‘One Life is not Enough’ is an autobiography of a an Indian politician Mr. Natwar Singh, who has sketched almost his entire life inside a four hundred pages book. He shares his experiences and services in various ministries and also narrates different events and the ups and downs of the Congress party as an insider. He also reveals some stunning facts about Indian politics. In many cases he has tried to set many record straight on several events, including the Volcker controversy. Mr Singh joined the Indian Foreign Service and served as a bureaucrat for 31 years. He joined the Congress party in 1984, and became a Minister of State in the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi s council. He had a spectacular career and reached the acme of power till in 2005 when he fell from the favour of Sonia Gandhi.
Right from the very beginning the writer perhaps has tried to write the gist of his knowledge and the philosophies of his life which he developed with his wide range of experience and by reading many well known writers which he mentioned in this book. He has shown his deep acquaintances with great authors and contemporary writers like E.M. Forster, J. R. Ackerlay, Ahmad Ali, Santha Rama Rao and many others.
The writer has given accounts of many crucial and significant events in the history of India. As minister of External Affairs he was one of the main arbitrators when Chou En-lai visited India to talk with Jawaharlal Nehru. These talks failed due to which Sino-Indian relations spiralled downward and culminated in the war of 1962. However, one of his great achievements was in 1983, when he organized two hugely successful international summits in a single year – the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the Non-Aligned Movement Summit.
During his political career he was closely linked with the ebbs and flows in the fortunes of the Congress. He was part of the developments of the 1990s within the party, when power eventually passed to Sonia Gandhi. He is also one of the few people to know the real reason why Sonia Gandhi made Manmohan Singh Prime Minister in 2004.
There is a chapter “In Pakistan” in which Mr Singh shares his experiences when he was posted in Pakistan as an Indian ambassador. This chapter is written with sheer biasness about Pakistan. The writer has tried to portray the wrong image of Pakistan in which he failed badly.
No stranger to controversy, the writer has had a long, eventful innings in public life. His political career came to an end in 2005 when former US Fed Chairman Paul Volcker in a report on the controversial oil-for-food programme raised fingers towards both Mr. Singh and the Congress party. The report listed the names of those worldwide who had allegedly been paid for helping the former president of Iraq Saddam Hussein evade sanctions through the programmes. Natwar Singh resigned after this report and could never re-establish his position either in the party or in the government.
Volcker controversy became the reason of his final tragic fall so the writer has given many clarifications and tried to fill the readers with great feelings of sympathy for him. He has also tried to prove that Sonia Gandhi was a weak politician. But in spite of all his efforts, he fails owing to the controversy regarding his fall from the power. It is because the book presents only one side of the story and the writer seems in to defend himself. The reader may have only a glimpse of the other side from the investigations of the Volcker Report, which, according to the writer himself, still remains inconclusive. The real truth, therefore, remains elusive until and unless Sonia Gandhi, the main protagonist of the drama, comes out with her own version of the story.
Overall it is a good book which gives an inside of the Indian politics which appears to be revolving around personalities instead of ideologies. It is also pertinent to mention that Mr Singh’s narration about himself is in self-congratulatory tone and his list of achievements gives a tinge of arrogance. Secondly, as the title of the book reflects that after having gone through the multiple experiences of his life the writer realizes at the end that a single life is not sufficient for one person to be a master of his business. Even after spending wholesome life and playing a prominent role in Indian bureaucracy and politics he still finds that there is room for improvement and there is yet more to achieve. The students of politics and international relations may find it of particular interest.
The book is available at Readings, located at Main Boulevard, Gulberg, Lahore.
Title: One Life is not enough | Author: K Natwar Singh | Genre: Autobiography | Pages: 410 | Price: Rs 895 | Publisher: Rupa Publications