Manohar Parrikar, managed to penetrate the Chakravyuh of Goa’s degenerate politics with valour and guile, but later transformed into a Bhasmasur, a mythological demon whose touch would reduce any person to ash, describes Subhash Velingkar, regarded in Goa’s political circles as Parrikar’s mentor in a just released biography on former Chief Minister and Defence Minister of India titled, An Extraordinary Life.
Published by Penguin Random House India and authored by journalists Sadguru Patil and Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, the book has been the talk of the town so much so that it has already gone for a reprint.
“Parrikar had an image beyond Goa. Whenever a discussion related to Goa used to come up outside the State, most often it was never complete without a mention of Parrikar or a curious inquiry about the man himself,” says Sadguru when asked about the popularity of this biography beyond Goa. Sadguru also has to his credit a book on Parrikar written earlier in Marathi.
As a journalist, having watched Parrikar’s political journey from close corners, right from he being the Leader of the Opposition to Chief Minister of a Goa, I was certain that a lot of planning would have gone into meticulously penning down a book about a personality who still has a large base of admires.
“At the end of the day we cannot please everybody. We had to bring out good as well as bad,” says Mayabhushan, who along with his co-author had covered Parrikar’s political milestones for more than two decades.
“It wasn’t an easy task. Key challenge as a writer was to keep the content balanced. Around six months of regular exchanges between me and Mayabhushan and reaching out to several people associated with Parrikar we completed the manuscript,” explains Sadguru, who played a key role in gathering data and inputs for the book while Mayabhushan used his expertise in collating and drafting An Extraordinary Life.
Leaving up to their professional personalities of not being predictable in their reportage, the authors spring a surprise by opening the book with a chapter on Parrikar’s demise, titled Cancer and the King.
When asked during a recent digital launch of the book about the impact of Parrikar’s absence in Goa’s political scenario, Sadguru quickly added, “Goa’s bargaining power at the Centre has been reduced after Parrikar’s demise.” On the other hand, Mayabhushan opined by saying, “Parrikar was more like a King in Goa. But when he went to Delhi, he was more like a Prince.”
The book is balanced in it’s representation of Parrikar. And that is because the authors have different views and opinions on and about Parrikar. This evident through their response when I asked them how Parrikar would have handled the ongoing border issue with China. “Parrikar had a killer instinct, which was proven during the surgical strike. At this juncture, the nation misses him badly,” Sadguru was swift in his reply. But, his co-author did not seem to be on the same page, as Mayabhushan raised a doubt whether Parrikar would have got a free hand to take upon China in today’s scenario considering a ‘Supremo Culture’ prevailing at the Centre.
From a reader’s point of view, An Extraordinary Life, offers much beyond what one would claim they knew about Parrikar, who over a period, didn’t need the prop of his party symbol to make his presence felt. From his childhood days to IIT years, from his equations with siblings to that with media, his highs and lows as the Chief Minister and also his much criticised act of ‘U-turns’ the book has it all. His stint as Defence Minister, the bold call for surgical strike and Dassault Rafale deal row has already found several mentions as being part of the book.
One incident mentioned in the book that caught my attention in particular was that while Parrikar was escorting his wife Medha to Mumbai for a health check-up in 2000, shortly before her death, he incidentally picked up a book on politics. The title dealt with the subject of toppling governments. Medha urged him to at least hide the cover of the book, because people who knew him, might end up thinking that he was contemplating a regime change. He brushed aside her advice. Fact remains, that some months after the incident, Parrikar actually toppled the Francisco Sardinha regime and installed himself as the Chief Minister.
Going by the above incident, I wonder whether An Extraordinary Life will guide its readers to take the desired turns in life. Only the time shall tell.
• 17-year-old Parrikar left from Goa for Bombay in 1973 to join IIT.
• Borrowed money from his father and bought a Yezdi motorbike from a showroom in Thane. It bore a Maharashtra registration number MTY 2909.
• Parrikar had signed himself up for a job at Mukand Steel in Mumbai, just after he got his bachelor’s degree. He quit in a huff after a senior officer at the company scolded him.
• Parrikar’s wife, then Medha Kotnis, was employed at the BMC and stayed at Immaculate Conception colony, popularly known as I.C. colony in Borivali.