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Spell bound

Union Minister Anand Sharma can mug up a brief and rattle it off without a cue. In that sense, he is way ahead of some of his predecessors who, despite flash cards, are either incoherent or completely off the mark.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2006 23:59 IST

Union Minister Anand Sharma can mug up a brief and rattle it off without a cue. In that sense, he is way ahead of some of his predecessors who, despite flash cards, are either incoherent or completely off the mark.

Had it not been for his astrologer brother, Ashok, Anand would perhaps have had to wait a while before being inducted into the Union cabinet. Or so Ashok believes. He had asked Anand to wear an emerald ring less than six months ago for “a shining career”. This having worked, Anand will soon add a blue sapphire to mellow the ill-effect of Saturn, apart from adding to the strength of the iron band made of a horse shoe that he has been wearing for several years.

While on the topic of horses, Anand actually rode one when he married Zainab, concealing his bearded face behind a floral veil even as baraatis danced to a frenzy of drums. They wore colourful headgear and for once, Anand shed his trademark safari suit for a sherwani. That it was Zainab who proposed marriage is another matter. But whenever he wanted to buy her a gift, he would seek the help of his friends, without telling them who it was for. On one such occasion, he asked his friend, Ish, to select a perfume which his wife, Meena, would like. Ish spent hours at the store because he wanted Anand to buy the best. He also told Meena that there was a surprise in store. The perfume, of course, went straight to Zainab, like many other things Anand made his friends choose while clandestinely despatching them to Zainab.

Like many things in Anand’s life, his safari suits also have an African connection. Not only are they tailored there, but also stitched from fabric actually bought in South Africa. “Never seen me in one? The special cut with shoulder flaps? Typically African. It is my trademark,” says Anand. Simply put, they are khaki safaris, quite similar to the ones people wear over here.

Anand first met Nelson Mandela in 1990 as part of a delegation to South Africa. He played a significant role in the anti-apartheid and liberation movement of South Africa. The Commonwealth Secretary General appointed him to observe the South African transition process and elections in 1994. Even Zainab was settled in South Africa till she came here to study medicine. As for himself, African wine still remains his favourite. At the bar in Anand’s house, he claims to have stocked the best of African wines. While shopping abroad, the focus has shifted from perfumes for Zainab to cheese and chocolates.

In Sariska, when he mistook a Neelgai for a tiger, he ran for his life. As a child, he feigned sickness because he did not want his father to go to the temple for fear of a witch casting a spell on the family. Till he grew up, he believed that a black cat crossing one’s path was a bad omen. At home, he was chided not so much for stealing apples but for leaving behind the fancy bag meant for the loot. In school, Anand’s biology teacher caned him because he set free the frogs meant for dissection.