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Kapil da dhaba

Mention college and Union Minister Kapil Sibal will tell you about the time Brinda Karat, now a firebrand MP, sat on his lap.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2006 03:32 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha

Mention college and Union Minister Kapil Sibal will tell you about the time Brinda Karat, now a firebrand MP, sat on his lap. As your eyebrows go up, he adds that this was for a play in which he played the lead and she the role of a mermaid.

An ‘absolute stunner’ in college, Sibal recalled how boys would be vying for Brinda’s attention. So each evening during rehearsals, when Sibal had her perched on his lap, there would be a buzz around college. And Brinda would be hopping mad. Not because she was a puritan. “None of that,” recalls Sibal, “She was like any other normal girl who lived in a make-believe world. The boys were gaga over her. She was vivacious, a trifle Anglicised, minus her Left leanings or present concern for poverty.” His own relationship with Brinda, Sibal describes as “mere friendship”. Well, he was hooked on to Nina — later to be his wife — when barely 16.

Take him back to school, and Sibal will tell you how he would forge signatures and trip people down the stairs. He was caned on a regular basis and the principal had even threatened to expel him. “I hated school, loathed homework and was the black sheep in the family. My mother often said, ‘What do I do with this kid?’” In later years, when he boasted to his son, Amit, that he’d stood fifth in class, Amit asked him, “Out of how many?” Sibal sheepishly replied, “Five.” Amit was also the one who went on a hunger strike in the Eighties when Sibal expressed his interest in politics. “You, like Mrs Gandhi, will be assassinated,” the child had exclaimed.

Though academics was never a priority for him, it is ironic that when it came to his children, Sibal always stressed on marks. “Your future lies in good grades. Sports and theatre are incidental,” he used to counsel his boys. Never mind the fact Sibal himself entered St Stephen’s College on the basis of theatre.

Apart from dadagiri, the only other thing Sibal loved was cricket. Though ambitious about playing for India some day, Sibal failed to even get into the school team. Book cricket, he concluded, was a better option.

Politically he’s fought two women: the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani. When Smriti went about the election campaign declaring she was like a ‘bahu’ to Sibal, his sons squirmed. One thing common to both Sushma and Smriti, as Kapil puts it, is “gimmicks and drama”. While he has no qualms about taking on Sushma once again, he declares that Smriti never posed a challenge to him.

At a personal level, his later years with Nina were traumatic since she had to fight a losing battle with cancer. His second marriage to Promila last year has brought ‘happiness and joy’ back into his life, he says. Add to that the fact that his daughter-in-law, Pavani, is busy tutoring him on expressions like ‘chilling out’, Kapil seems to be having a great time both on and off work. An excellent cook, he now has a competitor in Promila. Were they to take their culinary skills seriously, they may well end up following Pavani’s suggestion: starting a ‘Kapil da dhaba’ in London.

First Published: Feb 11, 2006 03:32 IST