The ‘People’s Captain'
Amarinder Singh Chief Minister, Punjab, India
A Writer and a CookPar Excellence
At 8500 feet (about 2590 meters) above sea level on the India-Tibet Road, Khandiali is nothing short of an author’s paradise. The mountains and the surreal atmosphere provide a perfect destination for a writer who wants to detach himself from the hustle and bustle of a fast-paced world. This is where Amarinder Singh retires for many a time not only to escape the summer heat but also to write. Once he reaches his farm amongst the cherry orchards, he disconnects completely from the crazy world of the dusty and hot plains of Punjab that form his regular sphere of activities. Unlike many of his age, Amarinder has, surprisingly, adapted to the latest developments in technology very well. He now punches the keys of a laptop with just one finger to record his thoughts and ideas, which is quite in contrast to his earlier style of writing, when he used a fountain pen. Such a pen has brought alive in detail many battlefield incidents and episodes of military heroics and sacrifices. He has authored six books, making him one of the most distinguished military historians in India. His published works include Ridge Too Far; Lest We Forget; The Last Sunset: Rise and Fall of Lahore Durbar. Among his most recent works are Honour and Fidelity: India’s Military Contribution to the Great War 1914 to 1918, and The Monsoon War: Young Officers Reminisce–1965 India-Pakistan War, his memoirs of the 1965 Indo-Pak war (co-authored by Lt.Gen TS Shergill) and the latest, Saragarhi and the Defence of the Samana Forts: The 36th Sikhs in the Tirah Campaign 1897-98.
Amarinder Singh’s hectic political activities and long writing stints are usually interspersed with cooking escapades in the evening, whenever time permits. As the sun sets, Amarinder, led by his Man Friday, Rajkumar (aka Raju), lays out the custom-made coal bhattis (ovens) and heavy utensils in the special areas reserved for cookouts. The bhattis are lit to a crackle and then fanned to a mellow temperature suitable for the recipes of the day. One day, it could be Amarinder wielding a spatula all by himself as he whips up dishes on his own. Friends or family or both could join him for another day. Usually, son Raninder Singh or cousin Randhir Singh pitch in. Both, like Amarinder, have taken pride in carrying forward the family’s tradition of culinary adventurism.
The Year 2017
On 11 March 2017 Amarinder Singh turned seventy-five. This day was more special than the previous seventy-four birthdays he had celebrated, for the gift that kismet bestowed on him was perhaps the best ever. Punjab voted the Congress back to power with a whopping majority of 77 seats out of the 117 in the Punjab assembly. It was an election, which the Congress fought under his aegis, and he became their leader. He assumed office as the twenty-sixth chief minister of Punjab on 16 March 2017.
The people of Punjab are looking forward to the ‘People’s Captain’ to use this opportunity to usher in an era of prosperity to Punjab.