Priyanka Gandhi Vadra speaks to Sheela Reddy in the guest house of the hospital run by the family trust in Munshiganj, Amethi. Excerpts:
Do you think the Congress is going to suffer in this election because of going it alone?
I don't think it will suffer. Because going with the Samajwadi Party or any other party in any case was not going to be a good thing for the Congress.
Remembering Rajiv: Priyanka with husband Robert and children at Vir Bhumi
You keep repeating that you will not join politics, but as far as we can see, you are already in politics and are a consummate politician at that. What exactly is your concept of politics?
When people ask me about joining politics, they are asking me why I am not standing for elections or getting more involved. But when I'm not here in Amethi-and I'm here only during election campaigns-I go to Khan Market to buy my groceries, look after my kids, make them cupcakes. That's what I do. I am not involved in the political process. When my help is required by my brother or mother now and then for something or other, then they always do ask me (for help), and I do.
Are you involved in some projects here in Amethi and Rae Bareli?
I was involved at the time I was looking after my mother's constituency. But no longer-I've completely backed off from all those things. I pretty much lead a normal, quiet life. I am actually not in politics in fact.
Does it mean that you can't have a normal, quiet life if you are in politics?
I don't think I would be able to.
Why does politics have to be an either/or thing for you?
It's not really an either/or thing. It's got to be what drives you from within. And as comfortable as I look in the situation, and as naturally as it comes to me, there is also a side of me that makes me extremely uncomfortable making this the choice for the rest of my life. It is simply not the quality of life I want to lead.
But isn't that confusing, when you're already in politics?
No, that is why I draw my lines very clearly: that is why I am here in Amethi and Rae Bareli only during the campaign, and I refuse all public engagements, even prize-giving and all that kind of thing.
Why did you make such a severe decision-almost a renunciation?
First of all, I think it's extremely unhealthy for me. I find myself so much happier without all the tamasha, without all the attention, so much being made of me.
But won't much be made of you anyway, whether you come to the constituency or not? You will always be a factor, won't you?
Yes, but how I use that being a factor-whether I use it to create a big political movement, whether I use it to go forward myself in politics, or use it as a means of understanding my own life-that is my choice. The extent to which I am in politics is my choice. I cannot remove the fact that I am born into a political family. Nor can I remove the fact that there are members of my family involved in politics, and therefore there may be certain things that I'm involved in.
For example, they're not available to campaign here, and I can do this job for them. So I do it for them. I'm happy with the small-that's what people don't understand. Because they see this huge opportunity and huge possibility, they don't understand why politics isn't drawing me.
Why is politics not drawing you?
Politics does not draw me because I've been through a whole introspective process about it before. I was drawn to it earlier, thinking that is what I wanted to do, because it came naturally to me and for various other reasons. And I would even say-although I didn't realise it until I was much older-for all the attention and all that. But it's such a trap because it really allows you to think that you are more than ordinary. And then you realise that you are ordinary, you go through a process where you discover that you are just like anyone else, and there's nothing special about you; and what is being made of you is not because of who you are but because of the circumstances you are in. Once you make that separation, then how you want to or do not want to use those privileges and circumstances depends on you.
But what if you can make a big difference by joining politics?
To be able to think that I can make that level of difference, I have to believe in myself as something else. I can make a difference by bringing up two good children. I can make a difference by treating my staff well, by going to Mother Teresa's and spending three days a week there. I don't have to make a difference by creating a revolution. Other people's perception of my destiny is conditioned by what is made of me, not by who I am. I am able to separate the drama that is made of me from the person that I am.
And if your brother needs you to go forward with his ideas of a new politics?
My brother doesn't need me-these are his ideas, not mine. He has gone forward, regardless of being trashed and criticised for them. He has the courage and commitment to do it-he doesn't need my help. No matter what anybody else wants of me-whether it is my parents, my party, my country, whatever, first and foremost, I will be true to myself. I am very happy leading my life the way I want-trying to be a better human being without having to create a revolution or that level of change.
How old were you when you gave your first public speech?
I think when I was around 16-17 years.
How are you so clued in to the political scene?
Because my family is involved in it, I've grown up in that atmosphere. I've always known what is going on. I meet them, I hear what's going on.
You once described your husband, Robert, as "a good man". What did you mean?
He is one of the cleanest people I have ever met. He is someone who is completely comfortable in his own skin; he does not get carried away by anything. And considering that this life (in a high-profile political family) was new to him-it has really been only 12 years since he has been in this life-I think the way he handles it is absolutely amazing. It just doesn't affect who he is. And I think that's really beautiful.
For a wife to say that about her husband, after 12 years of married life, that's something.
Actually I've known him for a lot longer, for 18 years. I first met him when I was 13. He never treated me different-Robert treated me just like anybody else when I first met him. I liked that.
Do your children realise that their life is different from other children's?
I think my children do have a vague idea that there is something different about their family. But they pretty much think that they are like everybody else, which they actually are. But, yes, they do have a vague idea perhaps because of the security around them and maybe because someone says something. Like my daughter once came back from school and said that someone told her that Nani is prime minister. Then I have to explain that, no, Nani is not prime minister.
You said in one interview that you really admired your mother. What is the one quality about her that you admire the most?
My mother can completely be herself. And again, she can completely be surrounded by all sorts of praise and sycophancy, and be untouched by it. She sees herself for exactly what she is. And I think that is her greatest quality.
She is also an extremely involved mother and everything that I have learnt about parenting is from my parents. The way I am as a parent to my children is exactly like her: she was always there for us.
Dad’s day: Rajiv-Sonia at Amethi, in 1984
You have said about your father that he was an extremely gentle person. Do you remember some of those speeches that got him a lot of flak- "nani yaad dila denge..." sort of thing-where do you think that came from?
I really wouldn't be able to say because I was too young at that time.
How would you like to live your life?
I like reading, I like studying, looking after my children and to be left alone to be an ordinary person. I like my ordinary life. On a typical day, I get up in the morning, get my children ready and take them to school. These days I am finishing my master's in Buddhist studies, so I study. Sometimes I make the children something so when they come home there is something nice to eat-they like cupcakes, so I often make them. They come home, I help them with their homework, we relax. That's my typical day.
Since your first Vipassana session to find out who you really are, do you meditate everyday?
Yes, I try and do an hour's meditation at home, but not here (while campaigning in Amethi).
Is that the secret of your serenity?
I hope so. I used to have a very short temper before. And it resurfaced again last year!
Also See: Photos
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
The one big miscalculation Priyanka made, was to make Robert her benami.
However, she is a young, white, female, and the nation is eager to forgive her sins, thanks to the legendary pus*y power.
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