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Reading Kuldip Nayar’s autobiography – Beyond the Lines (Roli Books). Nayar is the sort of person – even whose best friends would find it difficult to understand the reasons for his rise to such fame. His writing style is lackluster. He lacks the intellectual depth of say – B G Verghese, erudition of Sham Lal or even Khushwant Singh’s knowledge of history. His gossipy tidbits and juicy nuggets are often – part conjecture and part concoctions and have to be consumed with a large dollop of salt. He indulges in sweeping generalizations (Bengalis are “anti-centre” – we are anti-everything!!) is an indefatigable namedropper and has deep personal prejudices (has something unkind to say about almost any one he has mentioned in the book).
To me – he was more of a reporter (than an editor or journalist) – who managed to position himself at the right time with the right people at the right place – and obviously thrived on his ‘connections’ (including that of his in-laws, the Sachars. Justice Rajinder Sachar of Sachar Report fame is his ‘saala’). Another reason for his success, perhaps, was that, he wrote for the lowest common denominator of the newspaper audience. For his time, he was relatively affluent too (house in plush Vasant Vihar). His book on the Emergency – The Judgment – was an instant best-seller and riding on its fame he was one of the first Indian journalists to syndicate his column (even before Khushwant Singh, I think). In short, he was an older edition of Shekhar Gupta, no wonder Gupta once referred to him as a “guru” (only to later axe his column from the Express).
Take it with these caveats and you might even enjoy this mildly salacious commentary on contemporary history. Though I wish the editing of the book was a little better (habeas corpus is spelt as ‘habius corpus’ pg 240).
This is the most-lively account of major political events which took-place in post-independent India. Since the book does not lean on references and allusions, it reads more like a racy reading as if we are reading a thriller. I will not consider this as weakness because I personally know, there is a dire need of books which do not sound like textbooks and yet help the younger generation in comprehending the events which shaped the country's future in last six/seven decades. I am also very happy that Kuldip Nayar, despite his family's sufferings during partition, upholds the values like secularism aloft and in a very effortless manner, successfully establishes that adhering only to pluralistic values, can we save our sub-continent.
On minus side, the book is poorly edited and perhaps has been brought out in a hurry as the errors - typographical and factual - are aplenty especially for a book from an accomplished writer and a reputed publisher. All these errors were avoidable. The writing style is somewhat old-fashioned and Nayar too knows it as he himself mentions in the Epilogue of the book - " In my profession what haunts me is that I do not write better. I should after having spent over fifty years in journalism."
Still the book is immensely readable and a must read for the younger generation - the students, young professionals and of course the young journalists.
For someone of Kuldip Nayar's reputation the book is of shockingly poor quality.
Easily verifiable facts are mis-stated e.g. "After Shaikh Abdullah's death in 1953.." (page 318),in 1979 "Foreign Secretary T N Kaul formulated a pro-Soviet policy (page 274-Kaul had retired in the early 1970's),Indira Gandhi was woken up by "Chief of Army Staff Krishnaswami Sunderji.." at the time of Operation Blue Star (page294- Gen Vaidya was Army Chief at that time) etc.
And what does one make of this sentence on page 318: "In fact, I was in Srinagar on Abdullah's Shaikh invitation to celebrate Farooq's successor as the president of the National Conference"?
This kind of writing casts serious doubt on the veracity of the entire book.
The most charitable view to take is perhaps that the writer is now nearly 90 years old and, at his age, most of us would probably find our memory playing tricks and be just as confused.
The autobiography of the veteran journalist, Sri Kuldip Nayar made interesting reading to people like me, who like to read historical accounts of a period before they were born! The veteran journalist relates the pangs and pathos surrounding the Partition of India with exemplary lucidity, and follows it up with anecdotes of the tenures of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Indo China war of 1962, the India-Pakistan war of 1965 and the death of Shastriji at Tashkhent, Indira Gandhi, J.P, Morarji Desai and the Janata experiment, Rajiv Gandhi and V.P.Singh and the Indian Emergency of 1975-77, when he was imprisoned by the then Government. My only grouse is that the book could have been edited in a better manner and that it contains some factual inaccuracies, which may have been caused by oversight! But overall it was an interesting book to read and have in your collection.
Yes, he was a one time Idol. During 1970s his by line "Between the Lines' was immensely popular and his conduct during emergency years earned acclaim to him as a champion of free media based on which his book The Judgement sold like hot cake. That book was precursor for journalistic fiction and a writing style as if he was present when the events were taking place, or he was watching probably through a proverbial key hole. Having earned the fame of a free Journalist, is he free from prejudices, the most dangerous of all the imprisonments a journalist can suffer from! Subsequent years proved that he is no exception from the prejudices, which the journalist should shun. Many a time he was seen gunning for impractical ideas of friendship with an enemy country like Pakistan and to call that country enemy itself was anathema for him.
Anyhow, I just ordered for purchase of this book before reading any review, just to know better about my childhood days "known journalist". I shall surely write a critical review after reading the book, which may take some time.
The autobiography of the veteran journalist, Sri Kuldip Nayar made interesting reading to people like me, who like to read hist...Read More
This book takes one back to the early 20th century India. One gets to read what actually may have happened during the various s...Read More
Yes, he was a one time Idol. During 1970s his by line "Between the Lines' was immensely popular and his conduct during em...Read More
This is the most-lively account of major political events which took-place in post-independent India. Since the book does not l...Read More