Are you the prime mover of the politics of your family?
That is not true at all. In the beginning, yes, I did advise my mother.
And your brother as well?
No, my brother is far more astute politically than I am. And his understanding of social and economic issues is way above mine. And he has a very strategic mind. A very clear vision of the direction in which he wants to move. I am his sister so this may sound like sisterly fondness, but Rahul is a very sophisticated thinker; he has a brilliant mind. He is quiet, so you don’t get to know about it, but sooner or later I think people will see that.
Doesn’t the Congress need both his skills and yours?
I don’t understand the word ‘need’. The Congress has a strong leadership-it has my mother, it has Manmohan Singhji-he is very strong in his own way: morally very strong. It has many other leaders at the second level, one of whom is my brother.
Why does politics have to be an either/or thing for you?
It’s not really an either/or thing. It’s got to be what drives you from within. And as comfortable as I look in the situation, and as naturally as it comes to me, there is also a side of me that makes me extremely uncomfortable making this the choice for the rest of my life. It is simply not the quality of life I want to lead.
But isn’t that confusing, when you’re already in politics?
No, that is why I draw my lines very clearly: that is why I am here in Amethi and Rae Bareli only during the campaign, and I refuse all public engagements, even prize-giving and all that kind of thing.
Why did you make such a severe decision-almost a renunciation?
First of all, I think it’s extremely unhealthy for me. I find myself so much happier without all the tamasha, without all the attention, so much being made of me.
But won’t much be made of you anyway, whether you come to the constituency or not? You will always be a factor, won’t you?
Yes, but how I use that being a factor-whether I use it to create a big political movement, whether I use it to go forward myself in politics, or use it as a means of understanding my own life-that is my choice. The extent to which I am in politics is my choice. I cannot remove the fact that I am born into a political family. Nor can I remove the fact that there are members of my family involved in politics, and therefore there may be certain things that I’m involved in.
For example, they’re not available to campaign here, and I can do this job for them. So I do it for them. I’m happy with the small-that’s what people don’t understand. Because they see this huge opportunity and huge possibility, they don’t understand why politics isn’t drawing me.
Why is politics not drawing you?
Politics does not draw me because I’ve been through a whole introspective process about it before. I was drawn to it earlier, thinking that is what I wanted to do, because it came naturally to me and for various other reasons. And I would even say-although I didn’t realise it until I was much older-for all the attention and all that. But it’s such a trap because it really allows you to think that you are more than ordinary. And then you realise that you are ordinary, you go through a process where you discover that you are just like anyone else, and there’s nothing special about you; and what is being made of you is not because of who you are but because of the circumstances you are in. Once you make that separation, then how you want to or do not want to use those privileges and circumstances depends on you.
But what if you can make a big difference by joining politics?
To be able to think that I can make that level of difference, I have to believe in myself as something else. I can make a difference by bringing up two good children. I can make a difference by treating my staff well, by going to Mother Teresa’s and spending three days a week there. I don’t have to make a difference by creating a revolution. Other people’s perception of my destiny is conditioned by what is made of me, not by who I am. I am able to separate the drama that is made of me from the person that I am.
How old were you when you gave your first public speech?
I think when I was around 16-17 years.
How are you so clued in to the political scene?
Because my family is involved in it, I’ve grown up in that atmosphere. I’ve always known what is going on. I meet them, I hear what’s going on.
Do your children realise that their life is different from other children’s?
I think my children do have a vague idea that there is something different about their family. But they pretty much think that they are like everybody else, which they actually are. But, yes, they do have a vague idea perhaps because of the security around them and maybe because someone says something. Like my daughter once came back from school and said that someone told her that Nani is prime minister. Then I have to explain that, no, Nani is not prime minister.
You said in one interview that you really admired your mother. What is the one quality about her that you admire the most?
My mother can completely be herself. And again, she can completely be surrounded by all sorts of praise and sycophancy, and be untouched by it. She sees herself for exactly what she is. And I think that is her greatest quality.
She is also an extremely involved mother and everything that I have learnt about parenting is from my parents. The way I am as a parent to my children is exactly like her: she was always there for us.
How would you like to live your life?
I like reading, I like studying, looking after my children and to be left alone to be an ordinary person. I like my ordinary life. On a typical day, I get up in the morning, get my children ready and take them to school. These days I am finishing my master’s in Buddhist studies, so I study. Sometimes I make the children something so when they come home there is something nice to eat-they like cupcakes, so I often make them. They come home, I help them with their homework, we relax. That’s my typical day.