For those who grew up in the seventies and the eighties, political gossip of the old world in India is still so delectable. Those pre-neoliberal, pre-satellite TV politicians had an intrigue and star-quality that any amount of trivia on them made us crave for more. In fact, those years were not just about India, but also about the ruling elite in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. All of them had a similar allure that was appealing to us.
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Asian Age reviewer Ashok Malik is very correct in his observation that for all their access, political journalists in the capital are often the ultimate outsiders in Lutyens Delhi. At least in so far as 10, Janpath is concerned, this is cent per cent true.
India is a vast country with myriads of problems. The constitution and the law empowers government with all the authority needed to administer the country effectively. As in all democracies the prime executive in a democratic establishment is the Prime Minister.
It is this situation which is at the root of most maladies that afflict the country these days. This book tells its readers that there was a time when its author had very close relations not only with Rajiv Gandhi but also with Smt. Sonia Gandhi. Then suddenly, this closeness came to an end. Tavleen herself was questioned by the I. By the end of the inquisition, I found myself seriously worried about the standard of our intelligence agencies. It did not surprise me when, some months later, the investigation into whether there had been a larger conspiracy to kill the Prime Minister of India was allowed to quietly die away.
But I feel that there is great weight in the thrust of her opening note which is succinctly contained in these concluding paragraphs:. Durbar has been difficult to write. I started to write it soon after Rajiv Gandhi died. I knew him well from the days when he was not a politician and found myself in a unique position to tell the story of how a prime minister with the largest mandate in Indian history ended up as such a disappointment.
I believed then that he had failed India but when I started to write the book I realized that he was not the only one who had let India down. An entire ruling class had. A ruling class to which I belonged. As the story unfolded it became as if a mirror of my own life, a memoir not just of the short life of Rajiv as a politician and how the seeds of dynastic democracy were sown, but of my own as a journalist.
I discovered how much the clear lens of journalism had changed my understanding of the country in which I had lived all my life. And this fundamentally changed the way in which I saw the people I had grown up with. I saw how aloof they were from India, how foreign her culture and history were to them, and how, because of this, they had failed to bring about renewal and change.
I saw how my life as a journalist opened up doors that made me constantly ashamed of how India has been betrayed by people like me. I believe that it is because India was let down by her ruling class that she failed to become the country she could have been. But we failed and instead brought up our children, as we had been, as foreigners in their own country.
Fascinated by all things foreign and disdainful of all things Indian. A new ruling class is slowly replacing the old one. A newer, rougher breed of politician has come to control the levers of power. But in emulation of the old ruling class they teach their children English and send them to Western universities.
There would be no harm in this if they did not also bring them up removed from their own languages and culture. The possibility of an Indian renaissance, that as the first generation of Indians to grow up in post-colonial India should have been ours to ensure, recedes further and further away.
Dynasty, a political tool in the hands of the ruling class, has become the catalyst for a new colonization of a country whose soul has already been deeply scarred by centuries of it. This is the main reason why an expanding and increasingly educated middle class is becoming disenchanted with democracy and democratic institutions. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think that we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her cultural and spiritual heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them — a truly dominated nation.
Somehow, its effect has survived even after Independence. Those who speak only Hindi or other Indian languages, and are not very conversant with English, are generally looked down upon in our country. I have often given a personal example to illustrate this point.
I knew very little Hindi during the first twenty years of my life that I spent in Sindh. I was conversant with only two languages — my mother tongue, Sindhi, and with English. I could not read and write Devanagri. However, I studied it diligently after I came to Rajasthan. But it was only when I shifted to Delhi in that I realised how English enjoys a higher social status even in independent India.
Is sahib at home? The presumption obviously was that some servant in the house was speaking. The Emergency was still in effect and the atmosphere of fear that the past eighteen months had created had not dissipated. Raju, the chief reporter, was his usual pessimistic self and pronounced that since Mrs. Gandhi was undefeatable there was no point anyway. He told her they could lose. He said that Sanjay and he were together in Srinagar when they heard about the elections and Sanjay had been very upset.
When we got to the grounds we noticed that people were streaming in from all sides. But not even this prepared us for what we saw when we got inside. There were more people than I had ever seen at a political rally.
The crowd stretched all the way to the end of the Ram Lila grounds and beyond. At about 6 p. One by one they rose to make long, boring speeches about their travails in jail. I said to a colleague from the Hindustan Times that I thought people might start to leave unless somebody said something more inspirational. It was past 9 p.
Everyone here has come just to hear him. It was well past 9. Atal Behari zindabad! The crowd went wild. The cheering was more prolonged, the last line of a verse that he told me later he had composed on the spur of the moment. The crowd was now hysterical. Despite the night being so chilly, and a thin drizzle starting again, nobody left. They listened to Atalji in complete silence.
Eloquently, in simple Hindi, Atalji told them why they must not vote for Indira Gandhi. I no longer have a copy of the speech he made that night, and he spoke extempore, but I paraphrase here what I remember of it. Freedom, he began, democratic rights, the fundamental right to disagree with those who rule us, these things mean nothing until they are taken away. In the past two years they were not just taken away but those who dared to protest were punished.
The India that her citizens loved no longer existed, he said, it became a vast prison camp, a prison camp in which human beings were no longer treated as human. The clapping this remark evoked went on and on and on an it would be only on election day that I would understand why. Long after Atalji finished speaking and the opposition leaders got back into their white Ambassadors and drove off the crowds stayed as if they had collectively decided that they needed to do more than applaud a stirring speech.
So when party workers appeared carrying soggy sheets in which they collected donations everyone gave something. The youth of this nation doesnt hav So there is "gossip" put in paper to authenticate Ms Singh's version of "gossip" because "all of a sudden" closeness evaporated, for no fault of her o This is a major opposition leader who has been in power, who has also set the country back to the 12th century by demolishing a mosque that Babar buil Trending Topics.
Update Consent. Tech Science Reviews Search for:. But I feel that there is great weight in the thrust of her opening note which is succinctly contained in these concluding paragraphs: Durbar has been difficult to write. He also served as a deputy prime minister of India and has been the leader of the opposition in the Indian Parliament. He also se. View 6 comments Post a comment.
Covid only exposed the glaring gaps The false promise of self-reliance: An inward-looking India could quickly slide towards closed-mindedness, cronyism and mediocrity The great rethink: India backs off a lockdown strategy the elite cheered on, but the poor could not cope with Equating racism in USA to Hindu-Muslim Conflict in India is unjustified.
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Five reasons why Tavleen Singh’s Durbar is my favourite book this season
Review: “Durbar” By Tavleen Singh
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A great dane lounges in the garden outside, while a mastiff named Brumby and her desi companion amble over to check your credentials. Read: Tales from Delhi Durbar. You desist. Singh reminds you of a formidable aunt who might, any moment now, bite your head off for some minor infraction. So you put on your best respectful-younger-journalist disguise and steer talk to less incendiary subjects. Like, how come the bazaar gossip about the funding that powered Tehelka magazine -- a subject to which she devotes some space in the book -- was news to her. Read: In the name of the father or mother.