Leo Varadkar’s Indian relatives wait anxiously for news

Shubhada Varadkar praises her ‘bold and honest’ cousin for coming out as a gay man

Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy looks back at Leo Varadkar's life and rapid rise through politics to become the youngest ever leader of the Fine Gael party. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

Leo Varadkar’s extended Indian family will be anxiously awaiting news from Dublin on his likely election as Fine Gael leader andtaoiseach-in-waiting.

His father Ashok is from Mumbai, India’s financial centre and biggest city, but the family originated in Varad, a village in Gujarat state north of Mumbai, from which the family derives the name.

Among his relatives who will be watching on the internet will be a cousin Shubhada Varadkar who is a well-known traditional Indian dancer.

She recalled that Leo visited both Mumbai and Varad when he was sports minister. He also did an internship at the KEM (King Edward Memorial) Hospital in Mumbai.

Shubhada told The Times of India: “We hail from a family of freedom fighters that spread its wings across Mumbai and Ireland in the 1960s.

“Ours is a large family. Whenever the Irish side of the family arrives here, we have a large gathering of 60-odd extended relatives in our Borivli house.”

Shubhada said her cousin had been “bold and honest” to come out as a gay man in 2015. “That country has legalised gay marriages and Leo is working towards more reforms,” she said.

She recalled visiting Leinster House last year. “ I laughed and said I had not even seen the Indian parliament.

“To which he laughed and said, ‘I have’. He was always interested in politics and social welfare. I presented him a copy of Nehru’s Discovery of India but I found he already knew about Indian history.”

The likely election of Mr Varadkar as Fine Gael leader and taoiseach-in-waiting is getting a lot of coverage in the Indian media.

Most of that coverage is focusing on his youth, his sexuality and the fact that he is the son of an Indian immigrant.