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Litti-chokha for ‘uncaged lion’

- Rabri readies home food for just-out-of-jail Lalu

Patna, Dec. 17: Thekua she cooked but could not offer to her Saheb on Chhath but litti-chokha is ready for him.

Through the day, Rabri Devi kept enquiring about the whereabouts of her husband Lalu Prasad, who was freed on bail from a Ranchi jail yesterday.

Lalu started out from Ranchi around 10am and was expected to reach their 10 Circular Road residence in Patna late in the night. The usual time to cover the 330km distance is around six-seven hours but Lalu, described by RJD MP Raghunath Jha as “a lion out of his cage”, had to meet and talk to supporters every 100 metres on the way back. He had reached Khusropur, about 45km from Patna, at 9.30pm.

Lalu, who had soon after being released from jail vowed to take on the “Narendra Modi wave”, today said in Ranchi that he would stop the BJP in Bihar like he had halted LK Advani’s rath yatra in 1990. He also made no bones about his political inclinations, seeing “nothing wrong” were Rahul Gandhi to be anointed Prime Minister after the next general election. And in true Lalu style, he scoffed at the perceived attempts of his friend-turned-foe Nitish Kumar’s attempts to inch closer to the Congress. “Yeh Nitish-fitish koi factor nahin hai, Nitish is not a factor in Bihar,” the former chief minister said.

If Lalu is keen on the Congress’s political affections, familial warmth awaits him at Rabri’s official residence in Patna. Back home, Lalu can have a sumptuous yet simple meal of litti-chokha with yam chutney. At her kitchen this afternoon, The Telegraph found Rabri busy preparing food and playing with her grandchildren. In between her moments with family and friends, she also met visitors and ensured they were offered ladoos.

Rabri, who loves to call herself a homemaker, also supervised the right mixture of ingredients of sattu to be used for making litti. “Saheb loves litti, which I have prepared for his dinner,” said Rabri, who has not met her husband for the past 77 days since Lalu was put behind bars at Birsa Munda Central Jail, Hotwar, on the outskirts of Ranchi just before Navratri. “The yam chutney and mixed vegetables are two other items which I plan to serve him for dinner,” she quickly added.

But will Lalu be offered food first? “Of course not. I will take him to the puja room first and only after offering prayers, I will serve him the food,” Rabri said with a smile. Not only Chhath, Rabri had to spend Navratri, Dussehra and Diwali without her husband this year — something that has never happened since they tied the knot in 1973.

The proud nani (grandmother) was also quick to point out that her grandchildren — her second daughter Rohini’s sons Aadi Singh and Aayana Singh — interact in English only. “Are bhai, ye log Singapore me rahte hain. Naam puchana hai to angreji me puchiye (They stay in Singapore. Talk to them in English only),” she told this reporter when he asked the name of one of his grandsons.

On the other hand, patriotic songs like “Ye Desh Hai Veer Jawano Ka” were being played on the lawns of their Circular Road residence. New hoardings outside her home with slogans like “Main Bhi Lalu Tu Bhi Lalu, Aab Tu Pura Bihar Lalu” churned out the message loud and clear: Lalu is back.

While she was playing with her grandchildren, a staff member told Rabri that a visitor had come all the way from Konch in Gaya, 110km south of Patna, to meet Lalu. Rabri politely asked to show the man in. As soon as he entered, Rabri asked her staff to offer him ladoos. The man, in his late 60s, said: “I want the whole thing packed.” Rabri said: “Inko do packet ladoo dijeeye, eat as much as you want.”

Visitors have come from several other districts like Sitamarhi, Saran, Nalanda and Purnea just to take a glimpse of Lalu.

While Tejaswi is accompanying his father, Tej Pratap is here with Rabri. “We would have planned bigger celebrations but one of our in-laws has passed away in Aurangabad and I was there to attend the last rites on Monday. I am doing whatever arrangements I could for Saheb in such a short time,” said Rabri.

She added: “As soon as Saheb came out from the jail, Tejaswi called me up and said papa wants to talk to me. I spoke to him over phone after so many days. He said that he would reach Patna on Tuesday.”

After many days, Rabri was found walking on the lawns with a shawl wrapped around her. She did not miss the opportunity to attack chief minister Nitish Kumar even in her hour of celebrations. “I heard him saying during his janata durbar that Lalu coming out of jail is not news for him. Who can understand his pain better than the RJD? I am sure that he must be having sleepless nights as Saheb is free now,” said Rabri.