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SO FAMILIAR | Kumkum Chadha
September 01, 2006
THE CONGRESS's Jairam Ramesh calls himself a 'Hind-Budh': a practising Hindu with Buddhism ingrained. Intellectually, he believes himself to be an 'endangered species' who died 'with Nehru's public sector', so to say. At 15, he had his thread ceremony but discarded the 'symbol of caste hierarchy' 12 years later. He grew up with both Advaita (monistic) and Dvaita (dualistic) philosophies. There is lots more: in what he calls his 'private space' (read his office in New Delhi's power corridors) there is perched a Buddha to his left, a Ganesha to his right, a Dashavatar diagonally opposite and Nehru and Gandhi on the wall right behind him. On the table is Ma Sarada, the 'holy mother' (wife of Ramakrishna Paramhansa). A frequent visitor to temples, Jairam says he sees them as "exercise in history" rather than "a ritualistic activity". Better still he would like people to treat his bi-weekly temple visits as a "migration from the sacred to the philosophic". He wakes up to M.S. Subbulakshmi's  'suprabhatam at the crack of dawn and chants it after her, his iPod proving handy.

His betrothal to Jayashree he says was "interdenominational" (read sectarian) and not intercaste: she an Iyer, he an Iyengar: (she reveres both Shiva and Vishnu, he is a staunch Vaishnava). His sons are named after Pradyumna and Anniruddha - Lord Krishna's son and grandson respectively. This is Jairam Ramesh Iyengar for you, adept at complicating the simplest of things. He involuntarily dropped the Iyengar-tag because Mother Rose in school couldn't handle it. He settled for his father's name (Ramesh) and his own, Jairam.

When he left home at 21, his father gave up on him: "He realised I was on a different wave length." So, when he gave up a cushy job in the US to work for a meagre salary back home, his father concluded that his son had actually lost it.

Jairam is not one for festivals. Holidays do not excite him. "Ours" he says, "is a normal family life" where everyone does their own thing: "Wife reads, I read and children read," he sums up.

Jairam prefers to walk to office daily: some 6 km one way. Having followed the golden rule of "early to bed and early to rise" for several years,  Jairam finds parties a waste of time. He hits the bed at 10 p.m., an 'insane' schedule as far as politics goes: "… was very difficult in the beginning because the Congress party only wakes at night."

And guess who inducted him into the AICC? None other than the late Sitaram Kesri who kept a pocket dictionary handy to see him through the complicated English language: "Tumhare mein kuchh hai" (There is something in you) he would often tell Jairam who, given Kesri's reputation in 'dualities', wasn't sure how to interpret the old man's generosity.

kumkum@hindustantimes.com