Bharat Jodo Yatra: Solidarity in a jar of pickle

Bharat Jodo Yatra: Solidarity in a jar of pickle

Along with everything else, an unusual vehicle of support was a little jar. A jar containing pickle, that has travelled from Mumbai to Nanded and, as I write this, awaits its opening by none other than Mr Gandhi himself.

Vidya HebleUpdated: Friday, November 11, 2022, 01:14 AM IST
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Bharat Jodo Yatra: Solidarity in a jar of pickle | ANI

There have been posters, artwork, songs, dances, street performances — and crowd upon crowd of people not only anxious to see Rahul Gandhi but to express their support for the Bharat Jodo Yatra. T-shirts have been designed, printed, hand-painted and worn with pride.

Along with everything else, an unusual vehicle of support was a little jar. A jar containing pickle, that has travelled from Mumbai to Nanded and, as I write this, awaits its opening by none other than Mr Gandhi himself.

It began with homemade curry that I ordered from The Slow Fire Chef via Twitter, a few days before leaving for Nanded. When I mentioned to Amit Mehra, who runs the brand with Semanti Sinha Ray, that I would be away and planned to join the Bharat Jodo Yatra, he made a request. Could I carry with me a jar of homemade pickle from the Northeast — for Rahul Gandhi? I agreed, though both of us were at that point not confident of actually being able to meet Mr Gandhi or even convey the pickle to someone in his team. So the pickle arrived along with my order and sat in my fridge. “In case you can't get it across to him then you can share with your fellow Yatris,” he told me.

Then Mr Mehra posted a tweet — a picture of the packed jar complete with handwritten note, saying “a kind lady” would be carrying it and hoping it would reach Mr Gandhi. He tagged the relevant handles... and the next thing he knew, someone from the Congress party got in touch with him. Mr Gandhi had read the tweet, and was keen on tasting the pickle, he was told.

Mr Mehra rang me up with the news and asked me to get in touch with the relevant person from the All India Congress Committee. Then followed a series of text messages, phone calls and exchange of numbers. I was instructed what to do, where to be. And, of course, there were instructions from Mr Mehra and Ms Sinha Ray on how to handle the pickle.

Being part of the yatra is as simple as turning up and walking along, which is what countless people have been doing. I met a man standing along the yatra route with his two children who wanted to meet Rahul Gandhi. An aim that is possible but unlikely, given the crowds and the tumult. Most yatra participants sport passes organised by the Congress at the local level, but getting even close to the resting point is impossible without a VIP pass. Or a personal okay from someone in the inner circle, which is the category I happen to be in.

Thus I find myself, as I write this, in the midst of the public meeting in Nanded awaiting Rahul Gandhi’s address to the 10,000-plus crowd, cradling the pickle jar practically like a baby. On the dais, a pheta (turban) is being tied on Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge. Mr Kharge takes over and ties it himself, to roars of applause and admiring remarks from the women in the audience around me. “Mast bandhle, swataha bandle, baghitla?”

Then it’s Mr Gandhi’s turn, and though he doesn’t tie the pheta himself, he sports it like a natural. A surprise attendee on the dais is Sushant Singh, former television presenter on Savdhaan India, minus his on-screen moustache and with the addition of spectacles. Maharashtra Congress leaders speak; Mr Kharge speaks, with an energy that belies his age. The crowd erupts in intermittent cheers, but they are impatient by now, eager to hear Mr Gandhi.

By now I was hoping to have given the pickle to Mr Gandhi, but I have to send this column. And he has just begun speaking. His voice is steady and his words measured. The crowd cheers but eventually listens silently to his words. They are words that inspire. They don’t sound like a politician’s words but like those of a professor perhaps, or a guide.

Perhaps that is what we need: a guide to lead us and the country out of the miasma of fear, mutual mistrust and pervasive hatred that seems to have become part of our life. The countless people who are joining the yatra seem to think so. The sender of the pickle thinks so. The carrier of the pickle thinks so too.

Vidya Heble is the Edit page editor

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