Tuesday, March 4, 2014


There was a front page news in The Times of India of July 28, 2012, the title of which was startling for those who were uninformed about Shri N D Tiwari ever since he rather untimely left the Governor’s House in Hyderabad: “N D Tiwari is father at 86”. But isn’t that the age when people ordinarily become grandfathers or even more likely, great grandfathers? It was a help that there was a very short but very informative subtitle: “DNA Test Nails Congress Leader in Paternity Suit”. The news report and Tiwari’s reported reaction said quite a bit about the matter for the uninformed to be informed. Incidentally, the episode reminded us that fatherhood is a social fact, not just a biological one: one is a father when one is socially accepted or legally declared a father. 

The grand old leader seems to have felt wronged. His plea for not making the DNA report public was rejected by the Court. He had reportedly pleaded for the above on the ground of his “right to reputation”. The Court had rejected too his earlier request the he be not pressurized into giving his blood sample for the DNA test. Fate was unkind; it was neither gratifying nor edifying to learn that in a culture that respects the old, he, an eighty six year old person with years of public service at the highest level behind him, was almost forced to give his blood sample. However, his reluctance to give it for the DNA test so that Rohit Shekhar’s paternity suit could be settled had not gone well with either the court or the press. When the decision of the court was announced, media reported the matter in a manner that was surely unflattering for Tiwari. Deccan Herald published a piece under the heading “Genes never lie: H’bad lab nixed Tiwari’s paternity denial”. Consider the phrasing; if genes never lie, then wasn’t Tiwari lying?

Tiwari reportedly said that he “had been framed”. He seems to have said that his problem was “his simplicity”, and that some people he trusted had “hatched a conspiracy” against him. He didn’t disclose who those conspirators were. He acted as a right thinking, generous person would. Such a person does not pay back someone who has harmed him in his own coin. In any case, after all, isn’t identifying the conspirators the job of the police? Wasn’t it sufficient that he had declared himself to be a victim of conspiracy?  About Rohit Shekhar, sounding generous, but still not acknowledging that he is his son, Tiwari said he bore him “no grudge”.  As for simplicity being his problem, we know that  simpletons and simple people have always been taken for a ride in this heartless world. 

Kunti in the Mahabharata was arguably a simple girl when she became the mother of Karna. She could never own her eldest born in public, but not because she did not love him. She in fact underwent a lot of silent suffering for denying her son his due in terms of mother’s love. Likewise one might think that Tiwari may have suffered in private for his refusal to acknowledge Shekhar as his son in public. The world knows that many rulers (including the erstwhile ones) often lead (or are sometimes constrained to lead) at least two lives: a private life and a life for the people. There indeed are some exceptions but as the old adage goes, exceptions only prove that the relevant rule exists.

Tiwari reportedly talked about his rights: right to live as he wanted to live and right to reputation. Besides, the paternity issue was his “personal problem”, and therefore, he advised everyone, he should be left alone. In this world full of problems, one’s fatherhood is certainly one’s personal problem, but in the rather unusual circumstance of contestation of a “fatherhood –denial” assertion, it arguably does not remain one’s personal problem. As for his advice that he be left alone, he might have noted that he indeed has been. Apart from the unnamed conspirators, no one has tried to sully his reputation. Neither the political parties nor the media have brought his delicate situation into the public domain, despite its clear news value and marketability. There may be much insensitivity around, but one has to acknowledge that in our country there surely is consideration for the elderly. 

Occasionally one does find the issue raised and debated in the media of what is personal and for that reason must not be discussed in the public domain, though much of it is unenlightening, which is not unexpected considering the numerous problems in distinguishing between what is personal and what is not in specific instances. Today there may only be a few who would support the idea that for the public figures, at least the eminent ones among them (a category that would certainly include ND Tiwari), their life must be an “open book”, as Mahatma Gandhi said about himself.

Shri Tiwari wears a Gandhi cap, which hardly any public figure does these days, barring of course Anna Hazare and some of his followers, the Gandhian. Tiwari wears a Gandhi cap presumably because he considers himself a follower of Gandhiji, and would like us to note it. And this is precisely what makes his demand that the paternity matter be treated as his personal affair so curious and unintelligible to us since it has hurt at least two persons.

All’s Well That’s Ends Well

The time has come to write the concluding sentences of this piece, which was left unfinished for more than a year. As the newspaper reports say, yesterday on March 3, 2014 Shri Tiwari, now 89, publicly accepted Rohit Shekhar as his biological son.