Sharmila Tagore reveals her love for literature

New Delhi: What do a thinking diplomat and a graceful actress have in common? Love of literature.

Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore revealed a special relationship of common interests with diplomat-bureaucrat-author Navtej Sarna, who she said she met for the first time in Washington where she was attending a festival of Satyajit Ray`s movies.

"I met Navtej Sarna when he was the Indian diplomat in Washington. Despite his busy schedule, he found time to devote to culture. I was attending a festival of Satyajit Ray`s films at Smithsonian Institute," said the former Bollywood star who later became chairperson of the Censor Board.

Sarna, who was then the press counsellor with the Indian embassy in Washington, is currently additional secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Tagore, the great-grandniece of Rabindranath Tagore and the wife of former Indian skipper (late) Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, was in the capital to release "Winter Evenings" (Rupa Publications), a book of short stories by Navtej Sarna at the Hotel Diplomat Tuesday evening. The event was also attended by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

"Later, Tiger and I met him in Israel where Sarna was ambassador," recalled Sharmila, looking elegant in a pink sari and a velvet Mughal jacket embroidered richly with zardosi.

"In Washington, Navtej (Sarna) helped me source Simon de Beauvoir`s `The Mandarins` (`Les Mandarins`) written in 1954. It is one of my favourite books and I had lost it," she said. Sarna guided Tagore to an address from where she could source it.

Tagore said she had read Sarna`s book before coming to the event and liked the short stories that were written during his many postings all over the world, from Bhutan to Poland.

She said the characters were "incredibly interesting and there were crucial moments when the characters get moulded through the vicissitudes of their everyday existence".

Tagore, besides being an avid patron of arts, is known for her love of reading.

Khurshid praised the simplicity of the writing and the way it reflected everyday slices of life. He wondered "provocatively" if diplomatic jargon could not be simplified in a way that it appealed to the common man.

He prefaced his remarks by describing Sharmila as being "one of the most beautiful women of our times."