Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Villa

‘The Villa’ written by Rosanna Ley , published in 2012 by Quercus Books, London, is the story of three women who belong to three generations. A slightly chick lit type novel, so to say, but very much readable and is recommended for light reading. I used to read it at bedtime. 

The author has worked as a tutor in creative writing and has given a reading guide at the end. The writing tips given were of course interesting and useful. 

Somebody inheriting a dilapidated but gorgeous house abroad (at Sicily) is not something logical or believable, but it is a story, know? Out of the three women, I love the Grandmother Flavia, the best.  Of course her daughter Tess Angel and teen aged granddaughter Ginny are also portrayed well but Flavia is the most impressive character in the sense that she has an identity of her own. 

The only one point which I didn’t like or rather couldn’t digest about her, is her frequent visits to her ailing old love, Peter, and that too without letting her husband know of it. According to her, it was strictly her personal affair and none of her husband’s business! Later, she realized that he was very much aware of it, but simply chose not to interfere at all! It must be my Indian commonplace mind which resisted such moves, I think.

Flavia, the “self-trained observer" as the author describes, was also ”too stubborn for words" that she didn’t like revealing anything to her daughter about Sicily, her native place. Instead she started narrating the story in her notebook. But Flavia’s memoirs are fully printed  in Italics and this appeared slightly strenuous to my eyes.  

The author’s description of Sicily and the life there is quite vivid. The family feuds and the unveiling of the suspense behind the treasure is also well-drawn. Foodies can have a lot of Italian recipes of Flavia too! 

Flavia’s and later Tess’s description of Sicilian women filled my mind with pity and sympathy. I don’t know why but whenever I came across the words Italy, Italian, Sicily etc Mrs.Sonia Rajiv Gandhi’s profile used to come to mind’s frame. May be because she is the only Italian I knowJ.        

Some quotes which I like-

-......(Sicilian) women mostly dressed in black and mostly bent-with a lifetime of drudgery...
 -Personally, she didn’t understand why it was necessary to tell dozen’s of acquaintances the minutiae of one’s life...(Tess’s thoughts about facebook)....But she knew she was in a minority”Yes, in fact Tess reflected my own thoughts about fb!

-The women(of Paris) were smarter, more colourful...these women looked as if they had some life, some purpose other than home...(Flavia’s observation at a Paris railway station).

-No one prepared you for these things when you decided to have a baby. Or when-like Tess- you were propelled into motherhood without really thinking about it at all. No one warned you that your daughter would one day become an adolescent-whom you would irritate beyond belief every time you so much as opened your mouth.... But it would pass.(Tess thinking about her teenage daughter Ginny)

-At the end of the day, she(Ginny)realised, although he(Ben, her boyfriend) had been her first, she had invested the virginity thing with a significance it didn’t really have.

-It’s easy to let the opportunity go by. (Ginny’s Dad’s confession to her).And there’s a point where it seems as if it might be too late. Unless you feel you can do something...I buggered off when your mom needed me most.

- Her God has not given her what she wanted most in the world...And she wasn’t entirely sure that she even believed in him anymore. But the sense of God was a comfort to her;it seemed to give her strength.    

-She(Flavia) was too ambitious;she had never wanted the Sicilian way of womanhood-house and children.

-what love really is, caring for another human being, living with them through good and the bad,working with them, wanting to grow with them.That’s true love.Not hearts and flowers and romantic dreams.

-For every recipe there is a reason. Trade, social change, the season, the weather.Food is warmth.Food is identity.

-time when she was struggling for life, the sort of time when revelations sometimes occur. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Indira Nehru Gandhi -Part VIII

The Nehrus and Gandhis, an Indian Dynasty-Part I Part II 
Part III Part IV Part V Part VI  Part VII  

Indira Nehru Gandhi 

When I read about her lonely childhood, nomadic education due to her family’s involvement in Nationalist movements, I felt sorry for her. When I read about her boldness, her decision to marry an outstanding personality from a common place family, her first public meeting in India in UP on a chilly early morning, her left without a house soon after her reversal from power, I was all for her. But I could in no way tolerate her declaring emergency, playing communal cards in politics, puppetting to the tunes of Sanjay Gandhi and other numerous  sycophants and the like. Now, setting aside my likes and dislikes which are totally irrelevant, let me quote the relevant points of the book.

-Indira’s  childhood was coloured by her never-ending visits to prison to see her father and grandfather, then her mother and she had finally spent some time inside herself.
Indira had a nomadic existence due to her circumstances, about which her father was really concerned. It’s his guilty feeling which turned out to be the fantastic 200 letters to his daughter on World history.

-Indira’s attitude to her own education was somewhat cavalier. The constant moves from one place to another had, with the exception of Geneva and Santhiniketan, made her feel that it was a waste of time. She genuinely believed that she had learned more about the real world from her father’s letters than at t Somerville College Oxford.
Her first public appearance was made at London under the insistence of V.K.Krishna Menon, who was a Labour party activist there. She too was a member of Labour Party for a time. She was too terrified to speak out; And a drunk from the audience remarked “She does not speak, she squeaks.” The audience were in fits of laughter”, as she remembered it in a BBC interview.

-“I just felt hungry and asked for a piece of toast. As I was eating, Rajiv came out!I was so sorry I couldn’t finish my toast!“ said Indira to her colleague about her first delivery.
Motilal and Jawaharlal were very short tempered, but Indira was much controlled but. According to the author,she harboured grudges for longer than the men.
Indira was a very bold lady as everybody knows. But here is an incident as remembered by her son Rajiv. Indira and the two children happened to make a train journey from Mussoorie to Delhi by train during the communal riots of 1947.

-At a Delhi suburb, Shahdra, communal mobs were preparing to lynch a Muslim on the platform. Indira was outraged. Her Nehru temper became uncontrollable. Leaving her petrified sons in the train, she jumped out of the compartment and silenced the crowd by an effective display of oratory. The victim was saved and the train moved on.
Indira’s  grooming into a political leader must have taken shape with her triple fold duties while at Teen Murthi Bhavan, viz playing the mistress, accompanying PM during his foreign travels, protecting Nehru from the constant demand for interviews.

-In 1946, Pandit Govind Vallabh Pant, a senior Congress leader, recognizing her political capacities, suggested that she should stand for Paliament, but she turned the offer down... Later, she told everyone that the she saw her main political task as ensuring an easy life for her father at home. Nonetheless, she was asked to stand in for Jawaharlal at some meetings and she did.

Such experiences gave her confidence and she accepted pleas of Congress president U.N.Dhebar and Lal Bahadur Sasthri to contest and thus got elected to Congress Working Committee. But she refused to be typecast as from the Women’s department.

-All India’s leading political parties had special sections for women, but these were in reality designed to hive women off and keep them busy elsewhere, while men ran the ‘real thing‘. This situation remains unaltered to this day.” 30 years have passed after T.Ali’s observation and it is still the same, I feel!

Indira was instrumental in bringing communal forces in Kerala into political fray to overthrow the elected Communist Govt in Kerala. Ie Just as like Muhammadali Jinnah, she too played the Muslim card and thus the congress made alliances with Muslim league to defeat Communists. Thus Communists failed and Communalism won. The model was followed in other States too making unholy alliances with communal parties and the practise follows tiil day.

-This was a classic case of pragmatism before principles. Once it is accepted that power is to be held at all costs, then it becomes impossible to defend any basic principle. Secularism remains a paper pledge and communalism walks in through a backdoor deliberately left unlocked.
Yes, it so happened that the daughter herself overthrew her father’s secular approach.
-Indira was forty seven when she became a minister in LB Sastri’s cabinet. At her age Nehru was in prison.

Subsequent to Sastri’s death, she became the PM of India. It, of course, had not been an easy walk over. She had to face umpteen manipulations, criticisms and opposition from the groups which were waiting to stab her in the back, even after becoming the PM. She was well aware of the situation and reacted to Times of India on Christmas day 1966 thus-
“There is a question of whom the party wants and whom the people want.“  

Congress of 1972-In a number of towns, politics became a business, business became politics and Gangsterism overwhelmed both big business and big politics. Political, business and criminal mafias began to amalgamate.

-Soon after her reversal, Indira Gandhi had to vacate 1, Safdarjung Road. Anand Bhavan in Allahabad had been donated to the nation, and she found herself without a house for the first time in her life. An old family friend, Mohammed Yunus, a veteran Pathan Congressman from the frontier province, now in Pakistan, immediately vacated his house in Willingdon Crescent in New Delhi. Yunus was one of the few Muslims(If not the only one) who had actually forsaken his home and moved to India in protest against the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

-“No, those for whom something was done, are nowhere to be seen.”Indira to an  American couple during her Willingdon Crescent exile

-The constant fear of Indira Gandhi had become a hallmark of Janata years.It was the threat of Mrs.Gandhi’s return that had kept the motley collection together.

-“They(The Janata Party) had their chance and what did they do?They made a big mess.The people voted us back into power with big majority.” Indira to the author. But the fact is that people were left with no choice.

If Nehru was not in favour of dynastical rule, Indira very much wanted to make Sanjay her “crown prince." This is precisely the reason why she insisted Rajiv to take the place of Sanjay. And why did Sanjay become important to her? Rajiv was away as a pilot. There was no one in her team other than Narasimha Rao, whom she could trust.

-Rajiv was needed for strictly dynastic purposes. She felt that she needed a Nehru-Gandhi by her side.

There are still many interesting anecdotes and other unknown facts in the book left unsaid in this scribbling of mine; I have developed a keen interest in Sikhism from what I read in the book; Just like Nehru, we will also be taken aback when we come to know that Mao Tsedung, who burnt all old books for 'ideological unity' had an obsession with the old emperors of China! I also joined Delhi school children in their affectionate recital of "A,B,C,D,E,F,G, Ismein nikhalay Panditji (Out of this came Panditji) on Nehru's obsession to English language!

I assure that whoever decides to read the book, she/he will not have to close it halfway! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

India's Partition-Part VII

The Nehrus and the Gandhis-Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V Part VI

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Muslim league, India’s partition and beyond:

Our views, vision and opinions will definitely change with time, but when such changes in the attitudes of a leader takes a negative course, it may affect the fate of a nation. Yes, the change in the attitudes of Jinnah, the brilliant lawyer, together with the then political situation, had ultimately led to the partition of India.

 -Sarojini Naidu had once called him “the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity“ in 1916....Once he had said that all the religious community could live in peace in one India.

-But now (1930’s onwards) the old ambassador had other dreams. Now he stressed the divisions between Hindu and Islam...“The Hindus worship the cow, “he had shouted.”We eat it.” Evil winds had begun to blow in northern India.

-The league was a motley collection of small landlords, would be entrepreneurs, city lawyers and bandwagon petit bourgeois. It had been set up on a British initiative in 1906 and its founders had pledged their unswerving loyalty to the empire.

-The Muslim league leader was not a religious leader. For him Islam was a useful weapon with which he could carve out an independent political base for his followers.

-Jinnah told the Muslim peasants that in Hindu dominated India, they would be eaten alive by the Hindu money lenders; he told the Muslim Landlords that without British protection they would be overwhelmed by the Hindu Capitalists; he told the Muslim Merchants and traders that they needed a Muslim chamber of commerce or else the competition with the Hindus would destroy them completely.

When Nehru saw in the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow’s  statement a “divide and rule” psychology, he pleaded( a very touching letter indeed) to Jinnah not to succumb to this, but to no avail.
-Jinnah was cool and unresponsive. For him the Congress’s difficulties were the League’s opportunities. When Gandhi appealed to him a few months later for a united effort on behalf of India against the British, Jinnah replied that there were two nations in India, one Hindu and one Muslim.

The Congress ministers resigned in protest to the Viceroy’s divide and rule policy; The League’s newspaper ‘Dawn’, was funded by the British during this period.

-The job of unifying India was the dream of every nationalist. At the time when it appeared to be nearing fulfilment, the British authorities decided to play the Muslim card. 
-On 16th August 1946, 5000 people died in Calcutta as a result of the Muslim League’s ‘Direct Action Day.’

-The blood that has been spilt had made an early reconciliation between the Muslim League and Congress impossible. The Muslim Congress men, men of the calibre of Abul kalam Azad( a distinguished theologian and scholar who understood more about Islam than Jinnah ever would) Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and others were, opposed to any deals with league.

-(After partition) Abul Kalam Azad had appealed to Delhi Muslims not to flee to Pakistan. He had spoken in chaste and simple Urdu, appealing to the traditions of old Delhi, reminding them of Akbar’s reign, pleading with them not to leave their homes and telling them that, he Azad, would never leave Chandni Chowk for any so-called paradise(Pakistan).

-Reluctantly and with great sadness, Gandhi and Nehru had agreed to the partition. Very few believed that it would actually come to true.

-Even Jinnah had remained confused seeing the division as a separation rather than a divorce. He told his friends that he still hoped to spend some time every year in his favorite Indian city, Bombay. He had conceived of Pakistan as a mini-India with a sizable minority of Hindus and Sikhs.

-Mountbatten later recalled: Jinnah produced the strongest arguments why these provinces-Punjab and Bengal- should not be partitioned. He said they had national Characteristics and the partition would be disastrous. I agreed, but I said how much more must I now feel that the same considerations applied to portioning the whole of India....Finally he realised that either he could have a united  India with an unpartitioned Punjab and Bengal or a divided India with a partitioned P &B and he finally accepted the latter situation.

-Jinnah had brought religion into politics in an opportunist fashion, but he alone could not be held responsible for the debacle: he had merely taken advantage of the existing situations. Congress could not be absolved, for it had played its part in creating the overall situation.


Feroze Gandhi and Indira Nehru-Part VI

The Nehrus and the Gandhis-Part I  Part II Part III Part IV Part V 

Kamala was extremely fond of Feroze and she had been instrumental in bringing him to the nationalist movement. Indira had first met him at Allahabad when he joined the nationalist movement.

-Feroze had been a great admirer of Kamala Nehru who had inspired him by her Congress activities to join the nationalist movement. He had been in and out of Anand Bhavan, ready to do whatever work was needed for Kamala, and he had visited her regularly in Europe when she was dying. It was obvious that he had fallen in love with her Indu, and Kamala strongly approved, despite the fact he was not a Hindu, but a Parsi.......Jawaharlal was not particularly keen on the young man, though not for religious reasons. He had no real reason for his disapproval, except a father’s natural caution and over-protectiveness towards his daughter’s first suitor.

-Indira’s friendship with Feroze had grown in Britain. He was a face from home.
Indira said yes to Feroze’s proposal on the steps of Montmartre at Paris.

- “I don’t like Feroze, but I love  him.”-Indira’s confession to her friends.

-There was a certain class difference between them. She came from a wealthy urban background; He was from a petit bourgeois family. His sister Tehmina was a personal assistant to a school inspectress. Feroze never attempted to hide his origins, nor was he ashamed of them.

Even though both Indira’s aunts had married outside Kashmiri Brahmin sect and two of her cousins got married to Muslim & Jew, there was no disapproval from the family. But when it came to Indira, there was strong objection from her aunts and family. The only one reason was that Feroze came from a lower social class. But her granny, Kamala’s mother had no objections.  

When Nehru tried to gently dissuade Indira from this marriage, her indignant reply was that shortage of money didn’t matter as their politics were similar!
As mentioned elsewhere, Gandhiji and Nehru had to issue public letters on why they supported the Hindu-Parsi  marriage.

-DO NOT HURRY BACK.LIVE IN BEAUTY WHILE YOU MAY”. Nehru’s telegram to Indira during her honeymoon at Kashmir. But it didn’t last long due to quit India movement.

In London Feroze had worked with Indian communists to fight with fascism and unemployment. But during 1942, the communists favoured the British, to defend Soviet Union from Hitler’s attack. It seemed that the defence of Russia became more important to communists than India’s freedom. As a result, many including Feroze broke up with them. Both Feroze and Indira supported   Nehru’s analysis of the situation that free India would fight against Hitler alongside Britain and USSR .
Jawaharlal, Vijayaleksmi, Feroze & Indira,were among the one lakh nationalists who were arrested during the quit India movement.The shortest term was for Indira- 9 months and she was released on health grounds.

-Personal matters took a secondary place ( to them).

Mother Indira did her duties perfectly well without entrusting her sons to servants. But since they were settled at Lucknow and she had to commute between Delhi and Lucknow quite frequently that finally she decided to settle at Delhi with her father, who was virtually left alone.

Why did Indira decide to go back to her father?
-Feroze was caring, but too much of an extrovert, and she felt that he could manage for himself far more easily than her father....She respected her father’s politics. She was helping the country’s foremost politician, who also happened to be the Prime Minister. The thought of him on his own at Delhi, dependant simply on civil servants, without any love or family life was unbearable to her.

After Gandhiji’s assassination, -she was convinced that her father needed her more than ever before.

So that explains everything, it was not because he wanted to break up with Feroze. But the decision definitely hurt Feroze. But he could understand that she had no choice.

-Jawaharlal always treated Feroze correctly, but there was an unspoken tension between the two men.....Feroze could never relax in the great man’s presence (to which Indira couldn’t do much).

-Jawaharlal’s domestic style was very much coloured by Harrow and Cambridge. His table manners were exquisite, didn’t talk during his meals and he hated vulgarity in any form. Feroze’s eating habits were by contrast loud and he had an enormous reserve of off-colour jokes. He found the atmosphere at Teen Murthi house stifling and his visits decreased.

-Indira was caught in crossfire between the two men.

Feroze contested election and won at Rae Bareily. Instead of settling at PM’s house, he accepted a small bungalow provided to MP.

-At a Congress gathering, Nehru, with Indira sitting next to him on the dias, rebuked the delegates who had brought along their entire families. Feroze, who was seated amongst the delegates, remarked in a very loud voice:  “I did not bring my wife!”

Feroze was very much against overthrowing the elected communist Govt in Kerala-of course under the auspices of his wife- and he sharply denounced the leadership for this.

-Feroze was a progressive Congress man, strongly committed to the state sector, and an able and effective Member of Parliament.

It was a time when corruption was beginning to grow and Feroze uncovered a corruption scandal which led to a public inquiry and finally to the resignation of Finance Minister K.K.Krishnamachari, a favourite of Nehru. Result was that Feroze became extremely popular throughout the country.

Feroze suffered his second heart attack in 1960 while Indira was in Kerala. She rushed back to Feroze and sat by him all night. He died early morning. He was only 48 then.

- Indira was shattered. She had neglected Feroze in the belief that that they had their lives ahead of them and that after Jawaharlal died, she and Feroze would be alone.

-“It upset my whole being for years, he was  very, very ill and I should have expected that he would die. However, it was not just a mental shock, but it was as though somebody had cut me into two.”-Indira on Feroze’s death.

-Thousands of people had spontaneously lined up the route of his funeral and their grief was real.

-Feroze had never sunk to the level of an ordinary politician. That was the reason for his popularity.

If he had not died that early, India’s political fate would have been different from what it is now, I believe.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

V.K.Krishna Menon-Part V

The Nehrus and the Gandhis- Part I: Part II: Part III: Part IV

(Thanks to Google for the picture) 

Nehru met him first at London. The veteran leftist was the founder of anti colonial India League and the inspirer of Pelican books.

-He had influenced many English people against colonialism, among them Edwina Mountbatten.

-Nehru and Menon had retained a close personal friendship.” The PM Nehru had to remove Menon from his defence ministership due to external pressures, but their friendship remained unchallenged.

-He had been virtually hero worshipped by Feroze Gandhi.

-Krishna Menon described the scene in the room where Nehru’s body was lying ready to be taken away for cremation thus-
“The moment his last breath was drawn, the issue arose. None of these people who professed loyalty to him, who came from his state, in whose interests he has sometimes disregarded people like me just to keep the pace, none of them had the decency to keep their mouth shut until he was cremated. Around his body........were these people, sitting around discussing the matter (the succession), not discussing seriously- I am using the word ‘discussing' as a euphemism. 

He was a veteran in Constitutional practice also and was against appointing Mr. G. Nanda by the President, after Nehru’s demise.
-“It was unconstitutional. That is the worst thing that would have been done. Even the president to exercise his emergency power would have been more constitutional, in my opinion. Or they should have called an emergency meeting of the Parliamentary Party or the Party Executive and there would have been no objection.”

-The most important feature of this South Indian politician was his intellect, his outspokenness and his unshakeable honesty. Menon always kept aloof from petty squabbles, inner-party intrigues and the power struggles of the local and national party machines. He despised that side of politics. Nor did he suffer from an overpowering personal ambition.

-If he had so desired, he could have played the part of Brutus to Jawaharlal’s Caesar. There were people who would happily have handed him the knife, but he rudely rebuffed any such suggestions. He was, above all, a man of principle, and this was already becoming an extremely rare quality in Congress circles.

Indira was also very close to him, but that was not a reason for him to refrain from criticizing her when he felt that her policies were going wrong. He thundered at her in the Vietnam issue and she was forced to correct her stand. To weaken Indira, Congress leadership denied him a party seat!

Certain Congress leaders were more interested in designating a successor to  Indira, than winning the elections. Menon had warned them as follows–
-“The choice of a PM is never a vocal issue at election time in a Parliamentary democracy.”

I have read that the concept of Sainik schools was his, that he was rated as the 2nd most influential man of Indian politics by Time magazine, that he delivered 7-8 hours non-stop speech on Kashmir at UN etc. Yes, just like Feroze Gandhi, I too admire him, hero worship him and want to read more on him. He had very close association with Nehru and Indira, but never exploited it for selfish motives. Yes, he is the role model of a Politician, Constitution expert, a true friend and what not.

We had planned to visit the famous Janakikkadu eco tourism project, donated to the State by his sister Janaki, but it’s yet to take place.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Nehru's and The Gandhis -PIV


It must be Jawahar Lal’s voracious reading habits and keen interest in world politics which had molded him into a Statesman with a cosmopolitan outlook. He was a die-hard rationalist all through his life and had never, never compromised on this aspect till his death. Yes, that is conviction. Here is a conversation between Nehru and Kastur Ba.

 “God preserve you”- told Ba affectionately when she came to know that Nehru’s arrest was in the offing. “Where is he Ba? He seems to be permanently asleep,” was his answer.

-He remained a firm atheist to the end, regarding religious communalism as a cancer that needed to be erased from India.

How many people had to stake their fortunes and lives during the independence struggle? When India gained independence, Nehru was 57. He had to spend long, long years of his life and youth in British prison.

-He constantly thought of what prison life was doing to friendships and family life and wondered how they would all see each other when he was finally released.

In an epilogue to his autobiography, he wrote about his years in prison thus-

“The years I have spent in prison! Sitting alone, wrapped in my thoughts, how many seasons I have seen go by, following one another into oblivion!...How many yesterdays of my youth lie buried here; and sometimes I see the ghosts of these dead yesterdays rise up, bringing poignant memories, and whispering to me, ’was it worthwhile?’

It seems Nehru was very much indecisive in many cases as Subhash Bose had once remarked.

-“When a crisis comes, you often do not succeed in making up your mind one way or the other-with the result that to the public you appear as if you are riding two horses.“
Nehru himself refused to nominate a successor as he felt it was none of his business.

-He pointed to the example Britain of the 1950’s when Churchill had appointed Eden as the ‘crown prince’ long before he retired. Eden, said Nehru, was one of the worst PM’s Britain had ever had in its long history.

Was Nehru keen on a dynastical rule? Just like the author, I believe ‘No’, from what I have read. 

In 1957 Indira was elected to the Central Election Committee, getting more votes than Nehru himself and after two years she was elected President of the Congress party. “I’m sure my father didn’t like it” was Indira’s response. But Nehru’s opposite faction headed by Morarji Desai assumed Nehru had pulled strings for Indira.

-Whatever the truth, one thing is clear. Neither side was happy at the notion that a dynasty was being formed.

-“Not while I am Prime Minsiter“-Nehru’s response when certain ministers and numerous sycophants wanted Indira to be a member of Government.

Kamaraj and four others- Syndicate- started discussing about a successor to Nehru. He was well aware of it and was contemptuous towards this powerful combination of regional power-brokers. As the author doubts,” would a man hell-bent on obtaining succession for his daughter, as his enemies alleged, have treated the kingmakers of the future in such a cavalier fashion ?” No, never.
If he really wished Indira to be his successor, “the evidence would not have been lacking,” as correctly opined by the author.

Nehru and Congress Party: He had observed that the congress sessions were nothing more than a social gathering of like-minded friends- “A fashionable society! Spare-time amusement for armchair politicians!” - was what he remarked to his father after attending the 1912 session of congress. 

-In reality, Nehru was deeply concerned at the faction-fighting and corruption that began to characterize the Congress Party during the last few years of his life. Many leaders were totally obsessed with positions and power.

Nehru the historian: It was during 1925 that the archaeologists discovered the remnants of a very old pre-Vedic civilization at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (Mound of the Dead) while the British were constructing the Lahore to Multan railway line.
-Nehru stood silently on a mound near Mohenjo-Daro ad studied the ruins. 
-The long and complex evolution of India had started during Millennium BC. It had been colored by repeated conquests and displacements which had formed the variegated landscape of the country. Was this history of strife last coming to an end? Nehru did not stop about thinking about these matters. Later, in prison for the last time, he gave all these, a shape in his Discovery of India.

Nehru and Communalism:

 -and he said unequivocally that communalism, be it Hindu or Muslim, was vice exploited by perverted minds:

-The British, of course made use of communal polarisations, and even helped to provoke them, but these divisions, alias had deeper roots.

-Hindus of various castes, denominations and classes represented an overwhelming majority in India(1936). Their religious leaders clearly stated that majority rule meant Hindu rule, something that had not existed in the subcontinent for several centuries.
According to the author, Nehru was shocked by the communalist moves (More details under head Jinnah) by Jinnah and his Muslim league and he became increasingly hostile to the league. He had to finally accept the fact the league’s influence could not be defeated as long as Congress was controlled by men like Vallabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad and G.D.Birla. 

However in the 1937 elections, 90% of the Muslim Pathans of the North West frontier province chose to vote for Gandhi and not the league! “In the aftermath of these victories, Nehru sat back, for a while, and rejoiced.” Me too rejoiced while going through this!

-“I will not tolerate Muslims being slaughtered as if they were animals”-Nehru to his Home Minister Vallabhai Patel, “who was a traditional Hindu, susceptible to communalism, hostile to Nehru, and a protégé of Gandhi.” Gandhiji also reprimanded Patel against this in strong language.

Nehru on Bhagat Singh after visiting him in prison- “Bhagat Singh had an attractive, intellectual face, remarkably calm and peaceful. There seemed to be no anger in it.” Any mention about the patriot still fills my eyes with tears. For those who know Malayalam just go through this link, a poem on him which will make you weep!

Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose: -

 -What interested Nehru was that Bose had succeeded in uniting the Indians: the INA had included Muslims, Sikhs ad the Hindus who had forgotten their religious differences..... when the British authorities decide to try the INA men for high treason, Nehru became a lawyer again and defended them in open court.....

-Bose was killed in a plane crash in 1945....Jawarlal had not ageed with Bose, but he never doubted his patriotism. He had regarded Bose as childish, very impressionable, but also deeply sensitive and burning with a nationalist fervour.he opposed all attempts to blacken his name and , in this,  was supported by Gandhi and Abul Kalam Azad.

Nehru and Patel:-There were a number of quarrels between him and Vallabhai Patel, the veteran power broker, leader of the Congress right and not averse to using communalism when it suited to his interests.” 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Nehrus and the Gandhis-PIII

Nehru and Kamala

Part-I link
Part-II link

Nehru held a very modern outlook about marriage, as is evident from the letter to his mother Swarupa Rani, from Harrow –

“There should be no marriage without mutual love. I consider it a crime and a ruination of one’s life, if one has to marry merely for the sake of creating children.” But finally, he had to succumb to the family/social pressures and marry the beautiful Kamala Kaul. Yes, as the author says, it was a marriage of convenience!

Even though I do value Nehru very much and I could sense his internal torment in marrying against his wish, I wonder how he could forget that Kamala was in no way responsible for it. So I couldn’t easily digest that she had to remain a neglected wife most of her life. His autobiography contains only two lines about his marriage, says the author.  The elite, modern, luxurious Anand Bhavan was in no way different from any ordinary Indian household when it came to the in-law problems. Kamala was not at all happy in her husband’s household. Motilal was the only one who loved, supported and defended her.

-Vijayalakshmi(Nehru’s sister), was particularly nasty to the young sister in law. She mocked Kamala’s unfamiliarity with the Western style of Motilal’s household; teased her maliciously because of her unsophisticated ways and constantly told tales about the young woman’s blunders to all and sundry. Kamala felt the torment much more because her husband rarely defended her against her detractors. If Jawaharlal, instead of listening to the inane prattling of Vijayalakshmi, had made it clear that he was not interested in her prejudiced gossip, Kamala would have been a lot happier.” Yes, there lies the point. Well said T.Ali, it is the root of the problem in most Indian families and not only in the Nehru household!

The daughter Indira’s words on Kamala-
-When my father (Nehru) wanted to join Gandhiji and to change the whole way of life, to change our luxurious living, to give up his legal practice, the whole family was against it. It was only my mother’s courageous and persistent support and encouragement which enabled him to take the big step which made such a big difference not only to our family, but to the history of modern India.

-By now, Kamala had become involved in congress politics and was regularly attending meetings and participating in processions. This was the happiest phase of her life. She felt free, independent ad committed to a cause. All the petty squabbles and insults at Anand Bhavan seemed trivial by comparison.

-Ever since Kamala had become involved in politics and ‘come out’, so to speak, she and Nehru had been close friends. Her companionship had become important. 

Kamala died peacefully in February 1936, while Indira was at Somerville College, Oxford and just when Nehru’s “An Autobiography”-which was reprinted nine times that year itself!- was going to press. It was Kamala who pushed him to find a publisher for his book, and settle Indira in a university.

His memoirs on Kamala published in another book ran thus:
 “She was bubbling over with gaiety and frankness before those she knew and liked.....she stuck to her instinctive likes and dislikes. There was no guile in her. If she disliked a person, it was obvious, and she made no attempt to hide the fact. Even if she had tried to do so, she would probably not have succeeded.” Yes, I have no doubts that the guileless, lovely, Kamala was an adorable personality.

T.Ali’s book has not only enhanced my respect and love towards Nehru, but also made me a fan of Kamala, and Feroze Gandhi too! I’m thankful to the author for throwing light on the lovely Kamala’s wonderful personality.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Nehrus and Gandhis, an Indian Dynasty-PII

Gandhiji and Nehruji
Part II
PartI link.

Gandhiji:  In the short prologue to the book, the author states that Mahatma Gandhi was “cunning and foxy”-to which I do not concur.

-The great man was a ruthless politician. He had a fixed notion as to how independence should be won and he would tolerate nothing that stood in the way of that. For Gandhi, right from the beginning, a negotiated settlement for British withdrawal was the only possible exit route. This meant a peaceful transition to independence”.These words made me feel that Gandhiji was the reincarnation of Chanakya or Machiavelli! 

-Gandhi was not so much a peasant as a fox. He was an extremely shrewd and intelligent political leader.

-Gandhi began to idealise the prehistory of Hinduism, in which it is impossible to disentangle facts from mythology.

- Gandhi increasingly appeared to be a mongrel offspring of Victorian liberalism and Indian mysticism.

-Gandhi became a decisive link between the old and new India, between the peasants and the colonial state, between Jawaharlal Nehru and India’s strongest capitalist class. He was the man who held the whole act together. It would have been impossible to find another like him. He took the village to the metropolis and in the process became the country’s leading power broker.

Gandhi vs Nehru-The confrontation between Gandhi and Nehru was in fact the confrontation between tradition and modernism. The difference of opinion between the two was sharp, but at the end Nehru always succumbed to the Great man.

-the difference between Nehru and Gandhi, these 2 giants of India’s Nationalist movement couldn’t have been greater. The first was a Kashmiri Brahmin who discarded every religious inhibition. The older man was a Gujerathi Bania (trading caste) who had toyed with doubt, but then re-embraced orthodoxy. Nehru, a product of Harrow and Cambridge, was tempered by his lengthy stays in numerous British prisons; Gandhiji  was a product largely of Hindu India, but had learnt politics thru his South African  experiences. Gandhiji regarded religion as a crucial to everyday existence. Nehru saw it as India’s deadliest enemy, containing the seeds of destruction.

-Unlike Gandhi, Nehru did not believe that men and women should exercise strict sexual self-discipline and he had publicly attacked Gandhi on these questions in sharp language.

-How Nehru cursed the caste system? Gandhi had denounced the absurd practices of the system and its taboos, but never challenged the caste division as a whole. Nehru frequently did, arguing that it was a distorted, degenerate reflection of Hinduisms prehistory.

'It’s dangerous to be too good' was the Great Bernard Shaw’s response on the news of Gandhiji’s assassination (This is not from the book-it’s my general knowledgeJ). Since Nehru’s emotional speech, with tears in his eyes, after the assassination of Gandhiji  is very much available in net, I don’t intend to requote it.

-With Gandhiji’s death, there was no one left whom Nehru regarded as superior, whose reprimands and advice he could accept. 

To be continued- Nehru and Kamala

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Nehrus and The Gandhis-An Indian Dynasty

The 300 page book penned by Tariq Ali and first published in 1985 with an introduction by Salman Rushdie, is of course a historical rendering worth reading. The author has covered a time span of 95 years, 1889 to 1984, to be precise; Or in other words, from the birth of Jawahar Lal to the ‘reign’ of his grandson Rajiv Gandhi. That is, it doesn’t cover Rajiv’s assassination, Sonia taking over the helm of affairs and later sharing it with her son Rahul. And recently the channels have reported that Priyanka is going to assume charge of the Congress party! She has denied it anyway; Good heavens, long live the dynasty!

At the outset, let me say that the name of the book sounded a little misnomer, at least to me who still consider ‘Gandhi’ as Mahatma Gandhi . The author might have named thus considering the patriarchal heresy of Rajiv Gandhi as son of Feroze Gandhi.  I have recently read Gandhiji’s  great grandson  Anand Gokani mentioned as ‘Gandhi kin’. Yes, what it definitely counts is whether the dissent is maternal or paternal!

The book, a truthful –that’s what I felt-compilation of political as well as personal lives of the Nehru Family, is very much readable and not at all drab. It is a very fascinating 95 year long journey through the annals of Indian history and partly world history. The story of a family turning out to be that of a great nation!  ‘The Parties’ and ‘The Politicians’, are also listed for easy reference.

This is simply my scribbling on the book, ie, a  review is not in my purview. The quotes from the book are either given as "  "  or thus -. Let the book speak for itself.  

The Nehrus were the descendants of Raj Kaul who was relocated to Allhabad from Kashmir. “The immigrant from Kashmir was provided with land and house adjoining a canal. The Urdu word for canal is nehar .” Thus the one’s from the canal came to be known as  Neharis and later on Nehru’s.

Some word meanings- Allahabad- City of God: Pakisthan-Land of the pure: Motilal-Red pearl: Jawaharlal -precious stone; And the word Gandhi literally meant grocer!

Why did the British deny mass education to Indians?
-The British consciously decided not to alter the rural landscape of India. To do so, they believed would rapidly create the conditions for their own removal from the region. 

-They denied mass education and as Lord Macaulay desired, they created a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions they govern. Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.

There are many anecdotes in the book, which none of us might have come across in our history lessons.

·        Nehru, Feroze, Indira, Subhash Chandra Bose and the like were referred to as the left wing sympathizers within Congress!
     After the Chauri Chaura incident, 3 congress volunteers who were poor peasants, were arrested and hanged after trial.  They have never appeared in the Congress list of martyrs. Neither Gandhi nor Congress working committee shed tears on their behalf.
·        Gandhi had refused to plead Bhagath Singh’s case-(the book answers the question why).
     General Dyer, responsible for the massacre in Jallianwalla Bagh, and Nehru happened to travel together in the same compartment, on a trip to Delhi from Amritsar! Nehru himself has recorded it in his autobiography.

-The butcher of Jallianwallah Bagh and the future Prime Minister of India travelling, even sleeping, in the same compartment was history’s more grotesque ironies”, says the author.

·  Nehru women had participated in the remembrance  week held for the martyrs of Jallianwala  Bagh. Nehru was in prison.

-At the head of the demonstration, which was illegal, there was a frail old woman dresses in white .She was batton- charged by the police and received several blows to the head, until a police officer recognized her, lifted her from the ground, put in her in a car and drove home. The woman was SWARUP RANI(Nehru’s mother).

·        Other ironies-
Nehru offered huge sums to the royal families of the erstwhile Princely States to integrate with the Indian Union. His daughter cut down all these privileges during 1971.

In 1947, the Delhi Muslims who lost all their fortunes and relatives stayed back in Delhi without fleeing to Pak honouring the requests by Abul Kalam Azad and Nehru. But after 29 years, Nehru’s grandson, watched by his daughter rendered them homeless-(The Turkman Gate incident).

Nehru had left strict instructions in his will that he he was not to be given a religious funeral.But his daughter raised a religious funeral for him.
     In November 1937 the ‘Calcutta Modern Review’ published an anonymous article which argued that men like Nehru, were endangering democracy. “...In spite of his brave talk , Jawaharlal is obviously tired and stale.....Let us not spoil him by too much adulation and praise....” It run thus and surely did create a furore. That anonymous letter was written by none other than Nehru himself!

·        Nehru’s “An Autobiography”- was reprinted nine times in the year of publishing itself!

·        Nehru and Gandhi had to release press statements-that is public explanations- as to why Feroze-Indira marriage was endorsed!
-India’s two most important political leaders had been compelled, at a politically critical moment, to expend part of their energy on justifying the decision of two people to marry each other.

·        Feroze once questioned Nehru on some security bungle and ultimately the PM Nehru had to apologize to the MP Feroze in Parliament.

-The Ganga is a liquid history of India.

-Family life has traditionally been seen as a refuge from the pain and cold of the world that lies outside..The bruises inflicted are often invisible. Even when the actual pain has gone, the suppressed anger can stay with the victim for the rest of his life.

-“Ever changing, yet ever the same”- by Nehru. This was my favourite quote once but what I had in mind was “ever changing, ever flowing, yet ever the same Ganga”. No, it was wrong. The quote was on Moon, Nehru’s only companion in prison. 

-His(Nehru’s)  parents and his wife were now all dead; his link with the past was broken. He decided it was time to strengthen his links with the future.

-“A little more slowly, Mr.Nehru,” he (Viceroy Lord Linlithgrow) said with sarcasm."My slow Anglo-Saxan mind cannot keep pace with your quick intellect."

-Our educated community is not a cultured community, but a community of qualified candidates-Rabindranatha Tagore

-“How did you manage  to so wonderfully isolate yourself from the people, in such a short space of time? ”Nehru, to Congress leaders of Kerala after they lost the 1957 elections  to communists.

-that he (Nehru) was happiest when attacked by the right for being “soft on socialism and communalism” and by the left for being “an agent of capitalism and reaction." That, he would say, “makes me feel I’m on the right course."

-Never do anything in secret or anything that you wish to hide. For the desire to hide anything means you are afraid, and fear is a bad thing and unworthy of you....Nehru to Indira in the first of his 200 letters from prison.

-“Little did we guess, that we would never see his wide toothless smile again, nor feel the glow of protection”-Indira on Gandhiji’s assassination.

-"We never hated you personally"-Indira to Churchill at London when he was amazed that a man(Nehru) the British had locked up for many years seemed to harbor no ill will. Churchill’s answer was "But I did, I did."

-Morarji Desai was an oddball even in the fad-ridden world of Hinduism

To be continued-M.K.Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru  PII