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Seita Vaidialingam

By K. Natwar Singh
Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2014, pp. 464, Rs. 300.00


Natwar Singh’s book is like the man himself—to the point, sparse and understated. It covers mostly his public life and carefully spans over the pri­vate in measured words. If there are expecta­tions that he will ‘spill the beans’ and come out with juicy details over private life hap­penings regarding which Delhi was at one time agog about or unreported details about his long and close association with the Gandhi family through generations they will be disappointed. In the preface he writes about a surprise visit from Sonia Gandhi and her daughter on 7th May, 2014 just when he was finishing his book because according to him ‘they were apprehensive about his au­tobiography touching raw nerves’. Everyone mentioned has had their nerves left intact by him. His foreward to the book is about his wife Hem, a Patiala princess and it says, ‘To Hem, without whom not’—this one line says it all about his marriage—apparently a close and successful one which yielded two children—a son and a daughter (who passed away suddenly) leaving ‘the darkest day in his life’ and two grandsons born of his son who like all grandchildren consider their grandparents ‘dedicated old bores’. There is mention of Indira Gandhi saying in the book at the time his son and thereafter his daugh­ter were born that he had done better than her in the family scene as she had two sons when she had longed for a girl and he had managed one of each. Regarding people who ask the inevitable inane question that is aimed at a retired per­son: ‘How do you spend your time after be­ing so busy and active in your life’, his an­swer is apt and must and can be used by other retired public persons effectively to si­lence and embarrass their nosy (and foolish) questioner: ‘I enjoy old age, I read, write re­lax. I listen to music, watch tennis and cricket on TV. I spend time with my grandchildren. Sometime, I sit and think. At other times I just sit.’ That sums it all. Natwar Singh was born in Deeg Bharatpur to a Nazim and District Magis­trate of Deeg. He schooled at Mayo College and the Scindia School, at St. Stephens Col­lege, Delhi and at Cambridge University at Corpus Christie College. He sat for the Civil Services exam ...

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