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No yellow, please

Planning to buy something for PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti? A perfume or jewellery? Make sure it has nothing to do with gold, the metal or the colour.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 02:02 IST

Planning to buy something for PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti? A perfume or jewellery? Make sure it has nothing to do with gold, the metal or the colour. Such is her aversion to yellow that even if a container has a gold neck — or a ‘golden cap’ in Mehbooba’s words — she won’t touch it. Even though she wears a lot of jewellery, it’s always silver: oxidised rather than white. “Black is good but white is beautiful,” she says. Ironically, all through her childhood, she literally lived in ‘yellow’, often tucked under her red-hooded sweater.

She’s also averse to wearing anything synthetic. “I don’t like the fabric-feel. Besides, synthetics mean body odour.” Catch her shopping, which is more often than not, and she will make a beeline for cool cottons. The only time she bought a ‘designer suit’ was when US President George W. Bush was visiting India. She had then bathed herself in perfume, as the ‘designer suit’ had a ‘touch of synthetic’ in it.

Not limited to her attire, Mehbooba’s cotton fascination stretches down to her feet. One cannot miss the handcrafted crochet-woven shoes she wears, perfectly balanced on light cork heels. This time round, she had a tough time because the shopkeeper was running short of the pairs she wanted.

In school, Mehbooba was known to beat up boys. A tomboy, she was a gang leader of sorts who cracked the whip at the drop of a hat. When a junior narrated how seniors were harassing him, she lassoed a cycle chain in the air in ‘goonda-style’. The boys went down on their knees, while the most notorious Sanjay declared Mehbooba as his ‘rakhi sister’. A clear case, says Mehbooba, of “a bully being bullied by a bigger bully”. Bully rigmarole apart, Mehbooba has had fun sneaking into boys’ hostels or going to late-night film shows in Srinagar, camouflaged in trousers and mufflers loaned from shops downtown.

While marriage mellows most people, it was its bitterness that changed Mehbooba’s persona. Despite opposition for marrying someone out of love and some years younger to her, it exposed her to the tyranny of relationships. Remarriage is not on the cards as Mehbooba feels responsible for her two daughters. “I can take risks with my life. But another wrong decision could jeopardise the future of my children.”

For someone whose grandfather made her feel that he would hold the sky to shield her, Mehbooba — ‘Bub’ or ‘Bo-bo’ — has strong family ties. If her Mamu would spend hours looking for the tree she was perched on, her mother would worry if she slept late. “She would quietly put her hand under my nose to see if I was breathing.” It was after they buried her grandfather that Mehbooba ceased to fear death, turning to his rosary and clothes which ‘still smell of him’.