An Ode To My Father – Kaushal Kishor Jain

Kaushal Ji during the victory rally after winning as an MLA from Bhilwara in 1977 General Elections in Rajasthan.

They say art imitates life. If you watch a Bollywood movie, the chances are that the villain will be a politician. That’s because, in India, people assume that all politicians are corrupt. But I know that there are political leaders who care more for their country than they do for themselves, and I am the proud son of one such leader.

My father, the late Kaushal Kishor Jain, or Kaushal Ji as he was affectionately known, was part of the first members of the Jansangh. The organization was later rebranded as the BJP. The BJP has in fact managed to produce some stellar national leaders. Former three-time Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (one of the founding fathers of the Bhartiya Janata Party) and incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are two names that stand tall. 

I find striking similarities between Kaushal Ji’s work style and ethics, with that of Atal Ji (who was like a mentor to my father) as well with Modi Ji, whose political decisions and strategies I have been following keenly. All three men were groomed as leaders by the same political organizations (Jansangh and RSS) and have shown similar dedication towards the people of India. The love for their country, Bharat Mata (Mother India), is unquestionable. Perhaps when you are trained to think of your country as your mother, you want to always do right by it. A patriotic mindset makes you fearless, transparent, and accountable in public life.

The challenge for India today is that political leaders both at the local and national levels lack that selfless love for their motherland. In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases of corruption and sizeable financial fraud confirming the nexus between politicians, industrialists, and the media. With a BJP central government, there has been an aggressive drive to root out corruption in India within the government, as well as in the public and private sectors. As India struggles to improve its image as a business-friendly and a corruption-free country, I am reminded of my father’s work ethics.

In the past few years, I have seen social media play a significant role in forming opinions and narratives about building a new India. It is amusing to see that most of these social media activists don’t understand the fundamental fabric of India, which is woven at the grassroots level. Change in India cannot be brought by leaders sitting in living rooms, who are disconnected from realities on the ground. Being from a family where national politics was the most talked about topic and having interacted with political leaders of different age groups, I feel that politics is all about reading the pulse of the people accurately, marketing your policies aggressively,  and dedicating yourself to the service of the nation with utmost honesty.

This picture really tells a story. It captures one of the protest rallies organized by the Jan Sangh in Rajasthan during the Indian Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975.
Kaushal Ji along with Atalji and many others were imprisoned soon after this picture was taken. Kaushal Ji stands ( with his hands stretched out) along with Atal Ji on the jeep. They are addressing the crowd along with other volunteers of the party.
This jeep had been in the family for many years and almost gained the status of an ‘heirloom’ after its role in transporting important political leaders of the Jan Sangh.

Kaushal Ji’s upbringing as a grassroots worker in the RSS for almost sixteen years built a solid foundation for public life. His passion was visible in everything he did. He would travel hundreds of miles every month on scooter and bike to raise funds for public causes, meet people from his constituency, and to network with those who could support development projects. For Kaushal Ji politics was understanding the pulse of people and backing it up with good governance.

As a Member of Rajasthan Legislative Assembly, my father was provided free first-class train seats for travel, and it was considered one of the most luxurious ways to travel. It was quite a contrast to the early days of his career when as a Jan Sangh party worker he would travel in the basic sleeper class.
In this picture, the flag with the lamp symbol held by a party worker in the background used to be the flag of the Jan Sangh organization, which later evolved into the present-day BJP party.

Interestingly, like Kaushal Ji, I have noticed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also wears his watch with the dial on the inner wrist. My father was a popular speaker for the party in Rajasthan and would often address large crowds at political gatherings. Wearing his watch with the dial facing him made it easier to keep track of time during public speeches. Speaking of wristwatches, my father had an imported Seiko watch, which he wore for almost two decades. It was a quartz watch gifted by King of Mewar Bhagwat Singh Mewar Ji (King of Mewar, now Udaipur, from 1955 to 1971) for campaigning for him. There was immense sentimental value attached to the watch. In today’s materialistic age, people no longer accord such emotions to gifts received.

My father kept a black telephone diary, which names and numbers of his colleagues, associates, businessmen, religious leaders, donors, and others. But he would rarely reference the book before dialing those numbers. When I asked him why he didn’t use the book, he said he had memorized most of the phone numbers. The diary was merely for record-keeping. Those of us who use mobile phones can barely recollect more than a couple of phone numbers. We need LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to remind us of our friends and colleagues.

Despite his success as an elected MLA in Rajasthan and growing popularity with the masses, Kaushal Ji stayed humble and rooted in service. He had to switch tracks from active politics to managing large scale community projects (as per instructions from the party leaders). He never questioned his party superiors as to why he was not given a chance to contest in elections again. Kaushal Ji was a committed volunteer of the RSS. He was a self-motivated person driven by the philosophy, “the cause is bigger than the individual.”

Kaushal Ji was a master at galvanizing both funds and public support for community projects. His talents were put to good use during the restoration work for the Galta Ji pilgrimage site and Keshav Pura village, and subsequently in the setting up of Keshav Vidyapeeth University and the Rajasthan Senior Citizens Society. He was often the custodian of significant funds accumulated for community projects. But every bit of the money collected was well-documented and accounted for. For Kaushal Ji, money was a means to an end, and not the end itself.

Our family lived in a humble home, but our lives were made rich by the interesting conversations with innumerable guests of my father, who were always welcomed with a home-cooked meal. Again, I see parallels in my father’s outlook with other members of the party who rose from the ranks of RSS. All these people were engrained with the ideology of leading a simple life.

Owing to Kaushal Ji’s political and business connections, we were often invited to lavish Indian weddings in Jaipur. My mother, sister, and I would, at times, feel uneasy about being in the company of the city’s elite. But there was none of that discomfort on Kaushal Ji’s face. I realized that my father greeted everyone with the same enthusiasm and friendly manner, regardless of the social stature of the person standing in front of him. He seemed to find real joy in meeting people. He knew that every social event was an opportunity for him to make new friends (and perhaps collect more phone numbers).

When my father was at the helm of his political career, I was but a young child with little understanding of his work, the challenges faced, and sacrifices made. However, some years ago, I read a booklet published on Kaushal Ji’s work and tenure as a politician; it was written by a local journalist in his constituency. The writer had compared my father to ‘Bhagiratha,’ a Hindu mythology saint who underwent severe penance to bring the river Ganga to Earth from the heavens above. Reading these words of praise about my father gave me a new perspective on his contributions as a politician. I now understand that everything he did was in the interest of his larger family, which was the people of the state of Rajasthan. That’s the thinking he had until he died.

Today is my father Kaushal Ji’s 5th commemoration day. He left us as I stood by his bedside; he breathed his last supported by a ventilator. I still can’t shake off the deep sense of loss and regret because I was not there for him in the last moment of consciousness. After his death, I found many of his work photographs, documents, and journals; these papers had been nicely preserved by Kaushal Ji in an iron chest at our home in Jaipur. Looking at these memories was surreal – it was as if my father was sharing his life stories from the afterlife. It was at that moment that the idea for this book took root. I knew I had to share Kaushal Ji’s life experiences with social entrepreneurs in India and around the world. Last year, as a tribute to my father, I published the book, “A Philanthropist Without Money – Kaushal Ji.”

Although Kaushal Ji was a beloved politician in the state of Rajasthan, social entrepreneurship was his true calling. Kaushal Ji used his skills of social activism, entrepreneurship, and public discourse, to execute large scale public service projects in Rajasthan. Notable amongst his public contributions is the restoration of the massive Galta Temple (which was devastated by floods in the early 1980s), the establishment of the Keshav Vidyapeeth University in Rajasthan, and the establishment of the Rajasthan Senior Citizen’s Society. 

All of Kaushal Ji’s social endeavors and projects reflected his grit, conviction, and supreme loyalty for the country. I want every aspiring social entrepreneur to read about Kaushal Ji’s large-scale community projects, work ethics, and fundraising prowess, and walk away from it a more inspired person.

Here’s the translation of a Hindi poem I had written for my father –

You were a fearless personality

Yet you lived a gentle life

The world was your family

You were an epitome of culture

One never knew who all were inspired by you

But those in whom you sowed the seeds of inspiration, still remember you when they meet

The stones that you turned to gold, continue to resonate with your presence ( here the author alludes to the Galta Ji Temple restoration)

The people you gave hope to are now offering that hope to others

Not much has changed in the last few years, perhaps the only difference is that it is now me ( a part of you) who strives to make society better.

Father, you live in my every heartbeat, every day. As I toil in accordance with your teachings, the sweat on my body reminds me of you.

The room where you slept, still bears the fragrance of the mustard oil you used

I too have started using the same oil.

Nothing else has changed in the last few years

All that has changed is that white ‘dhoti’ you would put to wash every morning, is not seen anymore.

I miss you Papa, every day.


personal letters

Kunal Jain View All →

Made in India, Serving Humanity, Living in Safety Harbor Florida, USA. Healthcare Entrepreneur. Author ”A Philanthropist Without Money” Driven by an inherent desire for knowledge and creative thinking, I harnessed my “Mid Life” energies to becoming a student again, challenging myself to take an executive course in ‘Global Healthcare Innovation’ from Harvard Business School and a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of South Florida. Not satisfied with personal success alone, now I’m on a mission to help other aspiring entrepreneurs through mentoring, nurturing, raising funding, and connecting people with more possibilities.

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