Geniben Thakor and her Pink Nylon Cotton Saree

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Geniben Thakor and her Pink Nylon Cotton Saree

| Updated: June 10, 2024 13:08

She believes in the harbinger of hopes. Small pebbles, smiling kids, crops swaying in an open field. And her pink saree.

Her pink saree is one such omen. “Not only is it my favourite saree, I wear it to all my favourite places,” Geniben Thakor says, adding that it did not cost her beyond Rs 1200, with a blouse piece of course. Cotton is looked down upon in her village so she proudly adds, “it also has quite a bit of nylon in it”.

She has been to Delhi but this time, she packed something special. Her favourite saree, her favourite attar, her favourite bindi packet, some prasad if she can sneak in for Sonia Ji and her battery charger. ‘This phone needs to be replaced ASAP’

Geniben with Sonia Gandhi and Shaktisinh Gohil

She has a loud voice. She laughs at how some policemen run away from her before she starts talking because they fear she will bash them up. “I will not do it. I know we can’t in a democracy”, she reasons.

Here is the iron lady of Gujarat. The giant slayer Geniben who ensured that BJP does not win a hattrick. She won a seat and spoiled the BJP game.

Geniben in Banaskantha

Older to three brothers and a sister, little Geni’s struggles began early in life. In between running errands for father in the farm where all of them were contractual labourers, to helping her mother cook, clean and coping up with her studies, all in a day was not easy for Geniben Thakor. Her brothers joked with us how Geniben would run after them with sticks and sometimes even bash them up if they had not done their homework.

The nondescript Vav taluka in Banaskantha has a host of issues. Illicit liquor, water, shortage and poverty being few of them. Less than 13 kilometres away from this poverty stricken Vav is another village. Tharad. It is a clean village with several non governmental organizations, cleanly painted government and NGO run schools, dispensaries, freshly painted signs, beautiful houses,etc. Tharad’s fame is that it is the village of Asia’s richest man and the richest Gujarati, Gautam Adani. Both Genimben Thakor and Gautam Adani from Banaskantha.

Geniben defeated her BJP rival , Dr Rekha Chaudhry with over 30,000 votes. She hugged her and said, don’t worry sister, if you have any work, let me know. I know you were just a dummy. The villain and candidate is well known to me”.

While packing her bags for Delhi, nearly the entire village was outside her home. Will you be having dinner with Rahul or Sonia, Will you have to pay for this dinner, who will pay for the flight ticket? There is an endless sea of questions. But Geniben does not lose patience. Party will pay for the air ticket and I do know where I will be seated. With whom. “I don’t want to just sit and eat but meet all senior leaders”, she tells her son in an almost chaste political manner.

Geniben is 49 years old. Till now, she has contested 11 elections and lost two of them. She can take a joke on herself. She says she lost her first election because she got very emotional when one voter switched sides at the last moment. “now”, she laughs that she would get edgy If some didn’t.

Geniben went to school. Her village only had a primary school when she was growing up so she took a small break. By the time she was in class X, she was also preparing for her debut in the panchayat elections. “I was a bit childish but my father was keen. Rajivji(Gandhi)reserved seats for us women so my father was really keen. He did all the running around and tutored me”. She won.

Guess what she did from the first grant money that she got? She got a high school and a higher secondary school constructed for Vav. So, girls like her don’t have to drop out. She cleared her 12 through distance learning from a Rajasthan school.

On her election in the sarpanch body, she says it gave her the clarity she was aimlessly running for. Suddenly, I was clear. “Mane maari line mali gai”. (I found my calling, rajkaran j karis”,shetoldher family over dinner as they ate homemade bajri rotla and spicy onion sabji. I think that was my first political speech, she laughs

From that day to now, Geniben has contested eleven elections, lost two and won nine, These include the latest parliamentary election from Banaskantha and two assembly elections earlier from Vav. Except for the first sarpanch election where her father helped her, she takes no help from any immediate family. I know they are all for me, I can manage. If I can’t, I will ask for help but so far I have not required it ever.

Over the years and over her political tenure, Geniben has found her political opponent. In the area she lives in , Chaudhrys and Thakors are always pitted against each other. In Banaskantha, Gemiben was fighting BJPs Dr Rekha Chaudhry. Soon when it became clear that Geniben was winning and the Congress was all set to win for the first time in 10 years; she walked up to Dr Rekha and congratulated her. Later, she told Vibes of India. My fight was never against Dr Rekha Chaudhry. She was just a mask. The main player was Shankar Chauhdry. Despite him being the speaker, he violated all protocol and campaigned for BJP candidate Dr Rekha Chaudhry. Over the years, Geniben and Shankaji Thakor have emerged as strong political rivals. While SHankarji laughs out that he does not consider any woman as his rival, Geniben with all her seriousness says, he considers me more than a rival. Sad that he cannot even acknowledge a woman as a rival. I come from an Other Backward Class Community and I am proud of it.

Geniben says in the past I have been wrong criticised for announcing that girls should not be given smartphones. It was a complete twist to what I had said. I had meant that we are a very poor community and girls’ education is low. What I meant was that girls should focus on education and not waste time playing games or chatting up guys on smartphones. This was twisted. That is what you media do without understanding your responsibility, she says as a matter of fact.

Meanwhile, she irons her favourite pink saree.I wore this one only when Priuyanakji came to campaign. I also wore when Shaktibhai (State Congress president came to meet me). He is like a brother and helped so genuinely.Back to the pink saree, she will wear it when she goes to meet Shaktisinh Gohil and his residence to take his blessings and also wear it at the Party dinner.

She is happy and is looking forward to her trip. “I do not have any definite role models” but all the big and small people who have helped me groom remain special to me. I am wedded to the Gandhian philosophy. This time, money was scarce for our party so we started crowd funding for my seat. To believe that the entire seat could be crowdfunded is foolish but this concept of ground funding gave a sense of belonging to the donor even if he gave Rs two. To me, it was a sense of accountability.

Any funny moments during the elections? Several she says. To begin with I am not able to pronounce INDI Alliance. I call it Indian Airlines. But my constitutecny is happy, see they elected me! And yes, I am learning to pronounce it.

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