Perfect co-petitioners2 min read . Updated: 11 Feb 2013, 03:09 PM IST
Subramanian Swamy championed by Supreme Court advocate wife Roxna, uses the system to fight the system
He’s the political gadfly, with a penchant for making headlines, while she shrinks from the limelight: Subramanian Swamy and his wife Roxna are like chalk and cheese.
“If you are dynamic, honest, straightforward, it does affect people. I think he is brilliant. I have seen him with ordinary, timid students, building them up," Roxna says, explaining what first attracted her, a Parsi, to Subramanian, a Tamil Brahmin.
She had enrolled at Harvard University, US, to study math in 1964. Subramanian had just become an assistant professor in the department of economics. “We met casually in the dining room. Professors at Harvard were seven or eight years older than me, so I found it easier to mingle with students," he says. Subramanian received his doctorate in economics from Harvard in 1965, under the guidance of Simon Kuznets, who went on to receive the Nobel Prize in 1971.
Subramanian says: “In fact, I survived IIT (the Indian Institute of Technology, where he was teaching economics and statistics) because of her father, an ICS (Indian Civil Service) officer. They came around (later); the educated class come around."
How does this reconcile with the “anti-Muslim" views Subramanian expressed in an op-ed piece for the DNA? All the more since his son-in-law (married to younger daughter, CNN-IBN news anchor and deputy foreign affairs editor Suhasini Haidar) is a Muslim?
Roxna insists it needs to be read in its entirety: “The op-ed was written three or four years after a book he had written propounding the same thesis. No one seems upset by the book!" Five decades on, dinner table conversation remains politics and law. Roxna admits the journey has been “a bit hair-raising at times" due to Subramanian’s escapades.
Roxna has strong political views: “Dr Swamy ended on friendly terms with Mrs Indira Gandhi. I did not. Mrs Gandhi did make some friendly overtures, I never responded. I disapproved entirely of how she turned the whole country upside down to hold power," says Roxna. “She was tyrannical, dictatorial and corrupt."
When Subramanian was dismissed from the IIT, Delhi faculty in the early 1970s for alleging corruption within the institute, it was Roxna who ensured they were not thrown out of their quarters. “I put furniture against the door, called the police and showed them the stay order, then filed a contempt of court petition," she says.
He rejects labels. “Just because I am pro-Hindu does not mean I must be anti-Muslim. They (critics) don’t know what else to say about me. They can’t say I am corrupt or ultra-conservative, so they say I am the Hindutva type."
So, what has sustained their marriage? “We are opposites, yeah, but not in fundamentals," says Subramanian. “If you know the other is not going to bend and you have the capacity to let go, it is easy for two strong-willed people to survive together."