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