Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I just finished reading Sri Natwar Singh’s recently published book, ONE LIFE IS NOT ENOUGH  which had stirred up a lot of political controversies, arguments and debates especially on the English news channels. These discussions had, regrettably,  centred mainly on those portions of the book dealing with Smt Sonia Gandhi’s role in Indian politics and her stranglehold on the UPA 1 and UPA 2. The reasons as exposed by Sri Natwar Singh for her not accepting the country’s prime ministership which was offered to her on a platter  received more attention than anything else. 

Sri Natwar Singh a well known editor, author, successful bureaucrat and influential diplomat  entered politics at his option and went on to become the Minister of  External Affairs of the country. An ardent admirer and friend of British writer and author E.M.Forster , Sri Natwar Singh gives interesting details of his association and meetings with the author.  So also about his association with R.K. Narayan, Kenneth Kaunda the first President of Zambia,  rulers, diplomats and world leaders. Closely associated with the Nehru-Indira Gandhi family right from the days of India’s independence as revealed by him in his book he was privy to and had first hand information on  several of the course changing decisions taken by successive Congress governments at the Centre.The partition of India, invasion of Kashmir by Pakistan, the handing over of the issue to the U.N.,  the Indo-Chinese engagements and the war with China in which India was defeated, the nationalisation of banks, Operation Blue star, the two wars with Pakistan and the forming of Bangladesh, declaration of emergency, the Sri Lankan expedition of the IPKF, Shah Banu case,the deeds and misdeeds of UPA 1 and UPA 2 and so on have all been discussed from a diplomat’s point of view as well as that of an insider who had a ring side view of the happenings. In fact the book helps the reader to know how the country’s foreign policy evolved over the years, its nuances, its high as well as low points, how the foreign offices worked and so on  coming as it is from the author who was an officer of the foreign service, a diplomat and a minister of external affairs. Sadly these aspects did not  find a place in the discussions on the book.

The book is interestingly written, is easy  on the reader and succeeds in giving the impression that the author is nearer to the actual than otherwise.   He does not seem to allow his closeness to the ruling family to cloud his vision. He does not mince words while pointing out the blunders of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi at the same time highlighting the contributions of the first three. He is highly critical of the UPA1 and UPA 2 regimes, Sonia Gandhi  and the former Prime Minister Manmohan  Singh. It is in this context that the reader gets the impression that the  frustration and bitterness, in connection with the circumstances that made him  resign from the cabinet and the Congress party, get the better of him. But he had the last laugh when the people of  India gave a resounding slap to the UPA and the Congress  when the results of the parliamentary elections were announced on the 16th May 2014. 

The book also contains a number of nostalgic photographs  including  a photo of Natwar Singh and wife with Lata Mangheshkar and another showing Natwar Singh with the pet lion of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethopia.

EP Record
One paragraph  on page 35 of the book touched a chord somewhere. The picture of a young Natwar Singh visiting a movie house in Bharatpur with his parents to see the  Bombay  Talkies film Achhut Kanya, an Ashok Kumar-Devika Rani  film, evoked memories of my going to see films with my parents though the circumstances were not comparable. It also made me take out and play the EP record of the film’s songs rendered by Ashok  kumar and Devika Rani! The 1936 film directed by Franz Osten and produced by Himanshu Rai was one of the first super hit movies of Hindi films and one of the earliest Indian movies with a social reformist theme. I also liked a sentence in another part of the book, “I knew too well the fate of the retired officers- the doers of yesteryears become the drifters of today.”

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