Author: Khushwant Singh and Humra Quraishi
Publisher: Rupa Publications
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In this book, Khushwant Singh compiles the profiles of 35 famous (or in some case, infamous) Indians as he knows them, based on his relations, exchanges and interactions with them.
What this book is –
With writer Humra Quraishi, 98-year old Khushwant Singh has co-authored this book that gives its readers an interesting perspective on their favourite political and social figures from India. Being one of India’s most renowned writers, he offers, in this latest contribution of his, an insider’s look at the lives of various famous personalities including Mother Teresa, Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, George Fernandes, Phoolan Devi, Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and many others. Mr. Singh announced his retirement following the publishing of this book, making his fans eager to read this book. Being a long-time journalist, editor and novelist, Khushwant Singh has had the opportunity to interact with the famous, the intellectual and the rich. This book is a compilation of many incidents and personal experiences with these personalities which introduces the reader to the other side of their role models. And trust me, some of those are not very pleasant and will leave you shocked. Especially when you read blurbs like the one below –
‘He took a vow of celibacy in his prime, but without consulting his wife, which I think was grossly unfair. He would sleep naked beside young girls to test his brahmacharya. He could be very odd.’
Throughout the book, Mr Singh keeps expressing his worry about the growth of right wing forces in India. You will also get to read about his opinions on various subjects like religion, public policy, politics, literature and many more. A man well known for his honesty, Mr Singh is very well-informed when it comes to these matters and he articulates his beliefs and ideas in an authentic and frank manner, which makes you like him as a writer. It is also very clear how little Mr Singh fears criticism or even cares about it. Each profile is, on an average, 3-4 pages, making the book a quick read. After a few chapters, you get this sense of foreboding on what you might read about the next person on his list that makes this book exciting.
What this book is not –
If you are looking for a complete biography of famous people, this book is not it. You will find that these character outlines don’t mean much if you are not already aware of the personalities being mentioned.
The Verdict –
I believe this book will be of interest to people who have grown up with these personalities as it will definitely ring a bell. For gossip lovers who want to acquaint themselves with the little known things about these personalities, this book could prove useful. But one needs to remember that some of it is just one person’s opinion and need not be the full story.
You can find the Kashmir Times’ review of this book here.