Suzanne Furtado, an ex-advertising professional, entrepreneur and writer from Bengaluru who took part at the Mysore phase of the march, shares her experience:
From the instant I read about the Bharat Jodo Yatra, it felt like a breath of fresh air. After the series of deeply alarming and unacceptable events unraveling in our democracy over recent years, with an unmistakable shift towards fascism, this Yatra feels like one chance to heal, as a people, as a nation.
From being someone totally disinterested in politics, I’ve felt compelled to speak up and stand up against the ideology of hate since 2013. I felt similarly compelled to join the Yatra. This walk to restore love and harmony in our nation, feels like history in the making, and I couldn’t imagine not being part of it.
Today’s India, where people’s voices, freedoms, lives, are being silenced, snatched, snuffed out, is not where I grew up. What I love most about my country is our incomparable diversity, and my heart grieves at what is happening to our people, our homeland.
To me, Rahul Gandhi’s simple call to all to join him on this mission of unity, to come together to conquer the violent politics of hate, feels like Satyagraha. The Satyagraha of today’s India.
Once, a Gandhi moved our people to join him on a historic march, and, today, it is another Gandhi walking, taking back the narrative from the oppressors.
Once I decided I’d join the Yatra across three days in Mysore, I posted a ‘shout-out’ on Facebook, hoping I’d find more people to walk together with, from my online fraternity. In solidarity with Rahul Gandhi, for our shared idea of India! To my surprise, many responded.
One of the most amazing things for almost all of us, was that we had only known each other online before this, or, even not at all, and we met offline for the first time, six days before the Yatra. Yet, this bunch of ‘practical strangers’ fused heads together as one big, enthused, excited, effervescent being. I dubbed the group the Bangalore Yatri Company.
Group T-shirts, slogans, signs, essential travel kit, endless co-ordinations, and logistics — it was all figured out as a team. And, finally, a tribe of 15 of us made it out there.
I honestly didn’t have a high opinion of Rahul Gandhi in 2014. But, 2016 onwards, it has slowly changed to respect, hard-earned and well-deserved. Rahul has worked impressively in the last few years on turning his initial shortcomings into unshakeable strengths, and has evolved far beyond my very high expectations of a leader to reckon with. He is the only opposition leader who has spoken up clearly and consistently on each and every issue, including, holding his own at countless press conferences. His vision, intelligence and true world leadership qualities come through on innumerable fronts.
Drama, theatrical speeches and costume changes aren’t enough to lead a nation, nor are bold moves carried through with bravado, but zero intelligence or timing. One actually needs that ‘intellectual’ bent of mind that some have made into a nation-wide insult, and the humility to seek opinions and views of others. All the friends who did the Yatra with me, hold this high regard and respect for RaGa. Most of us wish him to be India’s next Prime Minister.
Meeting Rahul Gandhi was a moment I’d definitely wished for, though, wasn’t prepared for, as I hadn’t really thought it would happen. And, suddenly, while waving, he waved back and gestured to come up. I told him about what I do and that I am his huge supporter. The next couple of things I said are to do with 2024 and an area very close to my heart. I am keeping this to myself until it comes to fruition, as I would hate to jinx it by broadcasting it early. Yes, I’m Indian, and therefore allowed at least a couple of unexpectedly illogical moments, I think. Rahul Gandhi comes across as very real, without a single air about him, despite his illustrious family background and political celebrity status. He is totally present, interested when engaging in conversation with all who walk and talk with him. He is comfortable in his skin, genuinely warm. A listener, a thinker, a doer.
The most striking picture I have of Rahul from my Yatra is his speech in the rain, tellingly, on Gandhi Jayanti. I missed it in person, though those who witnessed it called it electrifying; I saw the footage later. The speech itself is simple, no flashy oration or gimmicks. Though, what stays with you is this. Amidst the downpour, he carries on. Unaffected. Unperturbed. Unstoppable. And this is the essence of his leadership. One who stands tall in the present storms, to safely lead us and our beloved India forward to a place of peace and progress.
As told to Amit Sengupta