Book Review—Evolving With Subramanian Swamy

At the book release function of ‘Evolving with Subramanian Swamy’, the  first speaker Fali Nariman said: “I must compliment the author because no woman I know has more data on her husband than she has.” This not only made me chuckle, but also to check out the details of the book. It was quite interesting. I not only bought the book , but also read it in a single day.

There is no dearth of interesting characters in the Indian political scene. To remain relevant , active and retain followers for four decades is quite difficult for any ordinary politician. Subramanian Swamy is one such figure. His persona and controversial opinions, some of them ahead of his time , make him of the most interesting figures in Indian politics today.

Politics is an unlikely career for an academic like Swamy. He has enemies on both sides of the aisle. Yet he has retained his relevance in Indian politics mainly due to his old friendships, hindutva politics and judicial activism on various pressing issues of the day.  It is even more interesting to know that he is well versed in law though he doesn’t hold a degree in law. I started following his activities after his victory in the 2G case and my Swamy fandom has been steadily rising over the years.

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The book “Evolving with Subramanian Swamy” is a biographical account written by his wife Roxna Swamy . She says that the book was written to set the record straight regarding various theories and stories surrounding her husband. It is quite evident that she admires Swamy a lot and also has a bad opinion about her husband’s political adversaries whom she calls ‘snakes’ and ‘crocodiles.’

Her book starts with a chapter about her father, an ICS officer, whom she admires as much as she admires Swamy. She recalls an anecdote, where her father got into an argument with Nehru on providing a defence plane for an American journalist’s tour. It is an entertaining chapter that speaks about life of a civil servant in post independence India. Thereafter, it is a chronological account of her experience with Swamy till the year 1992.

Roxna Swamy hides the details of her courtship with Swamy at Harvard. She merely says that both met in Harvard and they got married after two years. However, she is not hesitant to reveal the lighter side of her husband in a separate chapter titled ‘Swamy in his lighter moments’. I found this revelation in the book particularly amusing.

“For years Delhi Zoo housed a Hoolock Gibbon and Swamy would unfailingly wend his way there to listen fascinated by it howls. And to exchange making faces with it. He said he did it ot entertain the children; but to me it was evident that it was for his own enjoyment. Certainly, one of the first things that I learnt about Swamy in the U.S, was that it had always been his dream to keep a pet monkey; and of course I vetoed it.”

The fact that she adores him and observes his evolution closely is quite evident from the book. Though she is not a public personality like Swamy , she seems to know many figures in politics and RSS in person. Details of his political maneuverings and also the famous appearance in Rajya Sabha during emergency period has been described by the author in detail.

The highlight of the book is her assessment of Atal Behari Vajpeyi and his rivalry with Subramanian Swamy. She accuses him of blocking her husband’s prospects in politics by declaring her husband a persona-non-grata in RSS and BJP. She says that Vajpeyi feared that Swamy would outshine him as he was brighter and braver anti-emergency hero. For the same reason all established publishers refused to publish her book. I must highlight that the author has self published her book.

I found the book unputdownable. However, chapters where she speaks of different places they lived, cars they used , her gardening interests and details of court cases fought by Swamy are somewhat boring. Apart from that it is a very interesting book. By the time I finished the book , I felt that I should find a loving and devoted wife like Roxna Swamy .

This book is highly recommended for Swamy fans and those interested in politics of  pre-liberalization era in India

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