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Onatwarn brief review, the books appear to be an account of the author's encounters with remarkable men and women.  It is not a conformist chronicle but rather a series of vignettes, each of which has previously appeared as a newspaper column.  This makes for easily digestible reading.  Tales from a Diplomatic Past, Singh puts together fifty episodes that entertain, inform and illuminate.

From the details of Morarji Desai's diet to Mahatma Gandhi's dismissive views on the Eiffel Tower.  There are affectionate portraits of Rajaji and Badshah Khan, Nirad Chaudhuri and M.F. Husain, Nargis and Sunil Dutt; respectful accounts of meetings with Fidel Castro, Emperor Haile Selassie and Botswanan President Seretse Khama; and many examples of his admiration, bordering on reverence, for Indira Gandhi. If the dyed-in-the-wool diplomat is always in evidence, Natwar Singh occasionally indulges in pungently undiplomatic asides-about Krishna Menon's legendary nine-hour speech at the United Nations Security Council on Kashmir, he quotes a listener's comment, "If your case is so strong, why is it necessary to take nine hours to explain it?"  The book reveals much of the minutiae that make up a diplomat's existence, delving into many of the seemingly trivial issues which constitute the stuff of daily diplomacy and whose resolution never makes the news but would have been disastrous if unresolved such as when Queen Elizabeth decided to decorate Mother Teresa with the British Order of Merit at Rashtrapati Bhavan, which would have triggered political uproar in India had the author not skilfully pushed the ceremony to the Mughal Gardens instead.

MY FAVORITE PICK:  The only truly astonishing revelation in the book is his account of a young Chandraswami's hold over Margaret Thatcher, whose political career the controversial godman foretold with uncanny accuracy, telling her she would be prime minister within three or four years of their meeting and would rule for nine, eleven or thirteen years and in In fact, she became prime minister for eleven.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  K. Natwar Singh is a well-known author, diplomat and politician.  He has been ambassador to Pakistan.  He was attached to the office of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from 1966 to 1971 and was secretary general of the NAM Summit held in Delhi in March 1983.  He has been a member of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and served as Minister of State and Minister for External Affairs.  He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1984.  Since 2005, he has been honorary fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. His books include E.M. Forster: A Tribute, Profiles and Letters, Heart to Heart, and The Magnificent Maharaja.  He lives in New Delhi.

MY TAKE:  Interesting light reading.  One thing that could be easily sighted is Natwar Singh's liking for Gandhi family and his dislike for some others comes out quite clearly in some of the narrations.  There are, inevitably, a few chapters that are less compellingly crafted than the rest, and could usefully have been omitted.  The author has not been diligent enough as a proofreader.  In a book of such precision and thoughtful recall, these are avoidable errors.  Let us set aside such minor quibbles.  Walking with Lions is full of enjoyable observation, dry wit and understated insight.  There is much more where these reminiscences come from and one hopes Natwar Singh will pen them soon for our delectation with the sparkle and sharpness these brief tales so amply reveal.  Not a bad pick if on a journey or spare time reading.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

AUTHOR:  K. Natwar Singh

PUBLISHER:  HarperCollins

LANGUAGE:  English

NUMBER OF PAGES:  224 Pages

PRICE:  Rs. 299

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