Life sometimes springs pleasant surprises – and 72-year-old Rajamma Vavathil can vouch for it.
Vavathil, a retired staff nurse, who hails from Wayanad, had no inkling that Congress president Rahul Gandhi, whom she held in her arms as a newborn in the labour room of a Delhi hospital, will return to her native land as a candidate after 48 years.
Wayanad constituency in Kerala shot to limelight after Rahul Gandhi chose to contest from this seat in the Lok Saha elections, besides his family bastion Amethi.
“I never thought even in my dreams that Rahul Gandhi will come to Wayanad to contest,” says Vavathil. The 72-year-old vividly remembers the day Rahul Gandhi was born and the delivery room, where she was in attendance with a team of doctors and nurses.
"It was June 19, 1970, if my memory is correct," she says. As a 23-year-old, she was eager to meet the new member of the Gandhi family.
“You can imagine our excitement about the Prime Minister’s grandson. All of us were thrilled,” beams Vavathil, who joined Holy Family hospital in Delhi after a degree in nursing. “Rahul was a cute boy and all of us took turns to hold him in our arms because he was the PM’s grandson. We were the first ones to see him even before his parents,” she says proudly.
The retired nurse says that though Sonia Gandhi was a celebrity patient, the hospital staff didn’t face any trouble due to security arrangements and the family adhered to hospital rules.
“There was hardly any security for Sonia Gandhi. I met her in the labour room in the afternoon. She was very co-operative and it was a normal delivery. There was a team of nurses, paediatricians and doctors,” says Vavathil, who moved to Kerala in 1987 after serving in the Army in Ahmedabad.
She says Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi were present outside the labour room though the hospital allowed them entry into the room. “Though our hospital allowed them entry in the labour room, they opted to wait outside,” she says, adding that she remembers both the brothers wearing white kurtas.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was touring Patna, came to the hospital after three days to meet her grandson. Vavathil says the Prime Minister didn’t break any hospital rules to visit the baby, who was kept at the nursery.
“The baby was kept in the nursery and visitors were not allowed to touch the baby. And Indira Gandhi didn’t try to go to the other side and meet the infant,” she said.
Though Vavathil was delighted when she heard of the Congress president’s candidature from Wayanad, she regrets the fact that she couldn’t meet her grandson, (as she calls him) during the election campaign in Sultan Battery.
“I am looking forward to meet him as early as possible. I have a lot of stories to share with him. I am sure his grandmother and mother may not have shared these stories with him. How he was born, who saw you first when you opened your eyes, how we looked after you, how we used to address you as PM’s grandson,” she smiles. On being asked whether she voted for Rahul Gandhi, she said, “If I don’t vote for my grandson, who else will I?”
The 72-year-old is confident that the Congress president will win from Wayanad and she wishes to see him as the next Prime Minister.
What will she tell him if they meet? “I don’t know what all topics I am going to discuss with him. I have carried him in these hands. I will let him know that,” she quips. Though the constituency is in dire need of a hospital and other infrastructure, Vavathil says that she will keep all those talks for their second visit.
“I wouldn’t make any demands in our first meeting. If we meet for a second time, I will crib about the pressing issues of Wayanad,” she says.