12 May, 2021

Modesty Is A Slow Killer

This model piece of non-fiction narrates a tragedy of our times—how the brilliant Manmohan Singh fell from grace and stumbled his way through a tough term as PM

Modesty Is A Slow Killer

The Accidental Prime Minister is the story of a tragedy. This is not entirely an insignificant achievement in a country where tragic narrative does not come naturally. A rare example was Jaya, an early rendering of the Mahabharata’s central story, whose narrator was another Sanjaya from two thousand years ago. Manmohan Singh’s rise and fall has all the ingredients of a classic tragedy: a good person falls through a series of irredeemable reversals, whose cause is a mistake, a ‘tragic flaw’ which lies in human frailty.

Manmohan’s rise will inspire generations of Indian children. Till the age of twelve, he lived in a dusty village without electricity, running water, access to a hospital or a road; he walked miles to school and studied under the dim light of a kerosene lamp; but by twenty-two, he was at Cambridge, from where he went on to do a PhD at Oxford; eventually, he rose to become finance minister and prime minister. Then, he fell, presiding over an ineffectual and corrupt government that became paralysed—inflation rose,...

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