Monthly Archives: October 2013

What Indian Politicians Read (Part 2)

A serial post: Read part 1 here 

Sitaram Yechury, Rajya Sabha MP and Politburo Member, CPM

Growing up, my childhood was primarily Telugu-speaking, and I was exposed to Telugu literature and poetry, a lot of which had social reform. The poetry of Sri Sri, a well-known revolutionary poet, moved me, as did the work of Gurazada Apparao. He was the first one I heard saying a country is not its bricks and mortar, that a country is its people. These early exposures raised a lot of questions – the questions of caste, of inequality, of language, of national integration – the answers to which I would eventually find in Marxism.

Sajjad Gani Lone, Chairman, People’s Conference

My life has been deeply impacted by certain books. Reading Khalid Hosseini left me sad and disturbed for days. His depiction of pain, gender inequality, and ethnic supremacy is heart-rending.

… I visualize the characters in his novels while I’m reading, and at night, they would populate my dreams, suffused with sadness.

Nirmala Sitaraman, Spokesperson, BJP

What role literature plays in the lives of politicians is difficult to guess, but what role it can play is clear. Literature throws light on human dynamics. Complex issues can be deconstructed and reframed. He subtle and the nuanced can be better appreciated throw the thoughts and experiences of the writers. Literature widens every canvas. Even the lone, often unheard voice, can be accessed through a drama or even a haiku. Literature can mellow even the toughest mind.

Derek O’ Brien, Rajya Sabha MP, TMC

I read a lot and find it difficult to identify just one book that has influenced or shaped me. Reading habits, reactions and the lessons you draw from book change as you evolve. In my teenage years, I found Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull very influential. .. a modern rendition of the Icarus legend: fly high, reach for the sky, but be careful the sun doesn’t singe you.

In my 20s, I devoured Ogilvy on Advertising, the Bible of the professions written by the master himself: David Ogilvy. His book spoke of not just selling an item with clever copy, but actually living a product.

Pinaki Mishra, MP, BIJU Janata Dal

The ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s were a rich period of Indian art, so I have a huge collection of books on (FN) Souza, for instance. Also, Hemen Majumdar and the Bengal School of Art.

I’m a big Wodehouse fan, too. It really does transport you into another world. An idyllic world. I always have a Wodehouse by my bedside table. You always find a Bertie Wooster in life wherever you go – someone who can blunder his way through life and come out smelling of roses. But it would be most impolite of me to mention the Wodehouse in public life! If I read 5-10 pages of Wodehouse at night, I invariably sleep much better.

Excerpts from the Indian magazine, Tehelka



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What Indian Politicians read (Part 1)

The article was published in the issue of January 30, 2013:

Why do we care what other people read? Reading is, after all, a solitary enterprise, done privately armchair, in bed, in a quiet corner in a coffeeshop.  But to read is also to have a conversation with the author, with other readers, other books, across centuries. We scour one another’s book shelves in search of like minds and a companionship. Our books, in a way, make us fully human to one another.

–          Editor of Tehelka, Shougat Dasgupta says

 I typed out these excerpts so that these are recorded and also reach the right minds from the January 2013 issue of Tehelka: Volume 10 (Issues 1 and 2). It is a journal of books read by our Country’s politicians. The list is vast. It varies from Premchand to Ayn Rand. From Rhonda Bryne to Lenin. From poetry to fiction. From Marxist principles to the Mahabharatha.

Laloo Prasad Yadav  prides “People must read me. I mustn’t read books”

while Shashi tharoor claims “The Godlessness in my writing comes from Mahabharatha.”

Each of them have a distinct taste and a book to which they owe a part of their personality.

Of the 84 politicians listed, few of the tastes I particularly liked:

Salman Kurshid, Minister of External Affairs, Congress

Serendipitously and fortunately, the books I have read have reinforced my instinct for liberalism and allowed for an easy synthesis of instinct and analysis. I have seldom been tempted, even in passing, to change my initial postulates and preferred positions, and this have not had to agonise over the implications of my beliefs. Yet, there have been times, particularly when I was younger, when Che Guevera’s diaries touched a chord. In my heart, then, I was a secret revolutionary, even as in my mind, intellectually, I remained a steadfast liberal!

Given this, perhaps, it will not surprise you to learn that in my first year at St’ Stephen’s College, I played a small role in the union production of Mario Fratti’s Che, directed by none other than Kapil Sibal (Minister of Information and Technology). There is a brilliant passage in the play in which Che soliloquises about why he was a communist, what made him so, so that all our contemporary Marxists should read.

Jaswant Singh, MP, BJP

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE reading and have devoted a significant part of my life to it. Bookworms will know what I mean when I say that it is difficult to choose a single book that sits above the rest. From a personal perspective, I enjoy variety. I like switching between different kinds of books at will, moving from poetry to biographies to world affairs.

If I were forced to pick a particular title or an author, I’d single out the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. He is magisterial and every single one of his books from The Age of the revolution to the Age of extremes is a revelation.

Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Chairman, Hurriyat Conference

Books are oxygen to me. As someone who has been under house arrest for three years, books have been my life support. I spend 5 hours reading every day. These days I am reading Tafsil-e-Quran, which gives you satisfaction and peace of mind, important for a person facing life’s ups and downs.

As my educated senior has pointed out, there was a typo in the original text. So the Tafsil-e-Quran is Tafseer-e-Quran.

On impact of words on their lives..

Meira Kumar, Lok Sabha Speaker, Congress

It is incredible what the impact of just few words can be. Words are all powerful. They can start a war or bring peace. I can finish you with my words, I can demoralize you or I can also take you out of your depression, inspire you.

The House is run is all about words. The aim of this great institution is that it the place where conflicting views are expressed. There are 38 parties in my House, all with different points of view.

It is words, the gift of language, which creates convergence where there appears to be only divergence. This is the basis of cooperation and progress.

Vasundhara Raje, MLA, BJP

I don’t mind being along now. I’m in Dholpur surrounded by trees, no people. Not watching TV that aggravates me. Even the newspapers never have anything good to offer. We are losing the ability to just let go and be happy. To sit in your garden with a book and experience the peaces that comes with it. It just feels so good.

.. to be cont’d

Please note: These are excerpts from the Indian Magazine, Tehelka

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