Lord Acton’s postulate, “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”, is one that all of modern Indian society is exhausting itself to upturn. But what if we are the ones setting ourselves up for this failure of power?
You will find many a power list emerging annually across publications. All of them are typically based on net worth, network and net results—the conventional, visible trappings of success. And yet, when it comes to art, literature, beauty, we tell ourselves the number is never the absolute story.
Power is a more rooted, qualitative force. Take some of the most salutary movements in history—the French Revolution, the fight for suffrage, the Dandi March, the anti-war protests of the 1960s, New Wave feminism, the Narmada protests, the outpouring against the gang rape of a young girl in New Delhi in December. Nothing that made the world a better place ever emanated from people in positions of conventional power. All horrific holocausts upon the innocent, however, have.
So, for our Love issue, we began to ask duos not how much they made, but “what have you changed?” Some have saved a species from extinction (here); some insist on breaking away from established power centres (here) and some have involved people in public governance (here) Across fields, change comes in small ways: those who refuse to compromise in their small circles of influence. If you’re an actor, you can refuse to be a lesser actor (here). If you’re a musician, you can push your music through the thick blanket of ignorance muffling it (here). But also, how does a partnership sustain not one, but two Bhatnagar prize awardees (here)?
The people profiled in this issue—teams of amazingly accomplished couples, siblings, parents and children—are a response to this realignment with the value of power.
When the external support system that props up the charade of structural power is not available to you, how you achieve and exercise that power you aspire to, is dependent on who influences you and who inspires you. There is great wisdom in a power tempered by an equal, whose achievements are no less important than one’s own. It becomes shareable, expandable, rather than proprietary. That is the quality of the new power couple we celebrate in this issue.
Gayatri Jayaraman, Issue editor