People's Maharaja

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People's Maharaja

Monday, 22 May 2017 | Vaibhav Ratra

People's Maharaja

Chandigarh-based author Khushwant Singh’s biography on Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh reveals unknown facets about him. By Vaibhav Ratra

Chandigarh-based writer Khushwant Singh says Captain Amarinder Singh is a person who doesn’t react but responds and this ability makes him the leader that he is. He can take a stand on an issue and is ready to stick his neck out for it. That is why he chose to document the many facets of the Punjab Chief Minister. The result: a book titled, Captain Amarinder Singh: The People’s Maharaja.

The authorised biography is a definitive and no-holds-barred narrative – packed with incidents and anecdotes – that brings alive the life and times of one of the prominent and striking individuals in the sphere of politics.

The author, during the launch, happily remarked that the book is already receiving exceptional reviews from its readers in the short time it’s been available for sale in the market. Khushwant expressed, “I was approached by Hay House in 2012 to write this biography after which I asked Captain Singh if he was fine with me attempting it. He agreed after asking, ‘that who would read itIJ’ and then we started working on it.”

The book titled, The 36th Sikhs in the Tirah Campaign 1897-98 - Saragarhi and the defence of the Samana forts written by Captain Singh was also presented during the book launch. “The book is homage to the 21 men of the 36th Sikhs, who, led by Havildar Ishar Singh, laid down their lives while fighting. The book revolves around the lone 22nd man, generally known as Dad, who also died fighting during the battle,” said Khushwant. Giving an insight about the book Captain Singh said, “It was a battle of collective bravery. While there are many books and articles on the Battle of Saragarhi, the Tirah Campaign, had remained obscured. I wanted to share the story of Tirah, and in particular the story of Dad - the 22nd man, whose name or religion remains unknown till date and about whom even the source of his origin remains unclear except that he came somewhere from Naushera.”

The biography is the life story of the Maharaja and an absorbing account of the various facets of his personality and life — as a Maharaja, Army officer, and one of the most prominent individuals in Punjab politics. Khushwant  expressed, “It’s with great responsibility and humility that I bring to the public this book. It has been a challenge and an expedition, but a fascinating one. I was lost in discovering another life. My subject never asked for any insertion or omission, and never controlled or directed the biography, which is one of the main challenges in an authorised biography. In fact, he has set himself as a model for a dispassionate political biography, which many political leaders will find hard to emulate.”

Captain Singh who continued his tryst with the forces revealed, “I had enjoyed every phase of my life though my stint in the army was my favourite time. I would have stayed on if circumstances not intervened.”

Khushwant  describes the biography as an honest account of the Captain’s life and times, an insightful story as it captures the diversity of his many facets and Punjab’s contemporary state of affairs. Khushwant  recalled, “It was in 2012, when Captain Singh had lost two elections and many had almost written him off, I felt there was a story waiting to be told. He did ask me who would read it, but it was decided in a matter of seconds that we would do this book.”

The authorised biography gives a new aspect on the sequence of events that led to the 1984 army action at Golden temple in Amritsar. About Operation Bluestar, Captain Singh said, “I felt there were numerous times when a solution could have been found, but it was never found. When they had sent CRPF to surround the Darbar Sahab complex, I had gone to see Mrs Gandhi and I was told that military action is the last resort. So, I submitted my resignation because if one does not agree with the decision of the party then one has no business being a part of it.”

Talking about the biography,  Singh remarked, “You judge your life differently and people look at it with a different approach but life goes on, there are so many phases and each phase is special and has an impact on ones personality. Khushwant has done justice to the work and ultimately, it’s for the readers to decide, and I hope we can add more chapters to it.”

Khushwant  said, “For writing this biography, I had to connect the dots of his life and for that I recorded 100 hours with him, and talked to innumerable people who have known the Maharaja at a personal level and have known where his interests and passions lie.”

He signed off saying, “While writing his biography, I have picked up one of the numerous qualities he has, which is not to react but to respond. I am a changed person after completing this book.”

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