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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Of cabbages and kings

Manjula Narayan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 08, 2013
First Published: 23:22 IST(8/2/2013) | Last Updated: 16:42 IST(9/3/2013)

Walking With Lions
K Natwar Singh
Harper collins
Rs. 299 pp 213

Politician and diplomat K Natwar Singh’s columns in Mail Today, stuffed with anecdote about everyone from Nehru to Indira Gandhi and Mountbatten, have always presented a fascinating insight into historical personalities and events.

Walking With Lions; Tales from a Diplomatic Past, a selection of those columns, begins entertainingly with a scathing recollection – not surprising considering Singh’s lifelong loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhis – of his interactions with Morarji Desai that includes a glimpse of an official note on the former PM’s dietary preferences.

“His favourite drink was not mentioned. Everyone knew what it was,” Singh writes of the man who is doomed to be remembered for his passion for urine therapy.

Humourous and frank – Singh admits on page 1 that he had defended the Emergency – these essays are interesting not only because they feature nuggets about family politics in the Nehru household, the story of how PV Narasimha Rao became prime minister, and snippets about characters as varied as the last Ethopian emperor Haile Selassie and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but because of what they reveal about the writer himself.

Erudite, witty, occasionally utterly undiplomatic and entirely embedded in the Establishment, Singh comes across as the perfect dinner guest – one who can be relied on to keep the conversation flowing. 


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