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Nine lives, single take

The movers and shakers of our society are often on page three but not often between the foreword and the footnote. Namita Gokhale has managed the rare feat with rare dignity. Read on with ZIYA US SALAM.

Namita Gokhale... Revealing a few well-kept secrets. Photo: Sandeep Saxena.

SHE SAYS "everybody has two novels in him". One is "the story of life as it is", the other "life as it might have been". She would know. After all, she has not had only good things happening to her. She has had her brush with adversity, and much of the pain emanating from the loss of near and dear ones has provided her with fuel to pen together some stories, some novels, some essays. Ranging from "Paro" to "Gods, Graves and Grandmother" to "Dreams of Passion" and "Siva", affable Namita Gokhale has always found writing "a catharsis" and storytelling quite "a therapeutic exercise".

Now, she attempts to use this "therapeutic exercise" to put together an anthology that is a refreshing change from the dumb page three personalities one is saddled with first thing in the morning. Writing in imprint One's "Love Them Loathe Them", she says, "Living in the age of celebrity, we seem to know everything about the maharathis who overshadow our everyday lives with theirs, and yet, paradoxically, on examination we know very little... .This anthology seeks to view them outside the trivialisation of the Page Three phenomenon and the commodification of the PR firms, beyond the narrow perspectives of ideological prejudices and political correctness. Why they are who they are? Who made them so?"

Well, this compilation talks of nine icons, nine heroes sought to be exposed to the public glare, divested of any pedestal, sans any false bravado. Why nine? The publishers answer: "Critics, academics, writers and journalists... were happy to take on the powerful abrasive politicians and moody celebrities, but sounded almost frightened when we mentioned Arundhati Roy. All we wanted was a candid profile which, without ignoring her literary achievements or her commitment to social issues, would have a good-humoured go at her penchant for generating controversies.


There was no malice, no questioning of her motives. Privately everyone called it a wonderful idea, but said they did not want to `stick their neck out'. We could have replaced Roy with someone else but decided against it. Instead, we chose to leave the No.10 slot vacant as a reminder of the degree of timidity that prevails among our chattering classes."

Be that as it is, but the book brings to our shelves nine lives, including those of Amar Singh - ever wondered how come he is there where he is? - J. Jayalalithaa - ever thought how did she get to be so rich, famous and powerful? - Samir Jain - the man responsible for the dumbing down of journalism - Arun Shourie - all anger and bravado - Kapil Dev - all grit and rustic charm - not to forget the bimbettes of Bollywood. With seasoned journalists like Seema Mustafa, Suchitra Behal, S. Sivadas and Suresh Kohli putting pen to paper, it might just be among the better offerings Namita Gokhale has come up with in recent times. That is, if you ignore some factual anomalies, some fawning.

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