Sunday, July 26, 2015

Durbar by Tavleen Singh

Image result for durbar by tavleenDurbar's literal translation in English is a royal courtyard. The durbar which the author refers to here is not of some Mughal or Mauryan emperor but this is the durbar of a post British monarchy which over the last seven decades has been the most powerful in South East Asia, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

The author Tavleen Singh, belonged to a rich Sikh family but she claims that she wasn't content with being simply one of the privileged class, she yearned to do something with her life and took up journalism as a profession. At a time when we had fewer and fewer women at workplace, Tavleen decided to challenge the glass ceiling by becoming a journalist. The book acts as a conduit for Tavleen's journey as a journalist and the rise and rise of India's first family. Tavleen's access to the rich and powerful through her profession and her circle of high society friends provide fodder for political and social gossip which is the basis of her book.
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The book takes us through the life and times of the Nerhu Gandhi family starting from Indira Gandhi, her rise to India's most powerful position and then the imposition of emergency in the mid 70's under which her son Sanjay Gandhi, had complete and total control of the Indian state. Its really surprising that this dark and intriguing chapter in the history of our nation is completely missing from history books penned by communists authors and taught in our schools, the result of which is that most of today's generation is either unaware of this atrocious act or have only a nebulous idea about it. The author claims that she herself was witness to countless atrocities by the government like forced sterilization, destruction of slums, suspension of free press and citizens rights etc. The author fails to provide any citing or references which of course means you have to take her word at face value.

The book and your parents(If you are a delhite) will tell you that Sanjay, was the real architect of the emergency and was micro managing not just the Congress party but also his mother's government. Sanjay went on to marry Maneka Gandhi, who herself is now a MP from the right wing nationalist party the BJP. On 23rd June, 1980 Sanjay Gandhi an amateur pilot crashed his plane and his short life came to an abrupt end. Sanjay was the political heir to her mother's vast empire and after his death his 'docile' and apolitical brother, Rajiv Gandhi, had to step in to fill his brother's shoes.

Durbar also talks about the Blue Star operation, among other important events in India's post British history. In 1983, the fanatical, legendary Sikh leader Bhindrewale was at the height of his power. His demand for a separate Sikh state threatened the sovereignty of the Indian state, Indira Gandhi in a unprecedented move asked the army to flush out Bhindrewale and his supporters who were holed up in the Golden temple. In a daring operation the army swept through the temple and took out the terrorists, in the process they themselves took heavy casualties. The author, who by this point in the book accuses people without any evidence or concrete proof does the same to the Indian Army when she accuses the army of sikh massacre based only on hearsay.

Next, the author takes us through the anti Sikh riots in Delhi which took place in 1984 after Indira Gandhi's assassination. Again, this dark chapter in India's history was omitted from the text books because it would make the masters of the communist authors look bad. You don't have to read the book to find out about the Anti Sikh riots, citizens of Delhi remember this madness to this day like it was yesterday. My own family hid and saved a few Sikh neighbors from the rampaging mobs of the Nehru-Gandhi family acolytes. Thousands died and not even one Congress leader has been punished till date!

Much of the book is an ode to Sonia Gandhi, the author and the empress of congress had a capricious relationship. Where the author inch by inch kept coming close to the ultimate power center, but the author mentions that once she did a critical piece of Rajiv, she was shunned by the empress herself. Chapters and her own thoughts on Sonia are quite interesting, I had not known how close was Sonia to Quattrochi and that she did not take up Indian citizenship for many many years.
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 The book takes us through the lives of the rich and the powerful. Her meeting and interview of Amitabh Bacchan was pretty good. Her gossip details of MJ Akbar, Devi Lal, urine drinking PM Morarji Desai  and other minor characters is entertaining. The author could have toned down her own pomp, she leaves no opportunity to showcase how canny, cheeky, funny and Intelligent she is.

This is history by a Page 3 Journalist.

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