The Pacer

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WHEN PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh won the nuclear trust vote last year, television channels went wild telecasting him to the rousing beat of “Singh is King, Singh is King.” That sat incongruously. Raucous virility is not quite what Singh evokes, yet he is possessed of a strange quality of youthfulness. There is the astonishingly brisk walk, the capacity for sudden firmness, the grueling demands of premiership. He wakes at 6.30am everyday, loves a good walk, his hour on the treadmill and a breakfast of fruits and egg and toast, but it is work, work and work alone that keeps him ticking. After breakfast, he spends some time reading the papers and by 9.30am, he is out of the house.

Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh
Age: 77
Profession: Economist, currently Prime Minister
Will walk: After attending the French National Day celebrations in Paris this year, Singh set aside protocol to take a walk back to his hotel with his wife Photo: AP

“Since I have known him,” says his daughter, professor Upinder Singh, “he has always had huge mental energy and a capacity to immerse himself in his work. Even at 77, he has more energy than I do and is able to concentrate longer. This obsession with work is what defines him; it’s what helped him get better in record time after his recent operation.”

Wife Gursharan Kaur is an immovable pillar of strength: Singh’s well-being and comfort take priority over everything else for her. Singh prays and listens to the gurbani for strength, but is averse to ritual. “He has always had only one dictum,” says his daughter. “Be self-reliant, be independent, stand on your feet and take responsibility.”

For a workaholic, age means nothing when you have a country to run.

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Shoma Chaudhury is Managing Editor, Tehelka, a weekly newsmagazine widely respected for its investigative and public interest journalism. Earlier she had worked with The Pioneer, India Today, and Outlook. In 2000, she left Outlook to join Tarun Tejpal, and was among the team that started Tehelka.com. When Tehelka was forced to close down by the government after its seminal story on defence corruption, she was one of four people who stayed on to fight and articulate Tehelka‘s vision and relaunch it as a national weekly.

Shoma has written extensively on several areas of conflict in India – people vs State; the Maoist insurgency, the Muslim question, and issues of capitalist development and land grab. She has won several awards, including the Ramnath Goenka Award and the Chameli Devi Award for the most outstanding woman journalist in 2009. In 2011, Newsweek (USA) picked her as one of 150 power women who “shake the world”. In May 2012, she also won the Mumbai Press Club Award for best political reporting. She lives in Delhi and has two sons.