Bangalore: When the call came, Dipali Sikand couldn't believe her ears. "Hello, I'm Rahul Gandhi," the voice said.
The Congress president played Santa Claus on Christmas Day to a great-grandmother who had turned 107 on Monday, calling her in answer to a tweet posted by her family. Told she was resting the first time, he called again later.
Dipali, a Bangalore-based entrepreneur, had tweeted to Rahul that her grandmother Susheela Chhabra found him handsome and wanted to meet him.
"Today my grandmother turned 107. Her one wish. To meet @OfficeOfRG Rahul Gandhi. I asked her why? She whispers...He's handsome!" she wrote.
Dipali told The Telegraph on Tuesday that the idea came to her on Monday morning when her college-going son drew her attention to Susheela reading the newspaper.
"My son asked me how she could read at her age. We then saw her kiss the paper, and later found out it was a picture of Rahul Gandhi. Then I decided to tweet," she said.
"Not being too familiar with Twitter and the way it works, I just used Mr Gandhi's handle to tag him. But I did not even dream of a response."
Within a few hours, Rahul had tweeted back: "Dear Dipali, Please wish your beautiful grandmother a very happy birthday and merry Xmas. Please also give her a big hug from me. Best, Rahul..."
But a bigger surprise came in the afternoon, when Rahul called Dipali and said he wanted to speak to her grandmother.
"I don't even know how he got my number. When I said my grandmother was resting after lunch, he politely offered to call again. And he did!"
The call came a little after 8.30pm, and this time Rahul was able to speak to Susheela. "It was an unbelievable experience. He spoke for a couple of minutes to my grandmother," Dipali said.
Susheela urged Rahul to work for the country. "She asked him if he had had dinner. It was a short call but such a precious memory," Dipali said. "It was so sweet of him to call, that too twice, to speak to my grandmother."
The state Congress office was over the moon. "We need the language of love and harmony in this age of hatred," beamed Karnataka unit vice-president K.E. Radhakrishna.
He recalled that Rahul had once responded to an appeal from a visually challenged student in Bangalore to secure a customs duty waiver on certain braille equipment and books.
After Rahul had addressed students at the Mount Carmel College here in November 2015, Chandana Chandrashekar had approached him and told him about the hefty 41 per cent customs duty on these articles. He asked her to write to him, which she did.
Rahul followed it up with the NDA government, which waived the customs duty in the 2016 budget.