It was a chance meeting. I still remember how I met Rajani the first time at a picnic event. I was taking all the contact details of the people who came for the event and Rajani was one of them. And at one point while I was trying to juggle multiple things, she even offered to take on my work of getting the contact details.
I don’t exactly remember but I think a few months later she joined our team as a volunteer and hosted a meeting at their house. It was on a Friday night. Rajani intended to not just meet the volunteers, but also wanted us to see the Obama campaign video and have sort of an interactive session. Her view was that if Obama, an unknown senator can win the presidential race then why loksatta can’t pull of an Obama. We all argued how she was trying to compare apples and oranges and how this is simply ridiculous to do it. That meeting went on to till 2:30am or so and till date that was the longest chapter meeting.
But one thing I learnt about Rajani on that day was that she was a woman of conviction. She didn’t budge not once during that entire 5 hour discussion though she was singled out and was the last woman standing. There were also other positive outcomes from that meeting. This sort of a family based chapter meeting became the norm for the chapter. And almost every month one volunteer would host the meeting – I can say without an iota of doubt that this was the main reason the NJ chapter is such a close knit group and we all feel that are we are part of one big family.
Breaking the barriers:
New Jersey has one of the largest Telugu communities in the states and for reasons beyond my comprehension it also had a large number of Telugu organizations. Obviously our paths never crossed because we were outright political organizations and they were completely apolitical despite their unofficial political connections. Anyways Rajani always considered this as an opportunity waiting to be explored. She saw that these organizations had the popularity to gather huge audiences for every event they conducted and wanted to engage them in political debates irrespective of which parties they officially or unofficially supported. Everyone else discouraged her, including me, but she would still make attempts to reach out the top leadership within those organizations and spent numerous hours over the phone, in person, to help create that political awareness and bridge the gap if possible. Sometimes she would drag me to such meetings 🙂 and I would go as well. Although nothing concrete happened, her efforts haven’t reduced a bit. She is still hopeful of breaking those barriers.
The silent leader who led from the front:
When PeopleForLoksatta had their internal elections to elect its eboard Rajani was one of the contenders for the top post. She already spent a good year and a half or more and had built a quite an impressive resume. From leading the college kids in ongole to conduct debates on corruption to running call campaigns to organizing events she silently made her presence felt. Although she never wanted the top post and always happy to serve as a volunteer she took it on as a challenge to prove herself and to prove most importantly to those college kids who looked upto her as their role model.
Obviously she didn’t have a prepared agenda or a speech and also came in for heavy criticism that how come a person running for the top post didn’t have one. Rajani always felt that she doesn’t need to have an agenda as long as she had the zeal and the passion to be ready for the challenges and to take them head on. For someone like Rajani who thinks about LSP day in and day out, weekdays and weekends, who worries about every single controversies, every single shortcomings of the party, it’s very difficult to stay away not contributing more towards her passion. Taking on the leadership role just happens to be one of the ways.
Reviving social legacy:
Rajani worked tirelessly on coming up with the concept, the intent and the purpose behind this event. In fact this wasn’t just any event for her, this was her way of bringing the organizations together, the people together under one roof and discuss about the social fabric that we are trying to weave around us. She spent countless hour trying to narrow down the judges, the participants, the audience, the organizations, the layout of the event, the logistics – of course the entire nj team worked as a team but there was a lot of effort Rajani had put in already before the team started to contribute.
Fast forward to the big decision:
2014 elections had been on her mind even before anyone thought about it. She was silently working behind the scenes, working with the ground leaders, building the trust, establishing the contacts and also slowly influencing the decision making wherever there was a need. But she wasn’t happy with just doing this because her passion was way beyond just doing the mundane.
image courtesy: Surina, my 7 year old daughter (Rajani holding the bags, taking the flight to India)
And then she took the decision, a rather bold one. She quit her job, the one, where she had the luxury of working from home for the past 4-5 years and go join LSP team at the ground level and help them with the campaign for a good 3-4 months of time. This is a very big decision considering that a proper campaign structure is still a work in progress, with way too many uncertainties, she decided to put everything on the line and work for something that she is passionate about. Not many people can do that. People sometimes forget that she is also a mother of two kids. In this entire process, she is very very well supported by her loving husband & definitely her kids, who without hesitation let Rajani do what she has always been passionate about.
Rajani has always been the go getter and always believed in action. She turned criticisms into challenges, turned failures into opportunities and never let anything come in her pursuit of her passion. She has done all this without making a big fuss. Her actions spoke more than her words. So no matter how long a blog I write 😉 can’t match your actions Rajani
I wish you, Rajani the very best of everything and also wish that the same passion and the zeal be with you all through out the campaign and most importantly want you to enjoy the whole process.