Humanising leaders and stars, through untold stories


His hair  long, he in a pair of  jeans, and  sporting John Lennon-style glasses?

There is a certain image about Arun Jaitley, the former Union finance minister and de facto brains of the Modi government. His sartorial sense, for instance—the exquisite jamawar shawl beautifully draped around his shoulders on a cold December day, or a band gala suit when he was in Davos or elsewhere in a foreign shore on work. But journalist and author Kumkum Chadha says that is how Jaitley was in the 70s—before the Emergency. While girls certainly took notice of him, the man, who would go on to become one of India's finest politicians and lawyers, was shy. The much admired Parliamentarian could talk for hours on stage, but would be withdrawn once off it.

Kumkum's book, 'The Marigold Story: Indira Gandhi & Others' is eleven beautifully humanised profiles of fascinating people, most of who were at the centre stage in the 70s, and some who came in the limelight much later. They are from cinema as much as politics—Smita Patil, Ekta Kapoor as well as Indira Gandhi and Lalu Prasad Yadav. There is Smriti Irani who was a major presence in the small screen before she became a very important part of the government and a powerful BJP leader. And Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan—he still a towering figure in the Hindi film industry, and she a low profile member of Parliament. From the world of sports, there is Abhinav Bindra.

Jaitley, as his family and friends describe him, his famous informal chats with a purpose, and his unflinching commitment to ethics in public life, all come alive, as does the story of a refugee family arriving from Lahore, their education, housing and rise to prominence.

No one today needs be told who said “chowkidar chor hai” about who. Read the essay on Rajiv Gandhi, and the Congress slogan in the recent Lok Sabha elections sounds much like a throwback to the times when the opposition cried “Gali gali main shor hai....”, which, Kumkum says, resulted in his fall from grace. The author, who has covered all these people extensively, says Rajiv Gandhi's image as 'Mr Clean' had instilled a fear in people, who thought that given his tech-savvy background, he would actually catch them red-handed, and in camera at that.

There are lots of lovely anecdotes and interactions with the people featured in this very readable book. In fact, they are the public figures who we thought we knew, until 'The Marigold Story' told their stories.

Name: The Marigold Story: Indira Gandhi & Others

Author: Kumkum Chadha


Pages: 338

Price: Rs 699