Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter to decide whether to publish his diaries | Sunday Observer

Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter to decide whether to publish his diaries

6 September, 2020
Pranab  Mukherjee
Pranab Mukherjee

New Delhi:Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee, who died on Monday, had made his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee custodian of the diaries he wrote almost every day during his five-decade political career and authorised her to take a call on publishing them.

“He has left his diaries with me, and left it to my discretion whether to get them published or not,” Sharmistha Mukherjee said.

The former President, who had tested positive for coronavirus, died on Monday, weeks after his brain surgery. The 84-year had died after being in hospital for 20 days.

He came into politics in 1969 and subsequently served as minister for External Affairs, Defence, Finance and Commerce and then as India’s 13th president.Writing a diary every day was one of Pranab Mukherjee’s ways to keep his famously encyclopaedic memory razor sharp until the very end, said his close friends.

“I once asked him what the fate of his diaries would be, and he had said he’d given them to his daughter... because a lot of controversies can take place. In his diaries, he wrote whatever he thought... things that were off the record but he didn’t want to publish it before his death,” said veteran journalist Jayanta Ghoshal.

Mr Ghoshal, who had known the late politician since 1985, said Mukherjee was in the habit of writing diaries since his days as cabinet minister in the Indira Gandhi government and continued to write them even after retiring as president.

In fact, the length of his entries had increased after he demitted the president’s office, he said.

Gautam Lahiri, another senior journalist and long-time friend, added that the seven-time parliamentarian would write a diary every day, but the entry would be for events that took place two days earlier.

“I asked him once what the secret of his razor sharp memory was, and he told me that he wrote diaries not for the day’s event but for what happened two days ago. ‘I try to remember that’,” he said. “So he would write diary entries everyday for events that happened 48 hours ago. In this way he would stimulate and exercise his mind,” Lahiri said.

One entry that Lahiri knows of is a drawing by Pranab Mukherjee’s granddaughter. This followed a conversation between Pranab Mukherjee, the child and then prime minister Manmohan Singh.

“After Pranab Mukherjee was elected as president, Manmohan Singh went to his house and Pranab da called his granddaughter and said, ‘You were looking for a prime minister, he is a PM.’ She didn’t believe it and ran away.

“Later that day, his granddaughter drew a picture of Pranab da as PM. That picture is entered in his diary as a memory of the interaction between Manmohan Singh, his granddaughter and himself,” Mr Lahiri recounted.The entire interaction, the journalist explained, stemmed from the much talked about topic of how Pranab Mukherjee never became prime minister.

“Like most people, his family too felt that he should be made PM. He never aspired for that and he never told anybody. He believed that the president’s and the PM’s posts are so honourable that they can only be offered... one cannot go hankering after them,” Lahiri said..