She is a disarming mixture of shyness and confidence. She blushes frequently and often covers her face with her hands like a young girl. But then she says with great assertiveness, "Never ask a woman her age. But I will tell you I am 55. And that is old enough to know what this world is all about."
Her world right now is the Solapur parliamentary constituency and she is the wife of Maharashtra's chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who won this seat in 1999 but isn't contesting now since he is the CM. In fact, Ujwalla Shinde is the only candidate anywhere in the country who is a chief minister's wife. "My husband was not quite in favour of this," she says. "Saheb believes that no family should have more than one leader. But Madam (Sonia Gandhi) was insistent. So Saheb gave in. And my daughters supported me and egged me on. So I said ok."
But Mrs Shinde is no pushover. She knows exactly what she wants and where her vote bank lies. "After my candidature was announced, I got all these invitations to speak at the Rotary Club and other such organisations," she says. "But my voters are not on the Rotary Club circuit. They are the poor, the deprived and the women in villages. I will first go among them and acquaint myself with their problems. Then I will decide how to campaign and which issues to raise."
Then again, she says that she is completely new to parliamentary procedures. "Saheb will be my guide and teacher," she says. "As soon as the election is over, I plan to sit him down and have him brief me on how questions are asked, how resolutions are moved and how one conducts oneself in the House."
Is that all overawing? Not quite. "When you have decided to jump into the waters, what is a shark or two?" she says in Marathi.
Ujwalla is friends with the wives of Sharad Pawar and former MPCC chief Govindrao Adik and the trio often shared the woes and rewards of being a politician's wife. When Ujwalla got her ticket, Pratibha Pawar called to congratulate her. "I hope you will not break our friendship circle now that you are on the way to becoming an MP," she told Ujwalla. That is the one thing Ujwalla is certain about -- she will still be friends with them even after being a politician in her own right.