This is a very fat book about a very thin man, a man moreover who was very arrogant, very rude, very obstreperous and, as the title suggests, very brilliant. In the end, though the brilliance served him poorly and he is remembered—by a rapidly dwindling number of people, I should add—only for his arrogance, rudeness and obstreperousness. To anyone born after 1960, the name Krishna Menon rings no bells, nor arouses any strong emotions.
Yet, there was a time when he was admired by as many people as to whom he was an absolute anathema. To some he was the man who lectured the United Nations on Kashmir for eleven hours and collapsed for his pains which, in the end, made no difference to anything. To others he was the man who got us walloped by China in 1962 when, in a brief war that lasted about 30 days, the Chinese Army almost captured Tezpur in Assam. Then it withdrew entirely, leaving India looking weak and stupid. The scars of that military debacle have yet to heal. That was Menon’s lasting legacy.
Jairam Ramesh, engineer, economist, economic technocrat, politician, minister and last but not least, bon vivant, has, in a fit of god knows what, chosen to write this strange man’s biography. And, using the newly available papers, he has done so in mind-numbing detail and therefore at great length. He and the publishers have thus done a great service to our history because I have always believed that unless you understand the man, you cannot understand his heroics and villainies.