Marigold Years, is a racy read, an interesting peep into India's game changers who range from politicians, film producers and sportspersons.
I met Kumkum Chadha when I was still in college, it was in the early 80s when her book of interviews, Crucifixion, had hit the stands and created a furore for three reasons. An interview with Charan Singh that ended abruptly, an interview with Jyoti Basu where the Marxist leader was furious when told he was living on the surplus value of his employees working in his South Calcutta (then not Kolkata) hotel and an interview with Subramanian Swamy that was the longest with a brilliant ending.
Chadha’s latest book, Marigold Years, hit the markets around the time when the London-based Independent newspaper profiled Oriana Fallaci, the most extraordinary journalist Italy has ever produced. Interestingly, Chadha was fondly called India’s answer to Fallaci by Khushwant Singh who wrote the foreword for Crucifixion. Marigold Years is a compilation of both old and new dispatches by Chadha, once known as a reporter with style who could easily secure interviews with leaders who never gave interviews to anyone.
Brilliantly edited, Marigold Years, is a racy read, an interesting peep into India's game changers who range from politicians, film producers and sportspersons. The book has some of the biggest names, ranging from Amitabh Bachchan, Rajiv Gandhi to LK Advani and Arun Jaitley. There’s also Lalu Prasad Yadav and Smriti Irani and, of course, Abhinav Bindra who got India a shooting gold from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and confessed to Chadha that he was - before pushed into serious shooting - just a laid-back boy with no goals in sight.
I loved her chapter on Smita Patel in which Chadha talked a lot about the actress, her movies and marriage and why she remained totally insecure in her private life. The chapter on Indira Gandhi was expected from Chadha who covered the Congress party for over two and a half decades. I never knew Ms Gandhi disliked marigold flowers, I read Chadha who says she was surprised to find loads of marigold flowers on Ms Gandhi’s body, it shows she had an eye for detail. Chadha’s profile of Sanjay Gandhi highlights the other face of the dictatorial leader whose life was cut short by a bizarre plane crash, some vital aspects of events leading to his death still a mystery to many.
Equally fascinating is Chadha’s description of politicians, especially people like former PM Chandra Shekhar and former President Giani Zail Singh. The chapters were loaded with affection and love. Unlike many television anchors of the present times, Chadha did not lampoon these leaders for their poor English (remember how Singh was tutored before he met Queen Elizabeth). She actually called them a rare breed of politicians who never plugged their own agenda. Chadha even does the impossible when she gets an answer from Defence Minister Nirmala as why she has to make an effort to smile.
Don’t let this tome vanish from bookstores, order it now. After all, its being published by Amazon Westland and sold on various on-line sites including Amazon that is now a household name in a billion-plus nation.
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