Remembering Rajni Kothari and His Wisdom on Things Political
by Kian Tajbakhsh – January 22, 2016
I met Rajni Kothari – who passed away one year ago on January 19, 2015 – briefly in the summer of 1986 when I had travelled to India for a summer internship. Although we did not have an extended interaction, the fact that he had agreed to my request for the internship furnished not only my first direct experience of India, but more importantly and unknown to me at the time, it planted the seeds for quite a profound relationship with that country. So if nothing else, Kothari played a role, indirect and unbeknownst to him, in shaping the life of a 24-year-old Iranian. For that I owe him thanks.
Estranged at the time from the country of my birth, I was searching unconsciously for a culture I might call home. The opportunity Kothari afforded to this young man, I now realise for the first time, was one of the steps on a path that would shape my life in important ways. From the many tributes I have been able to read, he played even more pivotal roles in many people’s lives, apart from his important social and political contributions. As a result of that summer almost 30 years ago, I was privileged to be introduced to many interesting and influential thinkers and activists in India, some of whom I remain in contact with to this day.
The story of how I ended up in Kothari’s office shows how Lokayan (and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, which is where their offices were located if I recall correctly) was a part of an international network of progressive social scientists.