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Straight drive

Azad loves home food so much that he made it a point to fly down from England every week to eat it, writes Kumkum Chadha.

india Updated: May 31, 2007 23:57 IST

Moti taught Pappu cooking. Moti died several years ago but Pappu still remembers him. Pappu says he owes Moti his place in the Indian cricket team, which won the World Cup in 1983. Pappu is cricketer-turned-BJP politician Kirti Vardhan Azad. Cricket took away his middle name because his coach thought it was “too heavy” for a sportsman. So Kirti it became and that is how we know him today.

A “bigra nawab” (spoilt brat), Azad is the son of former Chief Minister of Bihar, Bhagwat Jha Azad. By his own description, he was a “wild and aggressive” child. Had it not been for his father, Kirti would have remained an under-graduate. In a family of doctors and policemen, Kirti is the least educated: “But I beat my mother. She was an inter-pass,” says Azad. When he first came to Delhi, godman Chandraswami lived in the outhouse of his father’s government bungalow on Ashoka Road; it was the same house from where Kirti used to sneak out to play cricket matches. His father thought he was busy attending coaching classes till a photograph in a newspaper did him in. He was caned for two reasons: For lying and for being bowled out for 99 runs.

When Azad played cricket, there was no money in the game. He recalls that the government allotted low-income group (LIG) flats to players after they brought home the World Cup. The Bihar government promised 1,000 sq yard of land for each player, but till date no one has got an inch. That was also when Lata Mangeshkar sang to raise money for the players. “Today’s cricketers earn millions from endorsements, apart from their match fees,” he says.

Azad loves home food so much that he made it a point to fly down from England every week to eat it. “I was in England for two months playing county cricket. I did not know how to cook and could not afford to eat out. I had a brainwave. Why not fly out during the week, eat and learn cooking and fly back? An Air-India ticket to India cost

Rs 6,660, which was much less expensive than eating out in Britain. So, I was home every week to learn cooking.” It was after Moti’s cooking lessons that Azad was selected to play for India and was in the team that won the World Cup. “I always cook before doing something important,” he says. That apart, cats and beds also play major roles in his life: “If a cat crosses my path, I spit thrice on the road, put a cross on my windscreen and take a detour”. As for beds, he always gets up on the right side.

Apart from his mother and wife, there is another woman in Azad’s life: party colleague Sushma Swaraj, whom he worships. His mantra: When in trouble dial ‘S’ for Sushma. “She is always there with a magic wand to solve problems. To me she is everything,” Azad says.

kumkum@hindustantimes.com