"Extraordinary Indians" | An extraordinary book for the extraordinary Indian
Over his long and successful career as a writer and a journalist, Khushwant Singh recalls 50 distinguished names from the Indian industry of politics, spirituality, writing and artistry, his own family and friends and some other known names from various other industries like Bollywood and business.
In the recent years, we Indians have somehow lost the ability to see the good in ourselves and identify the bad. It is a quality we used to possess and have lost along the way but luckily for the Indian mankind, some had not. The book ‘Extraordinary Indians,’ edited by Mala Dayal, capture people in their truest forms. It is raw, and never wavers from its one true fact: No one is perfect but that does not mean they can’t be extraordinary; Khushwant Singh, the master of storytelling beautifully captures every one mentioned in this book in their honest framework. There are no lies, no unnecessary flattery and no trickery. This book is the pathway to your knowledge of India’s greatest in their weakest moments. There are no heroes in this book and definitely no saints.
Over his long and successful career as a writer and a journalist, Khushwant Singh recalls 50 distinguished names from the Indian industry of politics, spirituality, writing and artistry, his own family and friends and some other known names from various other industries like Bollywood and business. These names are important to the author because in some way or the other, little or big – they have made a huge impact on his life. They have either inspired him to do a certain thing or make a certain move. They have led him to believe things he wouldn’t have otherwise. Every name in this book ignites a memory in Singh’s mind that eventually becomes one story you can’t forget.
The book starts off with the list of politicians that Khushwant Singh has met and interacted with. The list itself is star-studded with names like Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, VP Singh, Rajiv Gandhi and many more. Singh speaks freely and truthfully without the fear of being ‘too honest’. He talks about Nehru’s affair with Lady Edwina Mountbatten and his problems with the way his Public Relations Officer who happened to be Khushwant Singh at the time was ineffective in relieving the matter that the press had gotten hold of. He says in a distinct line “But being human, Nehru had his human failings. He was not above political chicanery.” Khushwant Singh also mentions his utter admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, although he only met Bapu as a young kid in school, his interaction with the Father of the nation changed his thought process completely. Khushwant Singh mentions how his interaction led him to wear khadi. We move forward from politics after names like Indira Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan and Gaini Zail Singh and drop ourselves at spiritual leaders where the author impartially talks of people like Mother Teresa and Kabir. He then moves onto artists and fellow writers and how they shaped his opinions today. He mentions how he does not view them to be inferior or superior from him, just his friends. Later, he talks about his own family and friends and how their presence in his life has motivated him through the good and the bad. However, the most important and interesting thing about the book remains is just how crude and natural it feels in your hand. It is as though you are talking to the author over a hot cup of tea and some pakoras. In doing all of this, Khushwant Singh reminds us that even the best of the bests have skeletons under their beds and over their roofs.
Time and again, Singh has proved with his impeccable writing that what it seems, it never is. He does not get scared of the consequences of writing and very rarely do we see him bother with the hate he gets from people because of it. He remains unfazed and original, almost like an au courant issue of a newly printed magazine.
This book should be viewed as an attempt to bring about a position of stability between the good and the bad. This captures the intricacies of human nature and predicaments so masterfully that words fall short at this very moment. As mentioned earlier, this book harbours no heroes or heroines but at the end of the pages, you know exactly who you think your heroes are and that is the sheer and absolute beauty of the author.