination that I love,” Alvi expresses with wanderlust in his voice. His favourite of course is his hometown, Chandpur. “India has several marvelous places to explore. Be it Kashmir, the heaven on earth, or the divine Vivekananda Point at Kanyakumari or Cherrapunji, the place that once received the highest rainfall in the world, our country has such magnificent natural beauty that one need not travel abroad for a holiday. Go visit the water falls in Jabalpur, and you shall forget Niagara,” says this patriotic politician.
Bereft of any arrogance and with infallible honesty, Raashid Alvi continues to traverse the many ups and downs of life. A politician, a leader, a lawyer, he has his feet firmly on the ground and an unencumbered vision to fulfill his duties towards his land and its people.
We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin (Lexis). The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in Hardbound is priced at ` 5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C-27, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001. firstname.lastname@example.org