Friday, December 23, 2016

Five Presidents by Clint Hill

Image result for five president clint hillClint Hill, is a former secret service agent; whose long association with the secret service saw him protect 5 US presidents. He was on bodyguard detail of the most powerful men in the US. Mr Hill was in a unique position to witness up and close these men and their affairs. He writes a personal account of not just his own history with them but also private lives of these colossal men and their family. There is a refreshing tone of genuineness and clarity in Mr Hill's account. Unlike a politician, or a journalist or a bureaucrat Mr Hill calls a spade a spade and brings a common man's view point to these presidencies. I remember reading Sanjay Baru's "Accidental Prime Minister" and Mark Landler's "Alter Egos" and could not help but think that these books were either very biased towards one individual or in some respect paid lip service to the author's own literary or some other prowess. Don't get me wrong, Sanjay and Mark are excellent authors, and their books are great reads but their familiarity with reporting and power does not bring the same perspective as someone like Clint Hill, who brings a human angle to power.

Clint Hill is famously remembered as the Agent who when JFK was shot jumped at the back of the president's car to protect his wife Jackie Kennedy. Clint is just one of many ubiquitous secret service agents whose bravery and dedication has protected many US presidents and their families, not just in the US but also in foreign nations, except that one time...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Half Lion by Vinay Sitapati

Image result for half lionVinay Sitapati brings forward the story of one of India's most reclusive Prime Ministers, PV Narasimha Rao. I believe that any man or woman who ascends to the highest office in the country deserves a study of their extraordinary life.  PVN Rao lived a life most extraordinary. Vinay Sitapati chronicles his life from his childhood years in Telangana to his support of right-wing nationalist movements and then his slow rise in the Congress party.

PV Narasimha Rao was an only child and early in his life he was pushed out of his home for further studies. By age ten he was fluent in multiple languages, was married and had left home for studies. Reading about great men also gives us a reason to reflect on our own lives; A mere child of ten had been through more than people go through in their entire lives.  In his university years, PVN Rao became cognizant of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Nizam of Hyderabad on his Hindu populace, this led to Rao joining a Hindu right wing group who fought the Razakars(Nizam's goons).

Later, Rao joined the congress party. Rao was elevated by Indra Gandhi to become the CM of Andhra Pradesh. Rao was a political animal, his myriad experiences had led him to become politically astute and he made sure that he was in the good books of India's political dynasty, the Nehru-Gandhi family. Rao knew never to cross the Nehru-Gandhi's. Even when Indira deposed him from the chair of CM, he remained loyal. Biding his time...