|Politicians & Literature|
Anand Sharma | 59 | Himachal Pradesh
Minister of Commerce & Industry, Congress
IT IS ALWAYS relaxing to find a good book and going through it in an old-fashioned way. My library is well-stocked and there is so much to read, if one can find the time. Currently, I’m reading No Bread for Mandela by Ahmed Kathrada. The author is a veteran of the anti-apartheid movement, who was imprisoned along with Nelson Mandela. Kathrada was one of the famous Rivonia trial defendants and incarcerated as a political prisoner on Robben Island and at Pollsmoor prison. A searing portrait of grace and courage, I’m finding it gripping and humbling.
For me, history and biographies are the genres of choice. The modern histories of India and African nations have always fascinated me. The colonial experience and the people’s struggles in that era have produced many illustrious personalities. My interest in history led me to anchor two book projects — Gandhian Way: Peace, Non-Violence and Empowerment, an anthology that was part of the satyagraha centenary celebrations, and Journey of a Nation: Indian National Congress. These projects gave me immense satisfaction. I will soon be starting a book on Tagore.
As a student leader and then a politician/minister, I have had to keep up with people and their public life. Many have impacted my own evolution and I see books as a way of getting an in-depth perspective on eras and the leaders that shaped those periods.
As commerce minister, I have been attracted to books about India’s economic trajectory, the challenges that came with it and, importantly, the need for India to think ahead of its peers. I caught up with several leaders, economists and even authors on my trips to the World Economic Forum to get a better grasp of the changing economic climate of the 21st century. One book that I have enjoyed and learnt from is Reverse Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. It analyses how affordable innovation may be the only feasible model in poor countries that are resource-constrained. The book reflects on how countries like India needn’t scale down western products but create its own, which prove to be a global-to-local phenomenon.
I also enjoyed Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Kennedy’s focus is on how the relative strengths of the leading countries in world affairs is ever-changing as wealth fluctuates, and nations experience different rates of growth over a sustained period of time. For India, such an analysis of the western world makes for a great hypothesis to understand new societies. Although I’m tech-savvy, I’m still very conservative about reading on e-book readers. There is a certain charm associated with holding a book.