(left to right) wife, Kamla, daughter, Pratibha, L.K. Advani, son, Jayant and daughter-in-law, Geetika
It is not easy for a politician to balance the demands of family and profession. It is even more difficult for those who practise politics not as a mere profession but as a lifelong mission. Shri Advaniji is one of those uncommon mass leaders for whom the world is his family and his family is his world. He finds happiness, harmony and strength in both worlds. As he writes in his autobiography, quoting the famous American philosopher George Santayana, “Family is one of Nature’s masterpieces. I experience the truth of this description each day of my life.”
Shri Advaniji’s family is compact and close-knit, comprising his wife Kamlaji, son Jayant, daughter Pratibha and daughter-in-law Geetika. All of them live under one roof at his official residence 30 Prithviraj Road, New Delhi. Like his, Kamlaji’s family also migrated from Karachi after Partition. Like him, she too is used to the rigors of the life of ordinary citizens, having served in the General Post Office in Delhi and Mumbai for nearly 17 years. They got married in Mumbai on 25 February 1965. Right from the beginning, Kamlaji has been in complete command of all the affairs of home, from finance to food. Indeed, during the NDA rule, Shri Advaniji used to jocularly say to his friends, “I may be the Home Minister of India, but, within our family, Kamla is the Minister of Home Affairs.”
Jayant and Pratibha have been pursuing their own professional lives. Jayant runs a small business in Delhi and is an avid follower of cricket and has many friends among India’s Test players, both former and current. Pratibha, a well-known TV personality, anchors and produces television programmes for several channels. She has specialised in producing thematic programmes based on Hindi cinema for TV channels. These have featured Ram, Krishna, Shiva, Ganesha and Hanuman, and festivals like Holi, Diwali and Rakhi in Hindi cinema. She has also made a film on ‘Vande Mataram’ in Hindi cinema. These have been widely appreciated for effectively presenting cultural and patriotic values. Among Pratibha’s works are also films on Shri Advaniji’s Swarna Jayanti Rath Yatra (1997) and Bharat Suraksha Yatra (2006).
Shri Advaniji says that he is proud that his children are pursuing careers that are completely independent of his politics. For a long time, Pratibha did not even use the surname ‘Advani’ since she wanted to develop her own identity. This led to an interesting experience once, during the NDA rule, when she had gone to interview the noted filmmaker, Vidhu Vinod Chopra. ‘Are you happy with the government’s steps to promote the film industry?’ she asked him. ‘Not really,’ he replied. ‘The biggest problem our industry is facing right now is piracy. But I don’t think the Home Minister is even aware of it.’ After the interview, someone told Chopra, ‘Do you know who you were talking to? She is the Home Minister’s daughter.’ Chopra came up to Pratibha and said, ‘Oops, I didn’t know…’ He became a good friend of Shri Advaniji’s family thereafter.
If Pratibha has any interface with her father’s political life, it is that he has a fondness to show her films to select audiences at home. She too frequently arranges special screenings of good movies for her cinema-loving father.
About his daughter, Shri Advaniji says, “‘Pratibha’ means talent, and she truely lives up to it. Her thinking, more than anyone else’s in the family, is a lot like mine. She has imbibed my likes, dislikes, my values and traditions that I believe in. I have a special bond with her because she is, indeed, my pillar of strength. She takes care of the smallest of my needs.”
Family, indeed, is the mainstay of stability, strength and happiness in each person’s life but it is especially so in the case of those who choose to enter public life. “Family is where I have experienced boundless happiness, unfailingly and on every single day of my life,” writes Shri Advaniji. “It is here that I have felt loved, anchored, protected, and cared for all through the inevitable ups and downs in politics. So much so, that when I come home after a meeting or an outstation tour, I feel that I have entered a private universe of my own, where I have no worries, no complaints, only a pure sense of contentment.”