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On a very wet 15 August Tagore and Gandhiji stayed with Principal Rudra. It did not take me long to fathom why the college had acquired its reputation—it was focussed on all-round excellence. We remained glued to the radio. Ian Shankland. I must have been insufferable. The mysterious hold Gandhi had over millions did not leave my father untouched. Gandhi was more saint. I was back home for the winter holidays. Nothing more appropriate. It was always Bose-sahib. The next three years were among the happiest and most rewarding of my early life.
I could just manage a glimpse of a small figure in white. I entered the portals of St. This brought them alive for us. Such was his authority and influence that even the Principal David Raja Ram never addressed him by his first name.
The sports master was the chain-smoking S. For the next couple of hours. His pedas. It was a moment of sadness that. To him. He was also not a demonstrative person. During World War I. In those days. If you excelled at games. I took to St. Bose-sahib would save your neck if you were ever in trouble. Our constitutional history professor. In July At the end of every week. I joined St. The first term lasted from July to October. He once introduced Countess Mountbatten as Mountess Countbatten!
Contact with girls from Miranda House. I vividly remember the occasion. A sophisticated South Indian who set fire to the hearts of uncultured North Indians. I won more prizes than any Stephanian had for decades. I would not be of any interest to anyone.
Even after so many years. I did well at college. Ragging was then a civilized affair and not the brutal crusade it became in later years. Inaugurated by Minoo Masani. Was I the perfect student? Mercifully not. I led the ragging squad. I was the college and university tennis champion and the Delhi state junior tennis champion. I felt blessed. The silver lining was the telephone.
Right in the middle of our ribaldry. He was well known for his malapropisms. On 26 January We apologized. India became a republic.
Debates and dramatics. I kept hers with me till I got married. The latter took a dig or two at the Prime Minister when speaking about corruption in public life. He had arranged a pass for me to be present as well. I met her during an inter-college debating contest. I managed a first division. Her memory still endures. The first Republic Day parade was held in what is now Shivaji Stadium. In my final year. I fell in love. I was one of the students who smuggled him out the back door.
Mr Ramsden. In April I acquired a reputation of being the chief ragger in college. My protestations that I was quoting Benjamin Disraeli made no difference to him. If I were. Seven of us were sent down for two weeks. Where were we to go. My brother.
Come final year. I won colours in tennis.
Bharat Singh. This was not good enough for Principal Raja Ram. Not only did he give us a dressing down. I returned to college after our vanavas as an undergraduate celebrity. The great Whig historian. It was the pre-jet age. I did not join the post office but made my maiden trip to Europe.
I reached Dholpur House at 10 a. Eight gentlemen sat around a semi-circular table. When I returned to college. Dudley Senanayake. In the middle of the term. At the centre sat the Chairman. Roach said that there was some hope for me. It was my first trip abroad. Sir G. George Trevelyan.
Belgium and West Germany.
I was to encounter him a decade later in New York when he was leading the Indian delegation to the United Nations. At Corpus. I took a train to Cambridge. My history tutor was John Roach. Khawaja Nazimuddin. I was admitted as an undergraduate to Corpus Christi College. When I took my first tutorial to him.
A fellow passenger on the flight to Delhi was V. I was greeted in a friendly manner by the Hall Porter: On the appointed day. At the end of term.
Corpus was founded in It could be said the governance of the subcontinent lay in the hands of Cambridge alumni. I was called in for the interview at around 11 a.
Among my other history teachers were Sir Herbert Butterfield. The lectures and bi-weekly tutorials left me much time to do as I pleased.
From London. I hailed a cab and asked the driver to drop me at Corpus Christi College. How is your brother. I soon acquired a gown. The Master of the college then was Sir George Thompson. Elton and J. I got a job in the local post office for nine pounds a week to help the establishment sort out the Christmas mail. By that time he had succeeded in becoming the most disliked Indian in the United States.
Krishna Menon. I introduced myself. Zurich and Paris before finally arriving. Bhagwat Singh? Are you so sure of getting into either of the two? I later realized. One night. We arrived at gate number 2 of South Block.
I proceeded to Bharatpur. As I stepped into the room. I am not in chains. Who said that? He was. Harsh and Ajit. Krishna Hutheesing. Sure enough. I was asked if I had read a particular book.
The ordeal of the interview over. My name was amongst them—the first Rajasthani in the country to qualify for the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Foreign Service.
The next question was deceptively easy: At the end of the interaction. I was later told. All thirty-nine of us probationers were eligible bachelors and much in demand. It was the supreme gesture of good manners and magnanimous grace by a statesman of world stature. I distinctly. The meeting with the Prime Minister was a formal affair. I sat opposite the Chairman. Halfway through. The next question: In nine cases out of ten. I am not sure. I told them I would finish my Tripos at Cambridge and then look for a job.
I was decidedly nervous. Over the next few minutes he asked me about my home. The interview commenced with a loaded question. He was almost fifty years older than me. He felt uneasy with fame. I tried. My status had changed. While at Cambridge. It was during this period that I became friends with E. Narayana Menon. He was at the time among the best-known British novelists in the world.
In early September. Fame came to him. Raja Rao. I would have no control over its production. He said. But it was his passion for friendship and personal relationships which greatly appealed to me. By that time. David Lean produced the film. He lent me several books. In the first week of August. All that I was required to do was to study Chinese.
Nehru had unnecessarily given him a very long rope. I was not an undergraduate. Each of them looked at life differently. The college had arranged for a Chinese tutor to induce me to take some interest in learning the language. Dr Rajendra Prasad. I was a conscientious pupil. He tried. His two-word epigram. His most well-known sentence was: But friendship. It is largely to him that I owe such awakening as has befallen on me. We never talked politics. I had first seen him in the winter of at a meeting of the Tagore Society in Cambridge.
Forster would have been appalled. He was a Buddhist with a controlled disdain for the communist regime in China. We called on the Chief Minister. Sheikh Abdullah. The conflict of loyalties can be surmounted without damaging either.
Forster had become something of a cult figure. Knowing them. In the past few months. I remember asking Forster if he would agree to A Passage to India being made into a film. I was back in Corpus Christi College after nearly ten months.
All of us. He was aware of the influence his writings had on a vast number of people all over the English-speaking world. I made two other friends at Cambridge: Forster wrote what I consider the most entrancing summing up of why Cambridge is so special and unique.
Besides us. When this princely adventure was brought to the notice of His Majesty. Madras and Calcutta. His last book. Pakistan and Ceylon. For reasons unknown to me. John Vaizey was undoubtedly among the most brilliant and witty men I have ever known.
The course was instructive in some ways and disappointing in others. In March Norodom Sihanouk. The King. He was prophetic about the decline of the UN. He was a member of the Labour Party for many years. He was fluent in Arabic and spent some time talking with the King. My favourite Vaizey book is In Breach of Promise. Both were from the top drawer. The only worthwhile lecture was by Harold Nicolson.
Ceylon and Hong Kong. Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson. The first was a large Chinese cultural delegation which gave breathtaking performances in Delhi. In Agra. Angkor Wat. The matter was not pursued.
Most of the senior officials were still living in the past and were not quite reconciled to the independence of India.
As Cambridge filled up with friends it acquired a magic quality. Maulana Azad made one of his rare appearances at Palam airport. The Squandered Peace: The World He said to the protocol officer. In the biography of his friend. Body and spirit. Cambodia is a Buddhist country. Prime Minister Nehru went to Palam airport to receive. It is a collective portrait of five exceptionally talented British politicians. People and books reinforced one another.
I was deputed to accompany various foreign delegations to different parts of India. They got a genuinely warm welcome. I wrote an article in the Illustrated Weekly of India. On the day of their departure. Sergey Ivanov. I was surprised but still wrote to him.
He was a walking-talking encyclopaedia. To my surprise. Several important agreements were reached. The two groups spoke to each other in Pali. The leader of the Indian group of monks asked his Cambodian counterpart about their food preferences. In December To receive them. No other country had said so. The visit was carefully monitored by the Americans and the Chinese.
Nikita Khrushchev. It was around this time that I ran into Nirad C. I went to see my counterpart at the Soviet delegation. They had brought vast amounts of luggage.
It was worthwhile putting up with his idiosyncrasies. His Autobiography of an Unknown Indian is among the best written by an Indian in the twentieth century. The Cambodians said they wanted to eat beef. I had read his outrageous attack on Forster and his novel. I found Nirad Chaudhuri garrulous and his outbursts disagreeable.
Indo-Soviet relations were deepened and strengthened. I had a letter about him from the British Council earlier in the day. While still at Cambridge. The Indian monks all but collapsed. The delegation was a large one—at least one-third of the members were from the KGB. Andrei Gromyko. It earned him worldwide fame.
They suggested our meeting. Forster wrote back. He was fifty-seven years old then. In early A Passage to India.
The map had been published in Niradbabu had never been out of India. At a reception hosted by Sadr-e-Riyasat Karan Singh. Chaudhuri at a dinner at St. Nehru asked him what had happened.
Nirad-babu had written an article i n Encounter. Recalling his attack on Forster. Before leaving. There was no doubting his erudition and scholarship.
Nirad-babu had read it. Niradbabu was the shortest and the most garrulous man I had ever met. As a writer. On returning to India.
I was attached to the Soviet delegation as baggage officer. The plane circled the airport a few times and then landed. The two leaders also spent a weekend in Srinagar. My duty was to make sure that the baggage was secured. The King brought in his entourage five Buddhist monks.
After receiving the King. I had to spend four months in Tamil Nadu. The word Kumbakonam has a Machiavellian connotation. Chaudhuri was ninety years old and the least the publishers could do was to give him a birthday present.
His financial position was then precarious and I helped him in a modest way. He answered. Jenkins made no commitment but. On his return. I went to Mysore to meet R. It is up to him to write. We spent a fortnight at Tanjore. I reached his newly constructed single-storey house in Yadavagiri. Natwar Singh. He was vaguely familiar with the name. Father always came to the station when any one of his four sons arrived.
He was not there. Great Anarch!. I think. One story doing the rounds was about his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Nirad Chaudhari was given an honorary degree by Oxford University. Thy Hand. I should hope to fix something. I opened the wicket gate and called out. The book was a thousand pages long and no publisher was willing to take the risk of bringing out such a tome by an author whose fame was fading.
He had risen from the ranks and took his job very seriously. Forster had spoken highly about his novels. I met him in London in Great Anarch! At a reception he gave on the occasion. He lived in Oxford till his death in The Collector was Kunchi Thappatham. In January I also did some high-level log-rolling behind the scenes to get Chaudhuri a doctorate from Oxford University. I sat next to Roy Jenkins. I looked for him. Around that time. I said my name was K. At a lunch in London in June Nirad Chaudhuri migrated to England and settled in Oxford.
We also visited Kumbakonam. With some difficulty. On hearing who I was and why I had come. I told him I was looking for R. Greene had no knowledge of the rejection. The Madras government had provided me and my two IFS colleagues with a cook and three servants. I suggested to Jenkins that Oxford should give him some recognition. He told me he had suffered a mild heart attack. I had a foreboding that something was wrong. He asked how a dope like me got into the IFS. His reply was that of an exceptionally loving parent: Husain turned up and asked if he could borrow my newly bought Fiat car for a few hours.
She initially treated me with sneering disdain. He had never been ill in his life. The library was a significant attraction. During this time. I was stunned and numbed with anxiety. Lay off.
Tony sent the file back with LBW written on it. The only officer who did stand up to her was Muhammad Yunus. Tony Agate was also one of my senior officers.
I asked him why he had not informed me. He looked pulled down. I immediately postponed my departure for Peking. I will speak about my time in China in greater detail in the next chapter. One day at the Gymkhana. It was an ideal place to live—swimming in the morning. I saw him reclining on a sofa in the drawing room.
When he finally returned. Mathai was not satisfied: Indira Gandhi joined us. I would have been with him in less than twenty-four hours. The few hours turned into forty-eight hours. My diplomatic career had begun. My posting to Peking was announced soon after—as Third Secretary in the Embassy. Natwar is like my son. Mathai told me sternly that as. I was talking about the book Mulgaonkar had asked me to review.
The department was an administrative oddity. I sent him a file sanctioning the leave application of the section officer. I had become a member of the Gymkhana Club. My immediate boss was the ferociously acerbic but competent and clear-handed Leelamani Naidu. One day. When I reached Govind Niwas. I went to him and asked what a cricketing term was doing on a leave application. On my return to India from Peking in May In the interim. I readily agreed. It was Mother who was constantly ill.
I was more worried about my car than Husain. I had expected to be attached to the China division but that. No one had the temerity to contradict her as she had direct access to the Prime Minister. I asked him what happened. At this point Krishna-masi intervened: It was a mild attack. I could not write for newspapers. He agonized over seemingly insignificant things. The four top secretaries—R. Innovation and originality were frowned upon and mediocrity was a virtue.
Once or twice. When he was required to send a note to the PM. I was familiar with his work habits. A few minutes later. He was to catch a flight to Hong Kong and.
With the exception of Subimal Dutt. It can indeed be safely assumed that from to Chakravarty and Y. I drove to. Gundevia—were all ICS men. I continued reviewing books and writing articles. Independent India catapulted them to high positions that would have eluded them under the Raj. The Prime Minister had high regard for his judgement and experience.
Treading on sensitive toes was not a risk worth taking. The next morning. I became private secretary to the Secretary General SG. In his autobiography. I was in danger of getting an inflated idea of my importance. I accompanied the SG to Palam. He uttered five chilling words: I put it in my cupboard thinking I would read the letter next morning and then send it to the Foreign Secretary.
Nehru had complete confidence in me. I was not overworked. I stayed chatting with the ebullient Mrs Rajan Nehru. And this was more than evident in the calibre of the ICS officers. I cleared all the files. I regularly played tennis and even got elected to the Delhi Gymkhana Executive Committee. I saw a vaguely familiar man approaching our table. And he was unduly fastidious about his appearance.
So I mended my ways. In mid-June. The evening before his departure. Indira Gandhi and Feroze Gandhi were also present. The Prime Minister had a minor explosion. He walked on and as he started to descend the staircase he looked back and said with a beautiful smile and a twinkle in his eyes: A day later Badar Tyabji. My steno told him that I had gone to the airport. By now. Get hold of him. Instead of sending for the Foreign Secretary. As I was passing by his room one day. The Prime Minister was slightly put out and asked Khanna.
Give the file to the FS. While I was merrily chatting at the Palam lounge. I kept refusing everything I was offered. On the second occasion. I changed my exit route from my room after this incident.
He stopped. Natwar must have found your letter to the King very interesting and kept it to read it at leisure. Khanna then informed the Prime Minister that the key was with Natwar Singh. Indira Gandhi told me. I greeted him with folded hands with a book between my palms.
Khanna asked him where the file was and then demanded that my cupboard be opened. On seeing me he said. Prime Minister Nehru stepped out as well. At the end of the breakfast. At this Nehru was livid: He has nothing to do with it. He was informed that it was locked and I had the key. One of his pet dogs is. In awe or nervousness. To relieve the tension. I passed it on to the Foreign Secretary and others. I thought. He was very angry. The only time he showed some interest was when I said a word or two about my stay in China.
And ask the police to get hold of him! Khanna told him that the file was sent to the SG. South Block at break-neck speed. On the first occasion. Sensing the mood. When Edwina Mountbatten died in early in Borneo. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography. I also spoke to S. Nehru dropped the idea. What bothered me even more was the pernicious influence of the Mountbattens on Nehru.
This was an atrocious proposal. His wife. I spoke to several of my colleagues about it. This was unprecedented. There was unanimous disapproval. Nehru paid her a tribute in Parliament. Just as I was beginning to despair. The setting was heavenly. Chou En-lai and the great silent military leader. People in China drink vast amounts of green tea. That suited me—I was at that time a show-off puritan.
He was the first foreign correspondent to interview Mao who had. Suyin wrote superb English. The staff car deposited me at Hsin Chiao Hotel where. Red Star Over China. I am Han Suyin. I scribbled a note on the back of the menu: Edgar Snow wrote: It was the first book to make known the names of Mao Tse Tung. It is one of the most moving and tragic love stories of our time. Not so discreetly. I carried on my arm. I uttered a banality: On an excursion to the Summer Palace outside Peking.
I kept looking at her. My luggage was modest—one large leather suitcase and a small handbag. I could not take my eyes off her. The book was published in when Snow was twenty-six years old. On the side table rested a thermos flask filled with hot water. I hardly saw an obese Chinese in my two-year stay in China!
The menu was in Chinese. In the edition of the book. I later discovered. A Many-Splendoured Thing. Where had I seen her? Could she be Han Suyin? She helped me. But his vast knowledge imparted an air of condescension in his dealings with foreign leaders, and took the form of moralizing on the diplomatic arena. Nehru protested from the roof top when Britain invaded Egypt in when the Suez Canal was nationalized by them.
Natwar Singh identifies three blunders committed by Nehru which caused lasting damage to India. He moved the international body under Chapter 6 of its Charter dealing with disputes, while it should have been filed under Chapter 7, concerned with aggression from a foreign country.
In all these vexed issues, Nehru readily accepted the flawed advice offered by Lord Mountbatten, who had a different agenda than that of the Indian government. He was asked to continue as Governor General of free India by Nehru. Singh also mentions that what Nehru did immediately after returning from his Chinese visit in was to apprise Lady Mountbatten of all people! The miserably lost war with China personally devastated Nehru.
Singh attaches two such letters written by Nehru to President Kennedy, literally begging him to provide military equipment and staff during the war with China.
Diehard patriots would find it difficult to read the letters without heartburn. But the single most terrible setback for modern India was his refusal to accept a permanent seat at the UN Security Council when it was offered by the USSR on the ground that only China has the moral right to be there! All such moral postures were flown to the winds when India forcibly liberated Goa from Portuguese control.
Western media flayed him for this misdemeanor from one who preaches to the world about what is morally right. An aristocratic birth in India guarantees connections at the highest levels and and an exalted career.
Belonging to a prominent family of Bharatpur, having relationship with royalty and having married the daughter of the Maharajah of Patiala, Natwar Singh was the epitome of the bureaucrat who could talk in private with the prime minister at any time — and to a person no less than Indira Gandhi! This was a tricky issue when Emergency was proclaimed in The book contains passages in which the author, who was in London at that time, speaking out against it.
This is far from convincing. The ire he received from the Janata Party leaders, who trounced Congress in the very next election after lifting Emergency, stands in silent testimony to his activities, or at least its perception by opposition leaders.
He was shunted to Zambia by the Janata government. Singh even refused to introduce his pretty wife to Desai even though the prime minister actually requested it during a friendly talk.
His star shone brightly when Indira returned to power. He resigned from his official post with five years to go for retirement and managed a seat from Indira to contest in the very next parliamentary election. He planned for a Rajya Sabha seat, but the power brokers of Indira got jealous of him and allotted the Bharatpur Lok Sabha seat, his own constituency. He also got decorated with Padma Bhushan when she was in power.
The author is unusually candid towards Rajiv Gandhi at whose cabinet he served as a minister of state. Rajiv pay rolled LTTE which finally took his life. We see Rajiv as a weak administrator after when he feigned ignorance of Operation Brasstacks which was the largest military exercise held very close to the Pak border.
Singh blames the coterie that surrounded Rajiv for what took place, but falls short of directly naming them. They are described as three ignoramuses with inflated egos, one a socialist, one inept political wheeler-dealer and the third a meddling nuisance p.
But watchful readers need only turn to p. The author could have saved the trouble. Congress party asked for resignation which transformed the author to a ferocious, wounded tiger. He attacks each and every person who asked him to step down, even though they were only sacking a tainted colleague.
He flays Manmohan Singh as a decent though spineless man, who never stands up for his colleagues p. Paul Volcker, the former chairman of U. Federal Reserve who drafted the UN report that indicted Singh is said to be biased. The allegations are directionless and much mudslinging is done by the author who is infuriated at the prospect of being called corrupt.
Having a wide experience in book reviews and an avid reader himself, Singh identifies understatement, restraint and objectivity to have a paralyzing effect on an autobiography. True to the norm, it should as subjective as it could be.
Two halves are clearly discernible in the text. The half that ends with his becoming a minister is witty, having many anecdotes and down to earth observations. But the latter half is in stark contrast to this.
The author seems to have lost his grip on humour the moment he took the oath of office as a minister. Here, it takes on the appearance of a diary, with dry recordings of happenings. Verbatim accounts of speeches and meetings make this half more lackluster. The book boasts a good index and a number of colour plates. A chronology of events would be a nice addition to the second edition. The book is highly recommended. Mar 06, Abhijeet Aanand rated it really liked it. This one is brutally honest and straight from the heart.
I am not really a big fan of autobiographies but somehow, decided to give it a try primarily because this one was coming from a veteran diplomat turned politician.
Diplomats seem to be an altogether different breed of people to me and my fascination for knowing more about a diplomat's life was an instant turn on for trying this one out. Beginning on a slow note, things pick up pace when he joins Foreign Service and begins his career with a This one is brutally honest and straight from the heart.
Beginning on a slow note, things pick up pace when he joins Foreign Service and begins his career with a stint in Mao's China. The chapters dealing with various diplomatic assignments are full of anecdotes and serve as an interesting read especially the ones dealing with postings in Zambia and Pakistan under Zia-ul-Haq. One of the things which makes this book stand out is its vivid description of various events which have carved a place for themselves in history. Having dealt with most of the popular leaders of his time, the author tries his best to do a comprehensive assessment of their personalities and their style of politics.
Being somebody who has been closely associated with Nehru-Gandhi family, K. Natwar Singh has not shied away from disclosing a lot of facts which might be deemed controversial in the long run.
His experiences under J. Nehru and Indira Gandhi have found significant representation in this text. In spite of his attempts to conceal his dislike for Sonia Gandhi, it does find expression in later parts of the book particularly in chapters dealing with Volcker controversy and its aftermath.
Being a first hand witness to power dynamics operating behind curtains, his autobiography is a treat for anybody who has a keen interest in politics and international relations. Jun 01, Aashish Satyajith rated it did not like it Shelves: Gave up on this book. Too much politics in it to be an enjoyable read. The first thing that immediately strikes you is the kind of network being a diplomat can get you access to.
The second thing that strikes you is the kind of politics people play to stay there. Everything, even seemingly simple gestures, has a hidden meaning to it.
Reading too much in between the lines till you can dig no further is a matter of survival than choice. You'd think if all these diplomats spent time working towards Gave up on this book.
You'd think if all these diplomats spent time working towards making India better, she would be in a much better position than she is today. I'm reminded of someone having said something along the lines of the top bureaucrats in India being like sports cars stuck in a traffic jam; individually they're all very capable and whatnot, but put them together and they're locked in. This book makes all the case for it. That Singh has added in his personal opinions it's his book after all doesn't help either.
If you're interested in gossips, politics and scandals and have a taste for Indian history, then this could be a book for you. Otherwise, it might be better to spend your time on something else. Nov 10, Janakan Manivannan rated it liked it. I was very much looking forward to read this book as Mr. Natwar Singhs case is a classic example of a political rollercoaster with Machiavellian underpinnings. His proximity to Nehru family and his part in various important turns the country took with Indira and Rajiv as steerers.
His views on Sonia are abruptly prejudiced and had a misogynistic tone. The latter part of the book is filled with indignant tales , and Natwar starts griping everyone around him. A one time read for Modern India followers. May 22, Abhishek Shekhar rated it really liked it. Don't have sky high expectation from this book. But the choice of words and phrases will amaze you for sure. Though a little cliche and sometimes looks like one is reading a diary with no direction on story but then that's how memoirs are.
Yes its a memoir only. Good thing is that you will get a list of old books mentioned here and there which you might consider reading. Author has himself read a lot and has been editor for so many publishers that makes this book roadworthy even though it could Don't have sky high expectation from this book. Author has himself read a lot and has been editor for so many publishers that makes this book roadworthy even though it could have been better.
The author and narrator look sound so different one a hero with class and should have rose to Prime Minister the other a loser with false allegations and betrayal. Aug 07, Geetha Krishna rated it liked it.
This gives a broader perspective of his diplomatic and political career. His writing style is straightforward, not too dramatic and witty. I was impressed with his work ethics and the balance he strike between steadfastness and exhibiting diplomacy, I found the first pages of book bit boring, fails to capture readers interest, but it picks up the pace with his 1st assignment in china. You can understand the typical functioning of diplomat, the dilemma he undergoes and throws some light on vo This gives a broader perspective of his diplomatic and political career.
You can understand the typical functioning of diplomat, the dilemma he undergoes and throws some light on volker crisis which allegedly tainted the image of natwar. His acrid tone on sonia gandhi, his working and personal relation with Gandhi family is worth reading. Being an apolitical person, I reluctantly got this book on kindle unlimited. Pleasantly surprised. Very readable, some interesting details about events and persons from that era.
An excellent read, one of the best autobiographies I have read. However, editing is poor, even I would have done a better job. The autobiography is primarily divided into three sections: His childhood, IFS travails and Political filght.
The author has colored a vivid picture of the erstwhile princely state of bharatpur, its eccentric king and his memories in this regard. First brush with authority was caused due to him hanging a poster of Mahatma in his dorm room, in turn irking the imperialistic Principal Stow, mentions Natwar Singh.
Another time, he along with his friend Badan Singh planned and successfully executed an escapade from Scindia School, landed in hometown Bharatpur, only to be beaten up by his father and Maharaja and sent back. Stephens and his joining Corpus Christi College, Cambride. His years and reminisces of his diplomatic experience are multifaceted and multicolored. His close relations with the Nehru-Gandhi family are quite evident from various instances.
Natwar Singh describes the events culminating into the Sino-Indian War in great detail. If the instances mentioned are taken as gospel, then it reveals a National Security breach committed by Pandit Nehru, as he had mentioned key aspects of the Sino-Indian talks to Edwina Mountbatten. Such kind of an exchange between a constitutional dignitary and a commoner is highly vile and unacceptable.
It is during these years he came across numerous well-published authors and also authored several book. The author has described his friendship with E. Experiences based on his diplomatic expedition to China clear the stagnant of the Sino-Indian war.
If the instances mentioned are taken as gospel, then it reveals a serious National Security breach committed by Pandit Nehru, as he had mentioned key aspects of the Sino-Indian talks to Edwina Mountbatten.
The Diplomatic travelogues are by far the most engaging part of the autobiography. The third and the last part of the autobiography mentions his development as a politician. Natwar Singh resigned from IFS in toward the end of the Indira years, and successfully contested form the Bharatpur Constituency after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
As a minister in the Rajiv Gandhi Government, Natwar Singh delves into various details describing his experiences in the Ministry of Steel and then Ministry of Fertilizers, which are quite average. The book quite aptly describes the flaws of the Rajiv Gandhi Government.
Thus it can be rightly concluded that Governments can seldom be run by charisma alone. Proactive planning and politically right decision making is of supreme importance.
Much of the concluding parts are more of Memoirs than an autobiography. He was Man Friday for the Sonia Gandhi and her government for years. Disaster struck and things went haywire after the publication of the Volcker Report accusing him of benefiting from the Oil-For-Food Program with Iraq. Much of the later part of the book is full of clarifications, accusations and allegations. Natwar Singh describes the troubles faced by him and his family in the years following the Volcker Conspiracy.
Primary plus point of the book is its lucid language. However, the book is written as a collection of recollections. This has led to several repetitive instances in the later parts of the book. Had it been written in a chronological sequence, the same would have been averted. The Shocking revelations, Election fever, coupled with the perfect timing for its launch surely takes the readers by surprise.
Natwar Singh has presented the facts and tales all and sundry, without fear or favor. Mar 11, Chaitalee Ghosalkar rated it liked it. The journey from a civil servant to a politician. The transition from a staunch Nehruite to being on the opposite side of the Gandhi family. Or a blemish free individual to one who was left defiled with accusations in the later years.
These and many others could be ways of summarizing the book. The autobiographical account gives lot of scope for detailing, and Singh does that well.
He provides you a glimpse of the workings of the government over the years, and keeps you engrossed throughout. It i The journey from a civil servant to a politician.
It is easy to chart the author's meteoric rise as being the most powerful people's right hand man to being their whipping boy. Whether or not Natwar Singh was guilty of the accusation heaped on him is something I shall reserve my opinion on, for me this book is about knowing the history through the eyes of someone who's been there. Natwar Singh spent many years in the Indian Foreign Service and later joined the Congress party, assuming many senior ministerial positions in the government.
His closeness to the the Nehru-Gandhi family, which has controlled the Congress party and the Indian government for most part since Indian independence is well known ad well documented - including by Natwar Singh himself. He rose within the government, though never so much inside the party, based on this perceived proximity.
This book is a Natwar Singh spent many years in the Indian Foreign Service and later joined the Congress party, assuming many senior ministerial positions in the government. This book is an intriguing account of the way Delhi functions - from someone who had a great view of the process. The good thing about this book is that Singh does not desist from pushing the envelope. This is an ideal autobiography - he attempts to hide nothing or no one.
His likes and dislikes are made public and so are his own qualities and shortcomings. The book explains how the bureaucracy - government relationships work. Singh covers how the bureaucrats stand to benefit by being close to powerful politicians.
And conversely how things can go wrong when these relationships fall by the way. The initial assembling of India's diplomatic missions and positioning of key officials post happened much via these past personal equations - the self sustaining ecosystem where the bureaucrat, the party and the politician was part of the same circle. Singh gives frank opinions on key personalities who he worked with. On Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, he explains how he brought the country together after Independence and how he fell from his high pedestal in the later part of his tenure.
On Indira Gandhi with whom Singh worked the closest, the book covers the qualities - power and authority and the flip side of the same qualities - carte blanche and dictatorial ways of operating in a democracy. At one point, the author describes how he called Indira "the Empress of India", which for a bureaucrat should be ideally unusual.
This part of the book gives the best view - exposing the worst realities - of the Delhi symbiotic ecosystem. On Rajiv Gandhi, the author covers his meteoric rise and then the sudden detachment from political realities leading to the equally swift fall.
Finally on Sonia Gandhi, the author explains the reality of her not taking up India's PM role in , which was not as much about principles, as it was about family pressures, the fear of the politics and the advantage of ruling without being accountable. Singh also covers the tenure and personalities of several Congress leaders outside of the Nehru-Gandhi family. On PV Narasimha Rao, he is not very kind - which is explained by the fact that Singh was himself part of a rival faction which did not get to rule for the only 5 yrs post when no one from the Nehru-Gandhi family controlled the party.
On Manmohan Singh, the author is very clear about the picture of a weak individual not standing by his colleagues and someone who was a beneficiary of a windfall in All in all, Singh gives as many details as one possibly can from such a long and connected career.
The only grouse is how he has not connected the dots between the "Oil for Food" scheme in Iraq which caused his downfall, to the eventual beneficiaries, the first list of which contained the name of Congress party. But he leaves it for the readers to make guesses on how these threads were tied together.
Overall, a good read for those interested in Indian politics. Nov 16, Vijay Ivaturi rated it liked it. So, reading the book actually was quite a revelation for me. The author was born in an almost royal family and joined the Indian Foreign Service during the Indian independence years. His close association with the ruling family of India started with Jawaharlal Nehru and his sisters. Mr Singh gives a clear and unbiased depiction of what Nehru was, where he excelled and his known pitfalls.
I found that really helpful since Mr Singh does not make any attempt to go overboard with his loyalty towards to Congress Party. Another very good aspect of this book is the author's close association with India's Ministry of External Affairs - as a diplomat and also as a Minister. He has a good command of the foreign affairs, India's role in UN, dealings with Pakistan and China at various levels.
The writing style is also simple and very seldom he sounds self promoting. Overall, a good book for us Indians who have access to very less books that give us different perspective of past 40 years events. His association with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi while they were handling various challenges is described really well.
He vents a lot of anger on Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh as he holds them accountable for the sad state of affairs in the Congress Party today. Coming to the drawbacks of this book, I can think of two disappointments. China war was a disaster for India. The author claims to be our China expert but talks very little about the real reasons of that war, how it progressed, the losses we encountered and how a truce was called.
Mr Natwar Singh had a disappointing end to his image in public life due to Oil-for-food scam. While he dedicates a chapter to defend himself, he sounds too rhetorical while doing so. Does not talk about facts - suddenly the politician and father in him wakes up and emotions are given importance over logic Oct 14, Rupak Banerjee rated it liked it.
The book is a very interesting read. It is his autobiography looking back at three decades of working in the fabled Indian bureaucracy, followed by almost three decades in politics. He joined the Indian Foreign service in , less than 6 years after Indian got its independence from the British Raj. As a young man, he grew up idolizing Gandhi and then when he started his job, it was with Jawaharlal Nehru as the Prime Minister of India.
Both of them could do no wrong. He is at the heart of the generation which voted the Congress to power in every election until the elections. He started his diplomatic travels with his posting to China and then onto many important positions. He was appointed to the permanent Indian mission to the United Nations and met with political leaders who later went on to become the Heads of State of their respective countries.
The main highlights of the book come from the insight he brings to the functioning of an ambassador of India to the different countries. He, sometimes inadvertently, brings forth the realization that India often does not look at foreign policy in the long haul. Natwar Singh has seen the whole spectrum of influence and policy decisions when it comes to Indian Foreign Policy. The book is a must read for anyone interested in the policy makings and inner workings of the Indian Foreign Service.
It should not be assumed from this review that the book comes without any flaws. Those, I save for a later post. Firstly, I am of the opinion that more of such books should be written as they give us a unique insider view of what goes on inside of our political system. The structure of the book leaves a lot to be desired, non-linear at the best of times and haphazard at worst. Natwar Singh is a typical case of someone who seemed to enjoy all the benefits accruing from his pro Firstly, I am of the opinion that more of such books should be written as they give us a unique insider view of what goes on inside of our political system.
Natwar Singh is a typical case of someone who seemed to enjoy all the benefits accruing from his proximity to India's first family, but cries foul when things don't go his way. Most interesting in this context is his relationship with Morarji Desai; he makes a big issue of being treated badly at the hands of the Janta Party government, without for a moment highlighting that he did receive undue privileges on account of his access to the Gandhi-Nehru family.
It was really intriguing for me that he has made absolutely no mention of Atal Behari Vajpayee's tenure as External Affairs Minister whereas he has gone to quite an extent to vilify Morarji Desai. Singh would probably have done well to understand that the exalted position he found himself in ,wherein he was the go-to person for those Congress Leaders who had fallen out of favor with 10 Janpath, was only ephemeral, and now the eventual falling out has left him a bitter taste. Which is not such a bad thing as it does bring out some interesting factoids about our political leaders out in the public domain.
Interesting for me being the case where Sonia Gandhi made a senior African statesman change his hotel room as she had a falling out with the owner of that particular hotel! So yeah, books of the sort must be encouraged as our political scene was and continues to remain very opaque, but books like this do help in demystifying it for us. Feb 05, Saurabh Goyal rated it liked it.
Political Autobiographies do two things: And two, they connect those specifics to long sweeps of national history, the eternity as it were. The book carries an aristocratic aura throughout. It is about life of a man who was born in privilege, studied in best possible institutions, married into aristocracy, worked into IFS and walked in high power corridors.
Suc Political Autobiographies do two things: Such an aura does give the narrative a touch of high culture and dignity. But at times you feel that the story lacks earthly connection, the mundane, the ordinary as it were. One just cannot relate himself to the author. What makes the book interesting is ring side view of big political events in India- Rajiv gandhi's prime ministership, Volcker Report, Sonia Gandhi's refusal to Prime-ministership and so on.
However, even in this part, the book reeks of personal liking or grudges rather than deeper objective analysis. Finally, the book does not, or only partly, connect the life events of Natwar Singh with larger national history of India.
So it gives you a limited understanding of Indian Politics. All in all, the book does more of ice-skating, and very little of deep-sea diving. Apr 12, Prabhat rated it really liked it Shelves: One Life is Not Enough by K. Natwar Singh- Autobiography- According to the autobiography, K.