Sunday Edition

The Rahul I (did not) know

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As an old pal put it, RG owes all of us roughly co-terminus in age with him an apology for the calls we got from our mothers on the day of his accession…

So, he was in your batch in college. No, Ma he was a year junior but he’s older than me by a couple of years; I was always the youngest in class, remember… (interrupts) It has nothing to do with any double promotion you got; I just fudged your age to get you into nursery and out of the house so I could finish my PhD in peace. And he obviously had to skip a year with all the security concerns following Mrs Gandhi’s assassination so that’s just swings and roundabouts… (silence, broken by self)

Yeah, but you know what Yogi Adityanath, who is my age, said, right? ‘I am a couple of years younger than Rahul (Gandhi) and a couple of years older than Akhilesh (Yadav) and I have done it without a famous surname’. Yes, he is the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. You were not raised to be a dynast either so make your own way. But you are running out of time. Ok take care of yourself, bye.

I’m pretty certain a lot of you in your 40s had this or a similar conversation with your mother/parent the day Rahul Gandhi took over as president of the Congress Party. As if it isn’t enough dealing with the first flush of youth ebbing away faster than we would like, though there’s no way any of us will concede we’re not getting prettier by the day, we now have a ‘young’ leader to deal with. Gah. I propose on all our behalf to start a petition making it mandatory for anyone to be at least 60 years of age before s/he can head a political party or hold a Constitutional post and damn the demographic profile and whatever per cent of the population is below 26 or something similarly obscene. Seriously, it’s all getting a bit much now.

I go to buy bananas and the fruit-seller who is my go-to-man for political insights says: “Arre bhaiyya aap to young lagte ho Rahul Gandhi jaise, kuch aap bhi karo.” And proceeds to overcharge me as I get flustered when a couple of auntyjis (who the better half tells me are probably my age) start giggling at his wisecrack. I’m in my jammies and spouse’s castaway shawl plus weird woollen cap, though, so I deserve to be giggled at anyway.

Same day, evening. I’m speaking to my daughter telling her I’ve gotten very out of shape ever since moving to Delhi but I get zilch sympathy: ‘C’mon, Baba — if Rahul Gandhi can find time for Aikido despite being the president of the oldest political party in India you can go for your run and do your weights.’ She obviously takes after her paternal grandmother.    

I cast my mind back to College and remember that RG did come in as a fachch (short for fachcha, which itself is Hindi colloquial for fresher) for a while and one of my pals from a political family who knew him said don’t rag him please so I didn’t… plus I had far too much going on in my own life to be bothered one way or the other. Next time I dropped by college — I think it would be fair to say I was a bird of pretty infrequent passage in the once hallowed portals of St Stephen’s — the same friend mentioned Rahul had gone off to the US or someplace and I thought no more of it.

Rahul Gandhi’s accession, despite his obvious sincerity, has once again induced rethinking by yours truly on the nature of the dynastic beast in Indian politics. First sparked years ago thanks to discussions with the Late Rajinder Puri, that indefatigable warrior against dynasty at a time when it wasn’t fashionable to be so who was so generous with his time to a journalist his junior by decades, I must report that I find the golden mean between the essence of a meritocratic society and the family tradition extant across most political organisations in India which creates an eco-system of patronage still rather elusive. Especially, as I can fairly be identified as being the intellectual off-spring of the Nehruvian state albeit with enigma variations and without partaking of any of the benefits that moniker brought the rent-seeking classes possibly because of a relatively spartan Gandhian-Communist meets secularized Christian ethical code early upbringing before being launched unprepared into an India that had turned on its axis post-1991 economic liberalisation.

So, let's wait and watch if another of the Lost Generation finds his way in any meaningful manner. In the interim, I am switching fruit-sellers.

(The writer is Consulting Editor, The Pioneer)




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