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‘Chicken Tikka, Martial Arts, Corporate Job’: Rahul Gandhi on His Favourites and Firsts

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, during an interview with food and travel channel Curlytales, talked about his favourite dishes and exercise regime, life as a student as well as his hobbies, while also spelling out the three things he would do as the prime minister of India. The Congress on Sunday released a video of the senior leader from a campsite in Rajasthan, where he was featured on an episode of ‘Sunday Brunch’ hosted by Curlytales CEO and founder Kamiya Jani.

Pitched as a conversation that would portray him as “a person, not a politician”, Jani asked Gandhi questions related to his lifestyle and aspirations and, on a personal note, his plans for marriage to which he sportingly replied “when the right girl comes along”.

Asked if he had a checklist, Gandhi said, “Just a loving person who’s intelligent. I have nothing against marriage. My parents had a lovely one, so the bar is very high.”

Jani asked the former Congress president the idea behind the Bharat Jodo Yatra, and how it had changed him as a person. Gandhi said he had seen almost all of India, but never like this by walking through district after district and meeting so many people.

“The idea was to combat hatred, anger and violence spreading in India. ‘Tapasya’ is an important part of our culture so as to understand ourselves and others. That’s another thought behind this yatra. There are lots of people doing this tapasya with me, I’m not alone. There are lots of tapasvis here, people joining in from other states and walking all the way. I am getting to talk to and meet so many people. Trying to understand their way of life and getting a direct input on what difficulties they are facing,” Gandhi said.

The leader said his patience and self control had increased as he was having to walk daily and meet so many others. “I have improved a lot. It’s Hindustan’s culture that if you meet people, then you learn a lot,” he added.

Gandhi is also heard talking about his family’s roots as Kashmiri Pandits, who migrated to Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh from Kashmir. “I’m a mix of a lot of cultures, my paternal grandfather was a Parsi,” he said.

On his favourite food

“I am not a fussy eater, I eat whatever I get. I don’t like jackfruit and peas though. If I have to eat, I eat it but at home I’m pretty strict. I don’t eat all sorts of stuff but here I don’t have much choice. Whatever is there, I eat,” Gandhi said, adding India was completely different from region to region when it came to food, language, music among other markers. “Everything is different. Of course, it changes with the state boundaries. But it also changes within the state. Telangana was a little bit spicy for me. Over the top, I’d say as I struggled there. I don’t eat chilli.”

Gandhi said at food at home was desi during lunch and some continental at dinner. “I am quite particular, I have a controlled diet so it’s quite boring. I do avoid sweets,” he said.

On rumours that he could devour eight to 10 ice creams at once, he responded by saying, “Not 8 to 10. I can have one, sometimes two maybe.”

On his food preferences, Gandhi said he favoured non-vegetarian food like chicken, mutton and seafood. He liked tandoori food and one of his favourite dishes was chicken tikka or, sometimes, a good omelette. On his favourite food hangouts in Delhi, he said he would often go to Old Delhi but his staple was Moti Mahal. Some other favourites are Sagar and Saravana Bhawan.

Gandhi also said he did not eat much carbohydrates but if there were a choice he would pick roti over rice. He has one cup of coffee in the morning and tea in the evening sometimes.

On being homeschooled, higher studies, first job

Gandhi said he was homeschooled because of the assassination of his grandmother and former PM Indira Gandhi. “It was a shock, actually. Security people said we can’t go to school. I was at a boarding school but they took us out before grandmother’s death. When dadi died, they didn’t allow us to go back,” he said.

He further said he had the best of both worlds when at school with some teachers being overly nice and some quite nasty. “It was more because of the political position my family would take rather than their stature in politics. It was quite a pro-poor position. And so a lot of the people who were teachers did not appreciate that. It was a balance though,” he added.

Gandhi has finished his higher studies from different colleges and universities in India and abroad — one year of history at Delhi’s St Stephen’s, international relations and politics at Harvard University (there was a security issue when his father and former PM Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated), international relations and economics at Florida’s Rollins College, a masters in development economics at University of Cambridge.

Gandhi said his first job was a corporate one at a company called Monitor in London. “My first paycheck was quite a lot for that time, almost 3,000 pounds. It felt strange. It probably went into rent, I was living on my own, was about 24 or 25,” he added.

On his hobbies, exercise regime

Gandhi said scuba diving was one of his hobbies and he did a lot of it when he lived in Florida. The leader had gone swimming in Kerala when the yatra was in the state. “I can also do freediving, which is basically holding my breath under water that depends on how trained up I am. If I am, then I can hold it for a long time,” he added.

Gandhi is also a black belt in aikido and said the martial arts were not desgined to be violent. “I used to box in college and have always done some form of physical exercise. The martial arts are very convenient; they’re not designed to be violent and it’s quite the opposite. But it’s taught in the wrong way to hurt and attack people. But if you understand it well, then it’s great for you,” he said, adding he did a martial arts class daily on the yatra as well.

On why he joined politics

His father’s assassination had a great impact on him but Gandhi could never escape politics in a household full of political people. “I come from a family which is political. The conversations around the dining table with dadi and papa were about India and politics. My father’s death had a great impact on me and I changed after that,” he said.

But personal loss did not turn him away from politics, he said. “In my family, we don’t get scared. So, there was no question in my mind about joining politics,” he added.

On three things he would do as PM, negativity in politics

Gandhi spelt out the three things he would do if he became the prime minister of India — transform the education system, help small businesses, and protect the unprotected.

“I would like to transform the education system, help those who might have small businesses and be struggling, and scale them up and make them big. India needs lots of small businesses turned into large businesses. A major problem is unemployment and the concentration of wealth. I want to protect the people having a tough time — farmers, labourers and youth without jobs. They should feel protected and, with that protection, expand their imagination and do what they like. I believe, in a country, if you feel protected then you can do what you like and be productive,” he said.

He also said negativity and trolling were like gifts that he could either take or reject. “If you give me a gift, I can take it or reject it. Anger is also a gift, you can give it to me. If you give me love, I will take it. If anger, then I’ll ask myself why and, if the reason is right, then I’ll take it. If it’s not, then I won’t take it and it then becomes yours, not mine,” he added.

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