From stool to kursi
It was only after his mother made him rub his nose on the ground a hundred times that he stopped stealing. His father had married four times — all to beget a son. And when Sushil Kumar Shinde, now Union Minister, was born, he had two mothers looking after him — both sisters.
His marriage to Ujjawala also had twists and turns. Love was sacrificed at the altar of caste — Ujjawala’s upper-caste parents could not bear to have their daughter marry a lower-caste Shinde. A heart-broken Ujjawala attended Shinde’s engagement as a ‘friend’. But the marriage was called off after his fiancée was detected with blood cancer. Concluding that Destiny had scripted a common future, Ujjawala and Sushil eloped. Since then Sushil is a committed supporter of inter-caste marriages.
Sushil was not Sushil till he joined college. School records registered him as Dagadu Sambha Shinde. People in the basti distorted it to ‘Dhonda’. Both, in the local language, mean ‘hard as stone’. It was only after his performance in a college play that the name ‘Hero Sushil’ stuck. That was his debut performance in a male role. Till then Dagadu had played ‘Ladies’ roles’, alternating between Shanta and Gulabo.
Outside college, Sushil had to work to meet both ends meet. From babysitting at Rs 10 a month, he graduated to being a ‘boy peon’ in a district court — the man who hollers out case numbers and names. All was hunky-dory till a sensational case hit the headlines. His entire class turned up for the hearing, and was shocked to find ‘Hero Sushil’ shouting “… Hazir ho!”
Shinde didn’t know where to look. What would they think? “College mein Tinopal se dhula shirt-pant aur bahar ek chaprasi?” He vowed to move from ‘stool to seat’ (peon’s stool to judge’s chair). Years later, he made it to the same court as a judge.
As for Tinopal, while the brand is extinct, Shinde’s USP still remains ‘spotless, bleached white’.
Shinde believes luck has always favoured him, turning adversity into opportunity. When he quit his law practice to contest elections, there was a last-minute change of plan. Someone else got lucky and Shinde was left twiddling his thumbs — “without ticket or job”. But the sitting MLA’s sudden death forced a by-election, and Shinde made it. He wears two stones on his fingers: a diamond and a blue sapphire. Quiz him and he reluctantly admits that since he wore the blue sapphire in 2002 “things have changed dramatically”.
For the record, Shinde was elected Chief Minister in 2003, Governor in 2004 and Union Minister in 2006.