When a cop dared to remove his bicycle from the porch when the Governor’s car drove in, an enraged Sandeep Dikshit, currently Congress MP and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s son, bathed him with urine. Literally. On another day, he took a paintbrush and painted the offices in Karnataka’s Raj Bhavan a lurid pink. After all, his grandfather, Umashanker Dikshit was Governor and 10-year old Sandeep felt he had a licence to deface.
Today, he feels ashamed. “I was arrogant and a major embarrassment as a Governor’s grandson,” Sandeep confesses. Guilt pangs saw him grow up an introvert. No tantrums, no fuss and rarely spotted with his mother. A post-graduate in rural development, Sandeep started an NGO for livelihoods in marginal communities in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Clad in non-designer kurta pyjamas, you can catch him strolling about Khan Market without being noticed. But talk to him and the image transforms dramatically. The spoilt brat has grown up to be an intense and sensitive human being, who can be brutally honest about himself. He regrets his inability to aggressively profile himself: “I know it is necessary but something holds me back.”
He wears studs despite protests from his wife and mother: “Something I have always wanted to do”. This probably dates back to his college days and interest in theatre. Grandeur being the keyword, Sandeep has a weakness for period costumes: “I like elaborate clothes,” he says unable to explain the stark contrast in real life. Fascinated by jewellery, he spent hours in Gujarat’s Bhuj district choosing jewellery for his ears. When he returned home with studs, his mother was aghast. Years later when he was laid up in hospital, the two women in his life tried to convince him to take off his studs before an electrocardiogram: “But I am no fool,” he beams ever-grateful to his aunt Rama for supporting him.
Sandeep hates his birthday on August 15. A holiday in school, he missed the fun of distributing sweets in class. Evenings at home were spent alone as parents abandoned him for the President’s At Home. Such is his aversion to it that even as an MP, Sandeep has stayed away from the President’s At Home.
Sandeep’s friends gave him a nickname, ‘Panda’, because of his enthusiasm for “Save the Panda” campaigns. As a result, when he contested the union elections, attempts to project his real name were met with a quizzical: “Who Sandeep?”