Sunday, May 10, 2015

Of fusses and elusions – Pratibha Patil: First women president of India

Reviewed Asif Anwar Alig
Pratibha Patil: First Women President of India by M. H. Syed, The Women Press, 27, Priyadarhini Vihar, Part – I, Bhamashah Marg, G.T Karnal Road, Delhi- 110009, 2008, 303pp. Rupees 595, Hard.

iographies of political figures are usually plagued with eulogies and brinkmanship. Such rueful phenomenon savours in this hurriedly written biography of India’s first women president Pratibha Devi Singh Patel. The political biography, though, could have been a well presented documentation of the life of first women president of India if M. H. Syed had done some homework. His approach needed to be free of delusions before penning this book.

Reviewer Asif Anwar Alig
The focus of the biography, as presented on the flap, is not able to sustain interest of the readers while one reads it, who instead winds it up with disinterest. The book is more of a ceremonial writing — let the president seek attention of the author — than a biography donning into her life story. The claims put in by the biographer in the title page of the book contradict with the text that follows as the biography has been rather “filled” instead of sketching Pratibha Devi Singh Patel as a leader whose caliber, whatever it might be, groomed her to become the constitutional head of the world’s second largest democracy.

Broadly divided into ten chapters with a chunk of non-appreciable sub chapters, the book doesn’t enchant mood and interest of an audience as the theme presented is hugely distorted rather digressed. It is a compilation of selected articles and unnecessary references. Researched biographical noting is missing. Ironically, actual motive of the book is severely ignored and the repetition of statements is rampant that ultimately grades this biography into an ordinary one.

Book Pratibha Patil: First Woman President of India
Though there are preliminary information about Ms. Patil—explaining her childhood, education, political career, social activities, struggles etc. this book doesn’t end into the category of a biography. The author hastily recounts her personality in a few pages and the book moves forward detailing the attributes of her place of birth, the qualities of her descent and caste. 

Who are the prominent personalities from her caste? Ironically it gives enough space to the people from her caste and region that makes no sense on why such stuffs are the part of a biography. 

Is it necessary to sketch the personalities associated in her political circle; her opponents, colleagues, mentors is an unanswered question and the readers are in illusion whether the book is a biography or a mixed bag of vaguely presented political satire just to fatten its size — ultimately demeaning her personality? 

First few pages of the book hark one not to go through it to the later pages.

The biographer gives inputs about her ancestors and creed through recounting others' success stories as if this biography is a textbook of history. Such information is gathered quotes from either textbooks of history or various encyclopedias. As a literature in hurry — though this metaphor is exclusive for journalism — this biography has useless stuff explained unconvincingly.

Former Indian President Pratibha Devi Singh Patel
An exclusive chapter on the election process of president in India is informative. How presidents are elected in India, what are the constitutional powers of a president, who are the key components of this election process and who are eligible to contest and vote is an informative aspect. But is such information required in a biography of a president of the nation. These unusual chapters of this biography entrusts that this book is a political satire compiled by a novice “biographer”.

The intended information could have been thoroughly expressed in some more pages but the author has hardly bothered for his focused area. Rather his intention seems to fatten the book’s size just to present it like a hot cake. The biography could have been a successful reading material if published in a booklet instead of adding on extra pages putting into the useless information for showpiece.

The author points out achievements of women through listing achievers from literature, arts, dance and et al that should have been avoided in a president’s biography. The author could focus on the achievements of Ms. Patel denoting her as one of the women achievers who reins the top post by virtue of her political activeness, untiring social service and urge a role model and or an inspiration for the entire womenfolk.

The last portion of the book is entirely a global and separate entity that lists women presidents around the world. Their achievements are explained minutely. The question arises whether a work of biography should have such components in one of its core chapters. The chapter lists women presidents of different countries of the world and a detailed biographical note on them.

The prominent names listed by the author are Agatha Barbara of Malta, Carmen Pereira of Guinea-Bissau, Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka, Corazon Aquino of Philippines, Dalia Itzik of Israel, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Ertha Pascal-Trouillot of Haiti, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo I of Philippines, Isabel Martinez de Peron of Argentina, Janet Jagan of Guyana, Lidia Gueiler Tejada of Bolivia, Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson of Ireland, Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia, Micheline Calmy-Rey of Switzerland, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, Mireya Moscoso of Panama, Nino Burjanadze of Georgia, Sukhbaataryan Yajmaa of Mongolia, Tarja Halonen of Finland, Vaira Viie-Freiberga of Latvia, Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland and Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua. Was it mandatory to explain such details?
 The history defining the women presidents around the world is informative. But a question arises on whether adding biographical notes of women presidents, their roles in their respective countries as nation builders and their achievements were the need of a biography that is an exclusive one for India’s first woman president Pratibha Devi Singh Patel.

The book is a roughly sketched mixture of historical notes, collection of irrelevant articles summoned in one book aimed at gaining favouritism. Any sensible reader would rather mark it a collection of haphazardly collected stuffs put into one. The book can’t be categorized as a biography of a constitutional head due to its immature presentation and urchin focus. 

This book review first appeared in Daily Excelsior, Jammu in Jammu & Kashmir state of India on October 15, 2008 (Sunday) edition.

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