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The Captain’s challenge

chandigarh Updated: Apr 20, 2014 10:31 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

For the benefit of the reader, I must share at the very outset that I have been commissioned to write Captain Amarinder Singh’s biography by one of India’s leading publishing houses. Given the background, I know much will be read into the piece, but the discerning reader will agree that this gives an opportunity to take a peek into the Patiala scion’s life and times, closely.

The foremost observation pertains to the many hats the protagonist wears. Born royal, soldier, politician, administrator, writer, historian, the total surely adds up to a for midable multi-faceted personality.

Absolutely a biog rapher’s delight as one tries to unravel and critique each dimension with objectivity, and truthfulness.

I know where the reader’s mind is diverting, to which my answer lies in the following lines from his book, ‘The last sunset - The rise and fall of the Lahore Durbar’: “No man is perfect and, as history frequently reveals, it is often apparent that the g reater the man’s merits and talents, the g reater his fallings and weaknesses. If that were not so he would be less than human.”

Your quest for masala answered, let’s now delve into some quick facts. One feature that is striking about Amarinder is his patriotic zeal and zest for whatever that is military; evidence of which is so vividly provided by his school teacher in the files of Doon school and in Lt General Harbaksh Singh’s autobiog raphy, ‘In the Line of Duty: A Soldier Remembers’.

The Lieutenant General, to whom Amarinder served as ADC, describing Amarinder’s role in the 1965 Indo-Pak war wrote: “Yet another example of a patriotic son of India retur ning to his call of duty is the son of then Maharaja of Patiala, Yadvendra Singh.”

It sur prises me how this aspect of Capt Amarinder gets lost in Punjab’s political idiom, giving way to the Khunda et al that, Amarinder of perception and Amarinder of reality sometimes come at crossroads from a biog rapher’s perspective.

His other side revealed through this one liner by my son: “Dad, I like Amarinder Singh because he, unlike the other politicians, gets up to hug me. He even respects children.” To know what the ladies think about him, readers better get hold of the biog raphy when it hits the stands.

This takes us to his political life, his skills, shrewdness and astuteness in his profession of 47 years. Should I say that he is the only politician who has never asked ‘what will you ask’ before an interview? This obviously means he is someone who likes to take politics head on.

The argument that his royal ways, Patiala peg and personal life blur his commitment to his profession has little substance because he is much focused when he wants to achieve something.

Yes, his drawback perhaps lies in his folly to take everyone at face value, fault line of which probably lies in his privile ged upbringing. Being one to the throne has its perks, but it can breed a certain amount of error of judgment, especially when one is in constant company where the majority is trying to be more loyal than the King.

This, however, appears to be a minor aber ration, as it changes nothing vis-a-vis his commitment to the land in which he was born. At present, he is caught up in one of the toughest political battles of his life in Amritsar. A win will give his political career a new leap, and his biog raphy that muchneeded punch in the concluding chapters.

(The writer is a Punjab-based columnist and views expressed are personal)