Beyond The Lines – By Kuldip Nayar
What a journey it has been for this man!! Unlike the leaders who sit in driver’s seat, and get limited view of the surrounding (because their perspective is always from party’s point of view), Kuldip had chosen to sit on the top of the roof where he could get 360 degree view of the events which shaped up India over the past 70 years.
Hailed as one of the greatest, most fearless & longest serving journalists of India, he has personally witnessed & experienced it all: Partition of India, Nehru’s rule, Kashmir & China issue, Shastri’s humbleness & death, Indira’s rise, Sanjay’s follies, Emergency excesses, Khalistan movement, Bofors scandal, Hindutva movement, BJP’s rise and Sonia’s dominance.
In 400 pages, Kuldip has tried to pack detailed account of all the above events in the form of narrations as an autobiography but more than an account of his life, it has taken the form of an account of the 70 year history of India from a “bold” journalist’s perspective. The reason why I am stressing on the word “bold” is because it is clearly evident that his loyalty is towards “values” (of a reporter), rather than “parties”. Had his writings in his career been biased towards a certain party or a family, he would have become the President of India today
But as a honest journalist, he had always been critical of the wrongdoings of Govts, irrespective of their party. He had been bashing the Congress party ever since Indira’s rise and BJP also was no exception.
The narrations are neatly organized in the form of chapters and are independent of each other so that you can pick any chapter to begin with. Loyalists & Fundamentalists will be disturbed by the facts he has presented because as the title says, he has gone “Beyond the Lines” to bring out facts & anecdotes which have been suppressed by ruling parties and not easily available in public domain. For example, in one of the narrations, he claims that his interview with Sanjay Gandhi revealed that Sanjay never wanted to end the emergency and wanted it to continue for atleast another 25 years till people were “disciplined”!!
His detailed account of accompanying Shastri to Tashkent sheds more light on events which have not been disclosed by the Govt. However, when it comes to the real reason for Shastri’s death, Kuldip is also clueless and all efforts of RTI appeals on Shastri’s death have been rejected by the Govt and hence it still remains a mystery.
Some of the narrations seems to be based on his hearsay from others. One such narration is about PVN’s inaction during Babri Masjid demolition based on his hearsay from Madhu Limaye. He claims that PVN had sat down for a puja at his house when fundamentalists began demolishing Babri Masjid and he got up from the puja only after it was completely demolished.
Apart from presentation of facts, he has also reflected upon those events and presented his opinions, majority of them being objective, and some being subjective (which might not go down well with fundamentalists), nevertheless insightful, because he had witnessed them first hand and his opinions are in the context of prevailing conditions. For example, although he was arrested during emergency for 3 months (without reason), jailed in a dirty prison, and had bashed Indira in his weekly articles, he felt that the nation would have become much stronger, had the emergency lasted for another year or two.
Instances of personal experiences & anecdotes added to the narration make it an interesting read. Anecdotes of young M.F.Husain peddling his art work from door to door on his bicycle and Kuldip refusing to buy a painting from Husain inspite of a huge discount offered by Husain, anecdotes of how Nehru spent an hour in the parliament discussing about ways to ensure smooth traffic during VIP visits because Edwina was stuck in a traffic jam the previous day, and many such anecdotes.
Personally, I felt a 800 page book or two volumes of 400 page each would have been justified, due to the fact that being a Journalist who was popular for his scoops, he might have more insights to share. (In fact, Kuldip had said in an interview that his initial manuscript was 800 pages but had to be trimmed down).
Overall, a very interesting & concise book on events shaping up India after partition, by a great Journalist who is not only bold & fearless but also logical & objective.