‘I DROPPED MY CASTE TITLE, KEPT MY NAME’
For someone who is a firebrand communist, the name Sitaram does not quite fit. “I was named Sitaramarao, after my grandfather, but I dropped the caste title [Rao] and carried on with my name. So Sitaram it has remained. In any case as Shakespeare pointed out, what is in a name?” said the CPI(M)’S Sitaram Yechury while battling sleep after a hectic cross-country tour.
But Yechury was not comfortable with the sacred thread bequeathed to him when he was 11. It clung to his skin till one day he put it away in his hostel cupboard among his dirty clothes. Telling his father what he had done was nothing short of “blasphemy,” Yechury now says.
A Telugu-speaking Brahmin, Yechury spent the early years of his life in Andhra Pradesh. Till he left his home for Delhi and St. Stephen’s College, followed by Jawa- harlal Nehru University. Yechury was like any other student, “a regular kind of guy” whose goal was to study and land a job.
Instead, he took to politics, starting off as a student leader. During the Emergency, he went underground but was twice lucky: once, when his father was in hospital and Yechury spent the nights taking care of him. The cops looked everywhere but not the hospital, the “most unlikely place for anyone to hide,” Yechury said. When the doctors told him to take his dad home, Yechury got cold feet: “It was both good and bad news: good because my father was well enough to go home and bad because my hiding place, the hospital, was gone.” Expectedly, the next morning the cops came to get him but luck was on his side yet again. The SHO who arrested him made a mistake and instead of charging him under MISA, he charged him with a bailable offence. Taking advantage of this, Yechury was soon out.
That Yechury is a smoker is well known. During breaks in Parliament sessions, he is among the few who make a dash to the smoking room. What, however, is little known is how he got into the habit. “Way back, smoking was a sign of manliness. In every film, the protagonist dangled a cigarette. So the first step to being a man was to smoke”, Yechury says.
Politics has taken away his me-time but he does try and snatch moments to listen to songs by Shamshad Begum like Kajra mohabbat wala, even while he eats out of a dabba, his chapattis rolled in newspaper. Having converted his official residence into a party office, Yechury lives in Vasant
WHEN HIS PARTY’S CENTRAL COMMITTEE VOTED AGAINST HIS GETTING A THIRD RAJYA SABHA TERM, IT WAS DUBBED AS A “HISTORIC BLUNDER.”