Courage comes from acceptance of the truth. That’s what Rahul Gandhi said on Friday when asked at a student interaction what gave him the “courage” to enter politics despite two assassinations in the family and why his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra believes he is so “courageous”.
“Courage came with experience,” the Congress president told the students at the Pune event.
He explained: “What I had to face, I accepted that. If you accept the truth, face the reality, courage comes. If you accept truth, it gives you courage. If you accept a lie, it gives you fear.”
He continued: “From truth comes humility, and humility gives courage.”
On Thursday, Priyanka had described Rahul in a tweet as “my truest friend, and by far the most courageous man I know”. Congress insiders had said she was probably alluding to Rahul’s unwavering grit in taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the 2014 rout, at a time most people in his own party doubted his ability and commitment.
Grilled by the students on what could have prompted Priyanka to talk about his courage, Rahul said: “As I said, I don’t like to make excuses. I deal with what I am faced with and I am persistent. If I decide something has to be done, I will do (it).
“It doesn’t matter what the cost is to me, what I have to go through. That’s my nature. I generally like to stand with the poor. I talk about the farmer. It is not fashionable to talk about the farmer, to talk about the poor. But I do.”
Rahul returned the compliment his sister had paid him, describing her as his “best friend”.
When a girl asked whether he observes the annual Rakhi festival, he displayed the rakhi still tied to his wrist and said: “Yes, I don’t take off my rakhi. This will remain till the next Rakhi (festival). My sister is my best friend. She said it yesterday. We have always been very close….”
Asked whether there are fights between brother and sister, he said: “Not fights. We did fight in childhood but not now. She does mischief like making me eat lots of sweets — that can make me fat.”
He added in a more philosophical vein: “Since I was small, I have been through a lot of violence. My grandmother was killed; my father was killed. We have gone through that trauma together. We understand each other well. There is no fight — if there is a dispute, either she backs down or I back down.”
When the Congress president claimed he loved Modi, the audience burst into laughter. Rahul too smiled and reaffirmed: “I have no hatred towards the man at all. There is no anger. He doesn’t feel the same way. He has anger towards me.”
While the ripples of laughter continued, a few students burst into a chant of “Modi, Modi”. An unfazed Rahul responded: “It’s fine, no problem.”
Asked about the young generation’s apparent obsession with social media and tendency to live in the virtual world, Rahul said: “You can live in virtual reality but can’t run away from reality. You have to face livelihood issues, will have to look after (your) parents.”
He alluded obliquely to the hate and falsehood being spread through social media: “Truth is love, harmony (will help), hate and anger won’t help. Violence won’t help. A false sense of confidence comes with violence but it harms you.”
Rahul seemed to have been pondering over his conversation with the students when he tweeted after a while: “Hatred is cowardice. I don’t care if the entire world is full of hatred. I am not a coward. I will not hide behind hate and anger. I love all living beings, including those temporarily blinded by hatred.”
Many of the students, who came from the various colleges and universities in Pune, seemed impressed with Rahul’s humility. Some of them described him as a “role model” after the event.
Rahul had told them that debating and questioning were the essence of democracy.
“My suggestion is, ask questions, make me uncomfortable. Disturb me. Political leaders have to answer questions,” he had said.
“Somebody said I have come here and given my valuable time. Nonsense, you have come here and given your valuable time.”
Rahul regretted that questioning was not encouraged in India, even in educational institutions.
“It’s about attitude. Why is the Prime Minister not standing here and answering questions? The attitude that ‘I know everything’ is a problem.”
When the moderator, Marathi film actor Subodh Bhave, asked who should play the heroine if he made a biopic on Rahul, the Congress president said: “I am unfortunately wedded to my work.”
When co-anchor Malishka, a radio jockey from Mumbai, asked the name of the last movie Rahul had watched, he had to think for a while.
“Not watched (movies) for a long time; I don’t remember,” he eventually said.
Asked what the craziest rumour about him was, he quipped: “All of them.”