It took Dipali Sikand’s 107 years old grandmother to articulate what lakhs of Indians have been thinking. That Rahul Gandhi is so handsome. His countenance is so pleasant and his charm disarms the most hard-nosed. His body language is easy; he leans across to tap a journalist’s knee while expressing himself earnestly, in an interview on TV. Like the interviewer was a friend. He holds out a helping hand to a young girl who wants a picture with him, and helps her clamber up his SUV during a tough election campaign. She does so, holding a bunch of flowers in her hands. The cynical ones gasp, this was the way his father, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in cold blood and Rahul should be careful. Others smile, touched by Rahul’s humanness. And they watch how he helps the gleeful girl back down the sides of the SUV, till she safely reaches firm ground. Oh yes, the girl is flying! She has been following him for kilometres before she could make eye contact with him. And then the pictures of the entire interaction are what heart warming stories are made of.
Rahul is so natural. He reaches out and hugs the people waiting for him. Breaks lines to meet and greet people. Sits in dhabas to eat and can’t stop gushing about the fabulous food he was served. He is so normal. He doesn’t feel the need to get selfie booths installed around the country. If he feels the need for a picture, he will simply click one using your phone or from one he has. He does not need to move people out of the way if they come between him and the camera. He probably does not even notice it. Because Rahul is not performing when he is out there talking about his vision and hopes of the country, asking the people to open their eyes to what is happening and to give him a chance. He is natural, honest and sincere. What he says and does is not a well-orchestrated act.
When you hear him speak, his cadence is soothing. He does not sound acerbic or sarcastic or menacing or boastful. He sounds pleasant. What he says is even better. He laughs during his speeches. Not at anyone, but with everyone. You will not hear a single mention which seems vicious. It seems like nearly a miracle that in today’s world where niceness is denounced as weakness, love and tolerance treated as scourges, and non violence as a definite negative idea, here is a young politician who espouses all these and whole heartedly. Hope blooms in countless hearts again, in those ears that were fed up of acrimony and enmity and chest thumping.
Look at his pictures from Parliament when he greets L.K. Advani warmly and respectfully, looks at the Prime Minister with ease and respect. Everyone sees that the PM is unable to look back at him. Perhaps it is not just about being graceless. Perhaps it is only about being very uncomfortable in the face of this genial, cultured, well brought up young man, a leader who refuses to descend to his level of discourse. Rahul Gandhi has a clean heart and can meet eyes with anyone.
He has no problem reaching out for his mother Sonia Gandhi, after she has just delivered an emotional speech investing the Congresses faith in him. He reaches out to her and plants a firm peck on her head, as she pats his back lovingly. He doesn’t care that the cameras have gone into a frenzy. He does not put on an act. He does. Lakhs of mothers across the country and the world send him blessings for not being inhibited in expressing affection towards his mother. He becomes their favourite son, in one instance.
He smiles, his eyes twinkle and it deepens his dimples. He smiles as if he has some deep spiritual knowledge of his role on earth and in Indian polity. He looks centred and stable. Only such a person can continue to stand despite the volley of hate spewed at him from those in power. It is only a person with spiritual elevation who can continue to talk of acting from a space of love. This unfolding of Rahul Gandhi is the answer to the prayers of crores of Indians. Indians who are fed up of the way the current dispensation is riding roughshod over them.
And one can only be thankful for him.
Archana Dalmia is an associate of the Gandhi family.