Archive for October, 2012

Revisiting Nehru – An interesting account

To me, books have always been a perfect companion on a trip and this time when I went on a week long road trip to coastal Orissa with my family, I completed a fascinating nonfiction (it has no connection to the trip) – a biography of Jawaharlal Nehru by Shashi Tharoor.  The short biographical work, “Nehru: The Invention of India” depicts the journey through the life of Nehru.  In fact it was Tharoor’s honest attempt to explore Nehru’s legacies – and he brings out the good, bad, and ugly sides of it.

Nehru never lost the sparkle to inspire his fellow Indians

Nehru never lost the sparkle to inspire his fellow Indians

Tharoor weaves the personal facets with historical happening through an interesting account of Jawaharlal Nehru’s life. The son of one of colonial India’s most famous lawyers, the young Jawaharlal had British tutors and was educated at two of England’s most élite establishments, Harrow and Cambridge. And yet he found his calling in politics and followed Mahatma Gandhi into British Jails. He was a cosmopolitan who became the hero of the nationalist and was moved by the plight of peasants because of his socialist convictions – yet some of his mistakes haunt common citizens in their day to day living, as there was a huge gap between his vision and the reality, to what Tharoor states, “India’s challenge today is both to depart from [Nehru’s] legacy and to build on it.”

The book is well researched from different sources and written in a manner that appeals. Tharoor through his candid writing brings out the fact that Nehru, as the architect of modern India, turned his country into a democracy and a potential industrial centre but again shackled it to a heavily regulated socialist economy. He was in fact a bundle of contradictions. If Nehru put India on an international plane by strengthening foreign relations, he also conferred on India its most serious political problem, the insurgency in Kashmir.

One of the chapters describe how a Hindu-nationalist leader once accused Nehru of being “English by education, Muslim by culture and Hindu by accident” which Tharoor felt was apparently true. Islam, in Nehru’s view, was a fundamental part of India’s culture. His great treatise on his nation’s history, The Discovery of India, written when he was put in jail by the British, describes the diversity of religions, cultures, kingdoms and empires that have coexisted in India as facets of a single timeless civilization that had lain dormant under British rule but was about to awaken with terrific force.

Although often indecisive and frivolous, Nehru never lost the sparkle to inspire his fellow Indians. The phrase he used to describe his nation’s independence—it was, he said, India’s “tryst with destiny”—still haunts his countrymen with a sense of their potential for greatness; the speech in which he used the phrase, his midnight address to the nation at the moment of independence, remains a hallmark.

But, as Tharoor points out, even during Nehru’s own lifetime, his halo began to fade. His concentration on industrialization, rather than reforming the primitive agricultural sector, led to food shortages by the late 1950s. The state-controlled economy bred corruption and stagnation. Kashmir was another growing problem; as Tharoor notes, most Indian commentators blame Nehru for his decision to take the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations, thereby turning it from a domestic matter into an international issue. finally, in 1962, the Chinese invaded India—a crushing humiliation for Nehru, whose reputation as a world leader collapsed overnight.

However, one needs to accept Nehru with all his glaring failures. “Nehru was that rare kind of leader who is not diminished by the inadequacies of his followers, let alone his own limitations. India’s foreign policy has changed tremendously today, and our international role remains deeply rooted in the vision, character and principle of one man, Jawaharlal Nehru,” says Tharoor.

On the whole Tharoor offers a riveting account of a great statesman with a unique public intellectual. This is an informative and easy read for anyone who would want to have a crisp idea of the principles that governed the life of Nehru.


The Chronicle of Mom

“My mom is the best” – something most of us say. And true to our sayings, moms are indeed the best gifts of God to us. My mom too is an absolute delight and I know I can always fall back on her for anything because she has always ironed out my conflicts (both inner and outer) and soothed my fears and helped me shape my dreams into reality.

Mumz the best

Mumz the best

The best thing about this woman in my life is that she is always ready to just sit and listen to whatever I have to say and then put forth her view – her advices in most cases are as precious as platinum. There is something composed about mum which will take me a few more decades to master – or may be I will never be able to because I’m not really her type. Even though the handful of “critics” complain that she spoiled me rotten, I would say she “adores” me for the person I am and has a deep trust in me. Spoil is certainly an ugly word.

Having mum beside me while growing up was the greatest gift and biggest advantage anyone can ask for. It is because of the confidence and values that she instilled in me that made me who I am today. She made me believe that whatever I want to be, or whatever I want to do, there is no limitation except our drive and ambition.

Looking back, however, her story is that of compromises like most Indian women. Born and brought up in Katihar (Bihar) and partly in Kolkata, she belonged to a conservative family of five sisters and one brother. She tied the knot and entered her matrimonial home at a tender age. Even though she managed to complete her studies in most parts, her role was confined to the family chores looking after her husband, children and family. She had no choice, but to live with her fragmented ambitions. Mum always expressed herself through her intelligence in speech, through creativity in writing and art or dressmaking and even when she is trying to prepare a special dish – it got to be served in the most creative manner. Traveling is also an ingrained love both my parents share (more so my dad), and this my mom says has helped her  explore the many facets of life.

Mum believes that even as a child I was an absolute delight. And I became her constant companion since then. Even in my teens, I remember discussing many a censored issues with her when a few of my friends already turned into “teen rebels”. Even today, whenever we find time, we have exciting long conversations, gym together, drive together, swim together and read and laugh together.

As I grew up – pursued my studies and get a job and had several other priorities in life, she (and also my dad) was always in my heart. I will never forget the way you both came to my support when I thought I had no one to turn to. Now her priority is her grandson – who she believes is the twinkles of her eyes.

I thank God everyday for this wonderful relationship that we share. Words, I know are not enough to say what you mean to me, but as a writer this is the only way I can express myself. And so I thought of having a blog, where I can continue to write about the most memorable people, events and happenings of my life, especially those who matter to me (or those who touch my heart).  And mum, you are definitely my first and my lasting inspiration.