Book Review: One Life is Not Enough

Title: One Life is Not Enough
Author: Natwar Singh
Pages: 410
Price: Rs. 500

One Life is Not Enough by Natwar Singh is an insipid account of Singh’s life; his birth in an aristocratic family, an education in the elite schools of the country, his years as a bureaucrat and eventually, a Union Minister.

The language is dull, with boring incidents narrated in confusing convoluted sentences. Much of it is a simple narration of events as they happened, or so we are led to believe. Singh provides far too much minutiae of his not-so colourful experiences, in India and abroad. He throws in a lot of names and incidents, and you often wonder, what’s the point of it all? A reader is expected to read much between the lines, because by themselves, the sentences and incidents narrated have little significance.

There is much pontification and deliberation on how things should or could have been, as per his perspective and judgment. It would appear that he is one of the best bureaucrats and politicians we’ve had in the last twenty years or so and that we should have appreciated him more. Singh doesn’t shy away from blatantly criticizing his colleagues and contemporaries, often without setting a sufficient context.

A lot of the incidents narrated made me wonder why I do need to know all these trivial details. It’s tedious prose. And badly written. It is evident that Singh is terribly hurt and believes that he’s been deeply wronged. And the entire book is just a ruse to exonerate himself and clear his name.

The most interesting bits in the book have already been heavily debated in the public sphere. And it’s only a few paragraphs. No real insight or in-depth revelations. Just a bland, clinical narration. There’s nothing new that the book tells you. Unless you’re interested in his numerous trips to Africa and the two summits he organized in New Delhi and was subsequently awarded the Padma Bhushan (after angling for it). The latter half of his memoirs is a mere summarization of the political landscape of India.

Singh has been a little careless with his opinions and statements. There were some typos, some clerical errors and some just over the top statements. I thought he went overboard with the pictures, a few of which were also repeated thanks to some carelessness.

He kept harping on his close ties with the Gandhi family but his narration of events doesn’t seem to reveal any such warmth or friendship. It was just a mutually benefitting arrangement. And in spite of those “close ties,” he is particularly critical of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, almost bordering on the lines of jealousy.

One Life is Not Enough has little to offer an informed reader, with its dull prose, repeated sentiments and devoid of real juice. I would have thought someone who regularly reviewed books would write slightly better.

Learn more about One Life is Not Enough.



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