|Politicians & Literature|
D Raja | 63 | Tamil Nadu
Rajya Sabha MP, CPI
I USED TO be a voracious reader in school, reading whatever came my way. I started with books in Tamil, novels, poetry, history, biographies, what have you. College was my introduction to English literature, and the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin. That’s when I also started reading BR Ambedkar.
Thiruvalluvar is the poet-philosopher par excellence, who wrote on everything from personal life to social concerns. Jayakanthan is a contemporary Tamil writer who has not shied away from breaking conventions, and has pioneered what is best classified as ‘social realism’.
But apart from Tamil literature, I also read Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s works as well as those of Tagore’s — I can even quote from them. The same applies to works in Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Urdu. A number of these I have read in their Tamil translation (including the works of Premchand). I have got the collected works of Mao translated into Tamil. I also have the works of Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and a few Italian communist philosophers on my shelves.
In popular and classic English literature, I have enjoyed Charles Dickens. Shakespeare was a college favourite who has stayed with me.
Being a politician, it is absolutely imperative for me to keep abreast of new developments, which I can only do by reading. There’s a whole range of subjects on which I’m not an expert, nuclear policy, for instance, that I need to know about. Being in public life, reading is a responsibility.
I’m currently reading Eric Hobsbawn’s How to Change the World. Ramachandra Guha’s latest book, Patriots and Partisans, is also very interesting. It has a particularly engaging chapter that deals with the strategy of the LTTE in Sri Lanka and that of Naga fighters in Nagaland.