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All in the name

Left to himself, BJP MP Syed Shahnawaz Hussain can spend hours repeating his name in different styles and tones, writes Kumkum Chadha.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2006 03:43 IST

Left to himself, BJP MP Syed Shahnawaz Hussain can spend hours repeating his name: in different styles and tones. “It sounds majestic and has a lot of power. Every time it is uttered, people stop and listen,” he says.

Literally, Shahnawaz means someone who honours kings. But Hussain prefers ‘kingmaker’. To drive home the point, he cites examples of his political mentor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who, to quote Hussain, was “Hindustan ka badshah”, Uma Bharti, who ties him a rakhi, and Vasundhara Raje, who’d accompanied him to the holy cities of Ajmer and Pushkar. “Both chief ministers,” chuckles Hussain. Bharti, it may be recalled, was Madhya Pradesh CM while Raje governs Rajasthan.

Quite often, though, postmen mix up his name with that of beautician Shahnaaz Hussain. He gets a surfeit of letters seeking beauty tips. “Sometimes I am tempted to answer them,” says Hussain, regretting that the politician tag takes the fun out of life. “Serious hona parta hai (One has to be serious),” he rues.

Despite its ‘magic’, his father, Syed Nasir Hussain, never called him Shahnawaz. To him, Shahnawaz was Lenin. As a school teacher, he’d hoped that like the thinker-philosopher, his son would make a name for himself in the literary world. Others who do not recognise the power of the name alternate between ‘Shanu’ and ‘jaanu’ (beloved), the latter being his wife Renu’s copyright.

When Hussain, barely 38 years, gets time off from singing paeans for Vajpayee, he moves to Renu. Even after 12 years of marriage, he is smitten by her. Despite being a parent to two school-going children, theirs is what Hussain calls a “boyfriend, girlfriend-type relason”. From the day he met her in a DTC bus to when she tore her dupatta to bandage his bleeding finger, Hussain can write volumes about their “limitless love” while declaring, “Main aaj jo kuchh hoon Renu ki badolat hoon (Whatever I am today is because of Renu).”

Apart from writing poetry and buying shaving kits for him, Renu spent days finding a “good hairdresser” for Hussain. “She was keen to give me a new look, a hair style that would match my face and clothes to suit my personality.” Whether this has improved anything visibly remains debatable, but it has definitely got rid of the long locks that were his trademark. Hussain never learnt driving because he was confident that some day he would be able to afford a chauffeur.

For someone who lost his mother while she was offering namaz, Hussain is a practising Muslim. The fact that he could not afford a decent pacemaker for her haunts him. Superstitious, he is desperate to play down the fact that there is an overdose of the number 786 (considered inauspicious for Muslims) in his life. Check out his landlines, his mobile and Renu’s.