An intimate, inspiring portrait of First Citizen

Kasturi Ray’s biography of Droupadi Murmu is well-researched narration of a unique journey

GN Bureau | June 20, 2023

#Jharkhand   #Odisha   #president   #Droupadi Murmu   #Tribals  
(Photo: Courtesy
(Photo: Courtesy

Droupadi Murmu: From Tribal Hinterlands to Raisina Hill
By Kasturi Ray
Rupa, 256 pages, Rs 595

On June 21, 2022 Droupadi Murmu’s name was announced as the NDA’s candidate for the presidential elections. A year ago, many people had not heard her name, and some had only a vague idea about her, as a former governor of Jharkhand. Within a year, Murmu, the second woman and the first tribal to hold the highest constitutional office, has won many hearts.  

Her first address to the joint session of parliament began with the traditional tribal greeting: ‘Johar!’ On at least two occasions, she spoke from the heart about the challenges of delivering justice, especially to the undertrials. More surprising – and touching – has been her tone: soft. Almost pleading all to be more empathetic, she speaks in motherly ways, and also maintains the dignity of the office.

If the first year is any indication, Murmu is looks set to subtly change our expectations from the First Citizen.

For those who are interested to know more about this unusual lady, Kasturi Ray, a journalist currently with The New Indian Express and based in Bhubaneswar, has come out with a short biography.
Biographies of presidents coming out in the first year of the term run a risk of being hasty jobs, offering little more than compilations of old media reports. Ray, however, has succeeded in delivering a well-researched biography that is also comprehensive.

Based on in-depth interviews with several persons close to the president, the book is a lively portrait with lesser-known details. At the same time, it covers a lot of ground – from her personal tragedies and how she found succor in spirituality and ‘Raj Yoga’ of the Brahamkumaris to her gubernatorial assignment. In Jharkhand, she insisted on creating a tribal affairs portfolio, and also returned the amendments bills to the CNT and SPT Acts – an uncommon measure for a governor.

‘Droupadi Murmu: From Tribal Hinterlands to Raisina Hills’ encapsulates the journey of a tribal girl who defied all odds to grow up into an institution signifying resilience, determination and grit. Charting a path less travelled, Murmu carved out many firsts, right from stepping out of the nondescript village Uparbeda in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha to becoming the First Citizen of India.

Through interviews and detailed analysis, Ray tracks Murmu’s life, following her through school and college, from being a teacher to social worker, councillor to minister, from taking charge as the governor of Jharkhand to becoming the president—a tale of incredible resilience and dedication to service. She narrates how Murmu was able to overcome personal tragedy and return to her commitment to helping the people and giving a voice to the downtrodden and underserved.

The book traces her footprints in the sands of time as a fighter, believer and winner and narrates an inspiring journey.



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