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In pursuit of a happy end

In rustic Haryana, Deepender Singh Hooda suave mannerisms goes against him. He is seen as a ‘softie’ who addresses senior cops as ‘sir’ and bureaucrats as ‘uncleji’, writes Kumkum Chadha.

india Updated: Nov 08, 2007 20:30 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha
Hindustan Times

None other than Bill Clinton ruined Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda’s happiness. Hooda only wanted to explore the world and hang out with friends. An engineer, he went to business school and joined an American airline as senior manager. Often, staring at the ceiling in his apartment in Dallas, Hooda would wonder what would make him happy: to retire as a CEO or bring a difference in people’s lives? The answer was the latter, but he was far too comfortable to chuck a cushy job and return to India’s heat and dust.

In the summer of 2005, Clinton’s autobiography captured Hooda’s attention. Clinton’s philosophy: list short-term objectives, skip the medium since they are the toughest to prioritise and take a long jump from the short- to the long-term. Hooda understood it as no one else perhaps would. Having achieved the short term — the trappings of a good life — he decided to take a long jump and fast-forward his life to when he would be 85. “What would, I asked myself, make me content when death knocks at my door? I knew in an instant that I would die peacefully if I touched other people’s lives,” says Hooda. He spent a sleepless night, not out of indecision or dilemma, but because he was animated to apply Clinton’s philosophy to his own life. He put in his papers, chucked a bright future and boarded the first available flight to India. Clinton had done to him what his ancestors could not.

As a fourth-generation politician, junior Hooda knew that some day, he would have to take the plunge. This he realised even as a kid. But he had not wanted to start life with khadi. If politics were the route, he would not join before he turned 40. Yet, 10 years later after he decided to return, Hooda is an MP from Rohtak, a constituency bequeathed by his father, Bhupinder Singh Hooda. He hero-worships his father. When the four-year-old saw his grandfather, Choudhari Ranbir Singh, shave without a mirror, he braved himself to ask how he managed it. Ranbir Singh shot back: “The British did not provide mirrors in jail.”

His effeminate looks led the women in his village to refer to him as “makhan jaisa” (skin as smooth as butter), while to the younger lot he is ‘Dipu bhaiya’ who scored a “double whammy” on the ground that they perceive him to be close to Rahul Gandhi, being the “CM’s beta”. In rustic Haryana, his suave mannerisms goes against him. He is seen as a ‘softie’ who addresses senior cops as ‘sir’ and bureaucrats as ‘uncleji’.

First Published: Nov 08, 2007 20:25 IST