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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,054 ratings  ·  232 reviews
A revealing account of our political past that holds crucial lessons for today's India

In the summer of 1975 Tavleen Singh, not yet twenty-five, started working as a junior reporter in the Statesman in New Delhi. Within five weeks, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency, suspending fundamental rights and imposing press censorship, and soon reckless policies sai
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published 2012 by Hachette
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Ashish Iyer
A good book to read for someone who is interested in Indian politics written from a journalists point of view. Durbar is a first-person account of some of the most impactful incidents that took place at the hands of the Central Government. It begins with an account of the Emergency in 1975, when the author began her career as a reporter then followed story of Gandhi's family.

The Emergency was a landmark event that set the course of the spiral of incidents that followed it: Indira Gandhi’s assass
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I completed reading Durbar the very day when Rahul Gandhi let hell loose with his amateurish protest against 'his government's" ordinance to shield criminal MP/MLAs from disqualification. And the lines, " it all began with Rajeev" ironically came alive. Durbar is a fascinating and disturbing tale of how independent India lost almost six decades of it's development to dynastic politics, to the whims and fancies of politicians who have proved to be worse than their colonial counterparts and how th ...more
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had come to know about this book when I watched an interview of Ms Tavleen Singh on a youtube channel. The way Ms Tavleen Singh went about presenting her side of the story and answered the questions was a good enough reason for me to buy this on FlipKart. My observations.

What I liked:

One, reminded of my childhood listening to my maternal uncle recount his experience through the emergency and the later decades following it. I somehow found that connect with this book as Ms Tavleen Singh ha
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am an equally opportunity reader, I read all genres, all types of books. And absolutely love political books. When I read excerpts of Tavleen Singh’s Durbar, my interest was piqued. Luckily, I was in India at that time, and easily got hold of it. The book spans from around 1975 to the Rajiv Gandhi coming into Politics. It is less of a political commentary, more of a book born of Singh’s observations and experiences at a time when she was close to the powers that be, in the centre. She writes o ...more
Arun Divakar
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
One of those unsolved mysteries of India to me has always been how democracy has survived so long in this country. In this subcontinent, the word diversity itself becomes a cliché. Mine is a relatively small state in the map, an area of 15,000 square miles with 14 major districts included in it. There is only one spoken language called Malayalam but it is spoken in countless different tones and slangs that an outsider would be perplexed ( to put it mildly !) in no time. Now apply this to the lar ...more
Sairam Krishnan
Nov 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
There is a reason Tavleen Singh is not taken seriously by a generation much older than mine. The 40-50 year old Indian intellectual and business elite regard her as nothing more than a Congress-basher. I feel they are not doing her justice.

Tavleen Singh comes from the old Indian guard, the people and families who had access to the upper echelons of the government during the formative stages of the Indian democracy, and that she chose to be a journalist must have followed from there. It was the n
Soul longings
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: indian-authors
The Period from 1975 to 2000 has been very turbulent one in the political scenario of India. Taveleen singh a very seasoned author & journalist and part of the inner circle of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi covers it in a very interesting way in this book. It gives a first hand account of emergencey years, sanjay gandhi era, his death , Indira gandhi assasination, Operation blue star, kashmir insurgency , rajiv gandhi's landslide victory and eventual disenchantment of public with him .The book also give ...more
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
For anyone interested , this book is available for 13 Rupees on Kindle today, on Amazon..


Definitely worth it.
Mani Kant
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Tavleen Singh, the writer of Durbar, emerges as a brave journalist with high contacts and privileged access to high profile drawing rooms and she generously used these capabilities to make the book an interesting chronicle of the time when Indira and Rajeev ruled the country and strengthened the root of dynastic politics. Many of the events described in the book had already taken place when I was born and many of them happened when I was too young to make any sense of them. So, there has always ...more
Arpita Seth
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing

“It was with Rajiv that it all began”. With these words Tavleen Singh’s memoirs in her latest journalistic account ‘Durbar’ come to an end. Durbar is a roller coaster journey where one of India’s indomitable journalists presents an honest report of the years that rooted India’s deep-seated problems. To berate it as political gossip is missing the point of why she wrote it in the first place. Context is the underlinin
Vikas Datta
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an incisive, provocative but well-thought out view of India in a crucial two decades and the way the nation has progressed - or has not! Ms Singh paints a cruel but quite a true picture of the dangerous drift - aimless, or left, or right that has been the bane of India in the last few decades of the 20th century and has left an imprint on the present even as we advance well into the 21st, but doesn't provide too many palliative prescriptions and also doesnt dwell much on the theme with whi ...more
This is by far the most unbiased political narrative I have ever read. The author has analyzed the political scene and drama purely based on logic and reasoning.

It is all the more valid and live when she had all first hand informations of Lutyen’s Delhi’s innermost and lost circle and gradually deflected to India which is totally different.

It is very easy to understand because the era had been looked at from a common man’s perspective. It gives the sense of a movie at times. Tavleen’s understand
Parth Agrawal
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the first book that I’ve read of Mrs Tavleen Singh and I must say that she promised a lot and delivered as well. For a novice reader like me, it turned out to be a gold mine of information and insights which helped me to form an opinion on the indelible political events which took place between the periods of 1970s and 1990s, in India, through a critic’s lens. I would be lying if I deny that this book in the garb of criticizing the Dynasty Democracy, Crony capitalism and public disenchan ...more
Feb 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, 2013
Durbar is a chronicle of Tavleen Singh's take of the events from the Emergency to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi from the vantage point of her journalistic career and proximity to the Who's-who of Delhi. While most of the racy sections are the ones devoted to the juicy gossips of the parties of Lutyen's Delhi with the likes of Naveen Patnaik, Rajiv, Sonia, Farooque Abdullah etc participating, the book has quite a few well written sections. The chapter on the 77 elections left a permanent impr ...more
Mukesh Kumar
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A personal memoir more, less a serious historical account of Delhi politics and power-circle, this immensely readable, enjoyable book is not without its flaws. Some of the issues I had with the narrative was the author's own elitist nature, while detailing India's problems and blaming them on the unwashed masses and the elites of the country. Also, she is not immune to petty gossips and some generalizations. The almost non-existence of South India from this account and the singular focus on Delh ...more
Srinidhi Ng
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 2019, India still has 250-300 million people living in abject poverty. It has been 70 years since the British left, who perpetuated the poverty the British created?
The countries which gained independence at the same time as India grew at rates of 8-10% in 1960-90, while the Indian growth stagnated at 3.5%. While India kept waiting for an economic miracle like Taiwan and South Korean, she was chained by the shackles of socialist policies of the Nehru family. What made them perpetuate the pove
Anant Mittal
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Recommended for anyone from my generation who wants to get atleast some sense of the political scenario of the mid 70s and what followed - Tavleen writes with disarming candor and the book is every inch a memoir and not a deep political analysis. In that sense, it works well for those who are seeking to merely get some perspective/ understanding of Indian politics and how it came to be where it is today. what is also refreshingly nice is that the author's voice is not filled with rancor or a per ...more
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
They say,not to trust a memoir,if it contains no dirt on oneself.On that count Durbar is not book to be trusted.The lady seems to be on the right side..well almost always.

Taking out 2 days to read a memoir in middle of hectic schedule is not worthwhile,unless there is something new you learn at the end of the journey with the writer.And Durbar sure provides that in the form of the description of the origins of the Kashmir and Punjab problem.

It has helped me place the 1984 Sikh pogom in perspecti
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Whatever the faults Durbar maybe guilty of (such as those being of social gossip), it is a very readable book. Writing is smooth and lucid, a reader happily runs along the lines, reading sentences, paragraphs. Durbar is not a erudite political analysis, but I don't think it intends to be. It covers Indira-Rajiv era, and provides a glimpse into the drawing rooms of the affluent Delhites where most of these political leaders shaped up, emerged out of. She has Rajiv and Sonia, Navin Pataniak, Vasun ...more
Santosh Shaastry
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book with daring insights into some of the reasons why our country (India) is in such bad shape of governance. I call it daring because of the nature of facts (as claimed by the author) revealed is shocking and could well cause a change in the political thought process of the citizens if publicized well!

It is well known that having ruled India for most of the time since Independence, the Congress has not been able to do much to improve the conditions in the rural part of the country
Anuj Jha
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've always admired Tavleen Singh as an outstanding journalist ... Her accounts on various challenges India was facing during emergency and its aftermath including operation blue star and the incidents that followed, are astounding... The efficiency with which Congress had nearly destroyed glory and idea of India is to be looked upon... Her accounts have let people know why in times of Congress (esp Nehru, Indira, Rajiv) the idea of India never flourished ...

The active journalism in the days of
Rahul Sharma
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Durbar is a personal account of journalist Tavleen Singh talking specifically about the years when Rajiv Gandhi was anointed as the Prime Minister of India. From Indira Gandhi's emergency to the Mandal Commission agitation; 1984 Sikh Riots to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi - the author gives a detailed account of the happenings in India. I was particularly moved by the chapter on 'Operation Blue Star'. For people like me who were born after the Khalistan movement, it's tough to believe that P ...more
Amit Tyagi
Dec 22, 2012 rated it liked it
What I liked most about the book was that it doesn't pretend to be a history book, it is clear about what it is; the author is pretty candid about the fact that with someone having grown up in the same milieu as the then ruling class, she had privileged access to their drawing rooms and as a result had a vantage point insight as to how and why the ruling class (during the times of Indira, Sanjay and Rajiv) went about things as they did. Interesting read, if you've always been intrigued about som ...more
Agnivo Niyogi
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sycophancy and Congress have become synonymous now-a-days. The rot started in the 1970's under the Prime Ministership of Indira Gandhi, when she had almost become synonymous with India. From the emergency to the 1984 pogrom against Sikhs, Operation Blue Star and ascent of The Son to the throne - Tavleen Singh narrates the story she was a part of. May be we can take home the message that was apparent in the events that happened then, and rectify ourselves, so as not to let the history repeat itse ...more
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Indians of my generation - specially in North India can use this book to understand the events that shaped our lives and what caused them and what ails our country still. The perspective may be rather narrow but is important as the players who had an impact on what is now history but also were our lives and continue to be, carried more responsibility than anyone else to shape the nation. It is the almost casual attitude - one cannot call it the lack of compassion - the lightness with which the d ...more
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Extremely powerful narrative by Tavleen Singh. While it is true that she carries her own opinions and biases in this book (which is fair enough, since this is not a journalistic or objective work), she does manage to shed light on the least controversial member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty - Rajeev.

A must-read.
Bhuwan Chand
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
A wonderful book, showed the political events of 70's and 80's from a very different perspective.

Growing up in the era, in the socialist India, without any transparency between the Govt. and the people it was difficult to get the grip on what is happening.

Was too young at the time of emergency to remember anything, but there were stories about emergencies that we grew up with. Our home was located stone throw away from Turkman Gate where a lot of action happened at Sanjay Gandhi's behest. And
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
'Durbar' utterly confused me. First off, 'Dinner Party' would have been a much more apt title, given that a comically large amount of the book describes Singh's schmoozing with politicians and maharajas and socialites in Delhi's drawing rooms. In the first part of the book, especially, it appears that a lot of information is gleaned at these parties, written either with personal contempt or with the breezy malice of a gossip.

Sonia Gandhi's politics may be far from ideal, but how is it relevant
Girl from Mumbai
बाद मुद्दत के मिले हैं दीवाने. कहने सुनने को बहुत हैं अफ़साने खुली हवा में ज़रा साँस तो ले लें, कब तक रहेगी आज़ादी कौन जाने

These lines uttered by the ex-prime minister of India “Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee” during a rally in India were perfect for the politics of that era and somehow with the current political turmoil that India is going through, these lines still stand true.

The author ‘Tavleen Singh’ heard his speech during a rally and mentioned the lines in her riveting book ‘Durbar.' A journali
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Tavleen Singh is the author of three books, Kashmir: A Tragedy of Errors, Lollipop Street: Why India Will Survive Her Politicians and Political and Incorrect. She spends her time between Delhi and Mumbai and writes four weekly political columns, in Hindi for Amar Ujala and Jansatta, and in English for syndication and an exclusive column for the Indian Express.

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