to top


I found Captain Amarinder Singh in his orange turban and black sherwani, standing tall on the cover page looking at me from my bedside table and asking me-“why have you kept me here from last one week? Either read me or put me back on the shelf”
I wanted to give you my undisturbed attention Captain Saab, so I have fixed the weekend date with your book.
People’s Maharaja- an autobiography of Captain Amarinder Singh.
By Khushwant Singh
Publisher-Hay House
381 pages
He must be a brave man to have someone write his biography and not Hagiography just before the elections. The book presents 70 years of the protagonist’s life in some 380 pages over 49 chapters that are short and precise. This is surely a well-researched biography where all major events of the protagonist are woven beautifully by the author Khushwant Singh.
The book progresses as a story of a young prince, born in a royal family sent to a boarding school to discover the fine gentleman hidden inside a mischievous boy.  The journey of of him being a soldier in Indian army pointing a gun against Pakistan in 1965 war to sitting next to General Parvez Musharraf, discussing freedom of Indians in Pakistani jails. This is a story about a man who has survived three helicopter crashes and several murder conspiracies and is the longest living royal in Patiala royal family.
Why should you read it? If you have been living in Punjab from at least last thirty years, you would have seen  Punjab turning from a widow to a bride, The expression for being able to embrace happiness after a decade of being denuded of it. The state that fought against the odds and emerged even more prosperous. Read this book to know if the fate of today’s political scenario would have been different if the protagonist would have not resigned twice from his parties?  Read it to brush the memory of the forgotten contribution of the former CM to the SYL canal issue? Or just to know about the leader who was supported by the voters but not by his own party a lot of times.
What to expect– Expect to work your brain cells because there would be too many historic instances, political names and dates to remember for references till the end. If you are reading the book to look for the obvious controversies associated with the protagonist, you may find a few things on the loose ends. Unspoken is better understood than spoken and misunderstood. Readers may find themselves being  in state of shock and surprise many times in the book. A few chapters in the narrative cover the “secret talks” between the protagonist and Bhindranwale in the mid-80s. Never before I have read someone in the political battlefield being so inviting to something so scandalous, only a combination of a blue blooded  army man could do that.
My view– The book grew on me after the first hundred pages. The first half of the book is about the protagonist’s life as a royal but I wish there was more mention of the instances where the dilemma of being royal was illustrated. The consequences of choices for royals are usually more difficult.
There is very little written about Captain Amarinder Singh’s family (wife and kids) however, the book briefly talks about the forgotten royal Malvinder Singh, who mostly grew under the shadow of his elder brother but there is not much written about his political choices and the reasons behind them. A historical timeline in the beginning of the book would have been a good idea to understand the lineage of the Patiala Royals.
The latter half of the book is about his political career and the choices made by Captain Amarinder Singh. Some of those choices weren’t too appealing to the voter in me but the unbiased reader in me was enjoying the beautiful weave of words in those pages.
The book has a few colored pictures of the protagonist and his family, one of the pictures being with the British royal family. It holds an elaborate description of the royal dinner hosted by the maharaja for his personal guest. Instances like this show the Punjabi Maharaja’s magnanimity, hospitality and the larger than life attitude, which is an essential part of his personality and is a reflection upon his life.
The protagonist is beautifully painted by the author, exhibiting him in all hues and shades. The only thing I missed in the book was the tales of the connoisseur captain. I wish there was more in the book about his love for gardening or about his exceptional cooking skills or his love for art and literature. Nevertheless, there is always a scope of a sequel to the book.
As a final word, once the book grows on you, it’s hard to put down. It took my whole weekend but knowing Captain Amarinder Singh in middle of the political conjecture in the state was worth it.
The book has definitely found its spot in my library, a place where I can stare back at the Maharaja of the cover page while watching the results of the state election 2017.