He's been called "ghatiya insaan" and "spineless", and books penned by former colleagues have cast unflattering light on his tenure as prime minister and questioned his role in various scams — Manmohan Singh has had a hard time of it these last few months. But did the vilification ever get to him?
Not really, says his daughter, Daman Singh, in an email interaction on her upcoming book, Strictly Personal, in which she charts her parents' eventful life. "He does get upset sometimes, but doesn't show it often," she says.
It's her mother, Gursharan Kaur, she says, who "can get very worked up about these things. Then my father will say something like 'this is what happens in public life' or 'what cannot be cured must be endured'. That's one of his favourite proverbs."
Coming close on the heels of two controversial books by Sanjaya Baru and Natwar Singh, it is tempting to see Daman's book as a defence of her father. But Daman steers well clear of anything controversial; there's nothing here of the former prime minister's relationship with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the subject of so much media speculation, and not a single reference to the 2G scam.
The author of one book on Mizoram and two novels, Daman says the idea of the book came to her in 2009. "A friend, Ashali Varma, was writing about her parents around that time. So, I guess, a part of the idea must have come from her."
Staying well out of politics, Daman's book concentrates on the personal lives of her parents, on their family and friends, and the social, cultural and political milieu that shaped them. There are interesting details here, such as the revelation that, while studying at Hindu College, Amritsar, Manmohan Singh stood for the elections to the post of president of the students' union, but lost.
Much later, in 1999, Singh was to stand once more as candidate, this time for the South Delhi Lok Sabha constituency — only to lose again. "He was very disappointed," his daughter says. "He was not used to 'failing' at anything. For him this was something entirely new. It probably took him a couple of months to get over it."
Daman's book traces her father's extraordinary life in great detail, leavening his stern, reticent image with a few personal details such as his first conversation with Gursharan, when he went to see her as a prospective bride: "What division did you get in BA? and "If you have to live in a foreign country, how would you like it?"
Her parents, she says, were fine with revealing such details. "Frankly, none of the details are intimate. They are personal. The book is based on conversations with my parents, I was recording them. Then when the writing was over, I gave them the draft and they read it. They didn't agree with everything but they still gave their permission to publish it."