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3-min read

Common ground is not impossible: Rohini Nilekani

D P Satish | dp_satish

Updated: November 2, 2011, 3:42 PM IST
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Common ground is not impossible: Rohini Nilekani
Well known philanthropist and writer Rohini Nilekani's book 'Uncommon Ground' is out.

Well known philanthropist and writer Rohini Nilekani's book 'Uncommon Ground' is out. It is a compilation of interviews she did for a TV channel. Rohini Nilekani spoke to CNN-IBN's D P Satish about her book and more.

CNN-IBN: Normally, TV interviews don't merit a book. Mainly because, TV has more sound, less substance. Most shows lack depth. But, 'Uncommon Ground' defies the myth or stereotype. It is simple at the same time serious. There is no trivialisation of the issues. Were you a little apprehensive about these things before you agreed to do a TV show?

Rohini: Yes, I was. I had no idea if it would work. I also realised the conversations would be uneven. I had doubts about how good a moderator I could be despite the enormous research I had done and my years of experience as a journalist interviewing people. But I still thought it was worth trying.

CNN-IBN: Your introduction shows your deep respect for Gandhian thoughts and principles. Gandhi is back again. A lot of people are trying to be Gandhis these days. Don't you think that in today's World, anybody can claim that he/she is a Gandhi, because our system is so rotten and young people have become anti politics? Is not it a very dangerous trend?

Rohini: I think people like to label other people. We love our leaders to be perfect or at least great and good. We like to put them on a pedestal and expect them to lead so that we can follow. Then we do not have to lead others or even ourselves. It is so comfortable. Because the toughest thing of course is to try and find the good parts of Gandhi in ourselves. And nurture those parts fearlessly. That is where your reference to politics comes in because it then becomes a deeply political struggle.

CNN-IBN: Inclusive growth is a buzzword. Mostly it remains on paper and even the people who don't know the meaning of inclusive growth talk about it. You have been a journalist for a long time. Your husband Nandan Nilekani is one of the most respected and influential entrepreneurs of India. Does this back ground help you to understand the complexities of India? Because you have access to both super elite/rich and ordinary people at the same time.

Rohini: Yes, I feel very grateful for these opportunities. I have learnt a lot from being in Nandan's worlds. I have especially learnt that one has to be less judgemental - things are not black and white, good and bad. We all know this, of course, but again, it is hard to practice. It involves the renunciation of fear, of our beliefs. Our country and our people have to be discovered and rediscovered with an open mind - it is a fascinating journey.

CNN-IBN: You brought people who represent two exactly opposite sides like Sunil Mittal and Aruna Roy, Anand Mahindra and Medha Patkar, Y C Deveshwar and Sunita Narain together on the same stage. Do you think that more and more such public debates are need of the hour?

Rohini: I genuinely and passionately believe this. Whether at Arghyam or in other spaces in my life, I try to continue the work of Uncommon Ground. The time for locking ourselves into our ideological universes is past. In water, for example, the debate is completely and unnecessarily polarised between for- and anti-privatisation. It seems to me that we have to get people to sit down and talk to each other to resolve these things to the extent possible. The same is true of many questions that are dividing us. I am not being naive and saying that dialogue resolves everything. But one never knows when one's mind might suddenly see a new perspective, another angle, and when our egos might go on a short vacation! We have to stay alive to that potential. That requires work - requires us to come forward.

CNN-IBN: What is your personal opinion about some good NGOs and personalities seemingly losing direction by straying into unknown territories? For example, taking sides in a political battle etc.

Rohini: This sounds like a generic questions but might be actually about Team Anna. I have so far not commented publicly about the movement.

CNN-IBN: Would you like to do one more TV show? Or want to write one more novel?

Rohini: Oh yes, certainly, as time and the muses will allow!

First Published: November 2, 2011, 3:42 PM IST
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