Thursday, September 18, 2014

One Life Is Not Enough

Natwar Singh
I have just finished reading Kunwar Natwar Singh’s autobiography “One Life Is Not Enough”. Though I love reading autobiographies yet I do not intend to spend money on books. In the recent months, it is third autobiography which I could not resist and purchased. The other two were that of APJ Kalam and Khuswant Singh. Before I say something on the book, my first comment is that Natwar Singh remained elitist throughout in his living and thinking. He loved to be called Kunwar Sahib and always write his name as K. Natwar Singh. He likes that his wife Hem (full name not given in the book anywhere) should be called Maharani.  To me, it shows a feudal mind set. The time has changed in democratic India. Nevertheless, I must say that Natwar Singh writes well. I enjoy reading him in various newspapers and magazines. One myth which the book has exposed is that claims to royalty and sophistication are skin deep only. The ongoing exchanges between Captain Amrinder Singh and Natwar Singh in the media, with regard the autobiography, and washing of dirty linen in public is of bad taste on both the sides.

Being a member of the IFS fraternity, though in junior capacities, I have been watching Natwar Singh and his functioning.  Natwar Singh has been a first class diplomat of India. His observations on China and its leadership particularly Mao and Chao are candid. Natwar Singh’s special interest in Africa endeared him to the African leadership particularly Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. His encounters and not so happy experience with PM Morarji Desai tells poorly on our political leadership.  It is known and the book clearly establishes that Natwar Singh enjoyed good rapport with PM Indira Gandhi. It seems Sonia Gandhi recognized his diplomatic skills and abilities but did not trust him. In the end they fell out and the book clearly shows the bitterness of Natwar Singh. His case which he calls ‘Volcker Conspiracy’ is not convincing.  May be Sonia Gandhi will add to the story someday. I recommend the book to the practitioners of diplomacy and politics.

There are a couple of errors, inadvertent and otherwise. The name of Foreign Secretary should be R.D. Sathe and not R.B. (page 215). The name of Major General Shabeg Singh has been misspelled as Shahbeg (page 232). The caption of the photograph with PM Narender Modi is misleading. Narender Modi was not PM designate in February 2014. He was a Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP.
मस्जिद तो बना दी सब भर में; इमां की हरारत वालों ने,
मन अपना पुराना पापी है; बरसों से नमाज़ी हो न सका !