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.
“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.