Congress Minister Thikkavarapu Subbarami Reddy wears at least 7 kg of jewellery daily. Every time he eats, he takes them off, fearing that he may tamper with their religious sanctity. As he untangles the noose of the precious stones around his neck, he sums them up: "Body raksha."
The heaviest and presumably the most expensive is the 5 kg ‘necklace’ of rudraksh and shaligram (black stones from a river bed believed to be living symbols of Lord Shiva). A close second is the waist-length string of crystals, followed by a coral one and several smaller ones thrown in for good measure. This excludes the 10 rings, about which he knows little. But the beads, says Reddy, are “all Shiva’s power”.
At dawn, he is in ‘sadhana’ (meditation), followed by practising the hal-aasana: “It is very tough… a single-angle body exercise, bending forward, going backwards at least 200 times.” Mention Baba Ramdev and Reddy sneers, a know-it-all expression speaking volumes. Catch him on Shivratri and 16 hours are spent in meditation. Reddy says he is “obsessed” with Lord Shiva. “If I wake up at night, I find myself chanting the mantra, ‘Om namah Shivah’.” All a part of “Tapas shakti” (power of prayer).
Back home in Visakhapatnam, which returned him to Lok Sabha twice, Reddy has performed 75 mahayagnas. On his birthday, September 17, Reddy has a team of holy men flown in from temples in Varanasi, Kanchi, Kamakshi, Shirdi and Tirupati: "They bless me and I honour (read cash and gifts) them.” The 63-year-old’s birthday invitation is really a booklet with pictures of a semi-clad Reddy paying obeisance at a Shivalinga. Even his party invitations used to be flashy and gigantic. Being a “man with a big vision”, Reddy’s logic for rent-a-crowd style of parties was to help Delhiites rub shoulders with filmdom’s luminaries.
He has produced two Hindi films, Chandni and Lamhe, with Yash Chopra. While he claims that the reason for his new-found austerity is “no charm in hotels and no thrill in film stars”, the grapevine has it that the Congress high command expressed displeasure at Reddy’s flaunting his wealth, most of it earned from the various industries he owns. If Reddy has to mention his devotion to Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi in every interview, he regrets his “Page 3 image”. Unable to change it, he has come to terms with it: "Being labelled Page 3 is not a crime. It is a glamorous name for intellectuals,” says Reddy.