What makes people sit up and take notice of the man from Hyderabad? Like him, loathe him, but can you ignore him?
(The accompanying illustration is by dear friend and the godly talented Suman Chaudhury)
A more courteous pair of hands won’t serve you. They are big hands, like saucers when they open out. You’d want to imagine a cricket ball lodged in them, as there often used to be. Should you slide your gaze up those still sinewy arms and biceps, you’d probably sense the velocity they could impart that red leather orb down 22 yards. Asaduddin Owaisi once played opposite university number to Bangalore’s Venkatesh Prasad, opening the attack for Hyderabad.
That was once. That was before destiny caressed Prasad on to higher cricketing reputation and claimed Owaisi for the rough and tumble of politics. Prasad occasionally warms the dugout benches of club cricket now; Owaisi has spent far too long in the fiery trenches of politics to even feel the heat flaming around him. Insinuations of an underhand deal with the BJP – of illicit liaisons with the enemy – are again pressing upon him. Owaisi is making the offer of a warm plate of ” haleem“, simmered to a fineness on a slow burner all night, and bracing trotter soup. “How often and strongly should I deny that for it to be enough? How much time must I devote to such nonsense? I’ve begun to joke about it, I tell people, yes, I did strike a deal with Amit Shah, it was over a vegetarian meal. Even that is taken seriously. Taste the haleem please, our haleem is very special.”
At 47, Owaisi retains a sportsman’s swarthy frame, a tree-trunk of man looming a few notches above six feet even minus the skullcap, which is to his pate what the blond tuft is to Tintin’s – a hallmark crown. When he bends, torso down, to serve, he turns almost gallant of deportment; when he offers up a bowl voluptuous with haleem in those palms of his, he’s tempting you to believe atavistic hosting courtesies are back in fashion. We are on his patch, after all – his spartan MP’s accommodation a dog’s pee walk from Parliament House – and the emir of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has been brought up in the embrace of old world graces. “Haleem,” he pronounces out his presentation, “I’ll sprinkle roasted onions on it and squeeze a bit of lemon, then tell me how it tastes.”
This is not the man you may have seen exploding off your television screens ever so often – lavishing the treasury and Opposition alike with bursts of grudge and grievance booming from his remote bench in the Lok Sabha; breathing fire from rostrums across far corners of the country, an angsty evangelist of unassuaged grouses, whose fingers slash about like sabres, whose fists pummel the agitated air that swirls around him. When Owaisi takes the public stage he conjures tempests; they leave his constituency rippled with awe and excitement, they prompt his many detractors to label him a divisive rabble-rouser.
Asaduddin Owaisi ko gussa kyon aata hai?Continue reading “Asaduddin Owaisi: From 2016, a meeting with the man who is attempting, controversially, what no Muslim leader in independent India has. Why is he doing it?”