|Politicians & Literature|
Devi Prasad Tripathi | 58 | Uttar Pradesh
General Secretary, Nationalist Congress Party
IT MIGHT SEEM strange to you but the books that have shaped my life and thought are all in Sanskrit. There are two types of Sanskrit — Vedic Sanskrit and Laukic Sanskrit. The former is classical Sanskrit, as found in the Vedas, but I started with Laukic Sanskrit, the colloquial that derives its grammar from Panini.
A book that is almost imprinted in my memory is Kalidasa’s Meghdoot. Another great influence has been Abhigyan Shakuntalam, also by Kalidasa.
Moving from Sanskrit to folk languages, a book that made such a great childhood impression, that I almost memorised it, was Tulsidas’ Ramacharitmanas. The first sentence here is in Sanskrit, but it is not about the gods. Instead, it’s about the letters, about the rhyme and meter of poetry, and the music that comes from it. This is his greatness.
I’m also a fan of Russian literature, their authors and philosphers. There is this small (48 pages), but by no means minor book, called the Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. It’s a celebration of life. The last, almost rhetorical paragraph of the book sums it up. Why would we want a communist society, it asks? So that everyone in this country can fish, hunt and write poetry.
Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is one of the greatest books that I have read. It’s a book of shades, light and darkness, positive and negative, all rolled into one sentence. The protagonist is one of the most fascinating, inspiring and tragic characters I have encountered in literature.
Russian novelists are like rivers flowing into the ocean. Boundless energy flowing into boundlessness. The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky is fabulous, as are the novels of Tolstoy.
These are, however, books that require attention. I run away, switch my cell phone off and go away, to read. I make sure that I do that at least once a week, so that I finally end up spending between 12 and 24 hours a week with my books and music.
I’m currently engrossed in Eric Hobsbawm’s latest book on Marx and Marxism, Kuldip Nayar’s autobiography Beyond the Lines and Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton, also an autobiography.