Out of the Shadows
The launch of former Intelligence Bureau chief A.S. Dulat’s memoirs in the capital saw a houseful, with Kamal Nath and Farooq Abdullah as the chief guests and Suhel Seth as the moderator. Published by Harper Collins the launch of A Life in the Shadows was held at The Claridges. Speaking at the event, Kamal Nath talked about Dulat joining the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which created some controversy and said, “Dulat was one of us, he went astray for a while but he’s back now.” (Nath was referring to the fact that Dulat had joined A.B. Vajpayee’s PMO during his prime ministership.)
Nath also went on to observe that “intelligence officers don’t usually write memoirs, politicians do. While it’s easy to decide what to say, the difficult part is in deciding what not to say” Farooq Abdullah agreed, pointing out that “so many people ask me when I am writing my life story. There are many things that will upset many people, that it’s better not to write anything at all.” Abdullah went on to add, “In the book Dulat says that the current NSA (Ajit Doval) is a friend, then writes something not as a friend.” Interestingly, Kamal Nath and Dulat are samdhis (relatives) as Nath’s son Nakul is married to Dulat’s daughter Priya. At which Yashovardhan Azad, former Special Director, Intelligence Bureau (who read out excerpts from the book) quipped that it was good that Dulat had Nath as a samdhi and not as a boss, because the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister was a workaholic who put in 14 to 15 hours a day and they often had to come up with “distractions” to get him out of the office and go home. Also present at the venue were Hamid Ansari, Pavan Varma, Manish Tewari, M.K. Rasgotra (ex Foreign Secretary) and Om Bhutani (former DG IPS).

LUTYENS DELHI SYNDROME

Speaking from the dais at the launch of A.S. Dulat’s memoirs, Kamal Nath took the audience by surprise when he began talking of the divide between Lutyens Delhi and the rest of India. This is a phrase that is used by the BJP to target the Congress, another one being “Khan Market Gang”. So it was interesting to see Nath use this phrase as he commented that of the seven Lok Sabha constituencies in Delhi, only one was rural. He was also quick to add that “I don’t live in Delhi anymore since 2018.” Clearly, his heart is now in Madhya Pradesh politics, where he is hoping for a Congress comeback. Also in the Modi era few want to be associated with the Lutyens tag anymore—a tag that was very much in vogue during the UPA years. However, to this I have a humble submission: Lutyens Delhi still exists. The people who inhabit the bungalows have changed, but to say they don’t symbolise Lutyens Delhi is a fallacy. It’s just that there’s a new power elite in town (as Sanjaya Baru observed in his book, India’s Power Elite).

At the book release of ‘India’s Most Fearless’ written by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh and organised by the Prabha Khaitan Foundation.

The Forces Come Together
It was a book launch with a difference. The book release of India’s Most Fearless written by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh was organised by the Prabha Khaitan Foundation (run by philanthropist Sundeep Bhutoria). It was one of those rare events (outside of official engagements) that saw all three Service chiefs (Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Admiral R. Hari Kumar and General Manoj Pande) present together. The event was ably moderated by Neelima Dalmia Aadhar, as the Service chiefs talked about their experiences in a job which is so fraught with risk. For instance, the Air Chief recalled how the canopy of his MiG 21 blew off while he was literally flying at the speed of sound and how he landed it safely. The book (published by Penguin) tells stories from the battleground, but what made the launch special was that they got the families of some of the fallen heroes to come on stage, adding a very personal touch to the evening. Incidentally, all the three Service chiefs are batchmates from National Defence Academy and joined the NDA at the same time, so have known each other for four decades. Their bonhomie added to the intimate air of the evening.

To Russia with Love
The national capital was recently treated to a collection of charcoal sketches, ranging from Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Lenin, Putin to Tagore, Tolstoy and Bose. Sketched by Dr Dalbir Singh, former AICC national secretary, the artwork was on display at the Russian Centre for Science & Culture in the capital. Those who have seen Singh at his AICC office were surprised to see this side of him but charcoal sketching is apparently a passion from a very young age from when he fell ill with typhoid and sketched a profile of his doctor. Seen on the dais were Amitabh Kant, the G20 Sherpa. as well as General Anil Chauhan, Chief of Defence Staff. Also seen was Sitaram Yechury, who is not a frequent flier at art openings but as one of the guests quipped, this one is to promote Indo-Russian soft power, so of course Yechury will be here. The proceeds from the exhibition will go to help underprivileged tuberculosis patients as that’s a cause Dr Dalbir is passionate about. As he says, “TB is not a medicare issue, also one of undernutrition. Even if you take the medication, you don’t get better without proper nutrition.” He has been working with NGOs and liaising with government on this, for as he points out, “there are 1,500 TB deaths every day, with as much 28% of global TB burden in India. The PM has said he will eradicate TB by 2025 but this requires a multi-sectoral approach.” As they say, when the cause is right…

Charcoal sketches sketched by Dr Dalbir Singh on display.
G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant with Dr Dalbir Singh, former AICC national secretary.
G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant with General Anil Chauhan, Chief of Defence Staff, and Dr Dalbir Singh, former AICC national secretary.