21 October, 2020

A Paradox And A Visionary

Nayantara Sahgal’s biography of Nehru is uncritical, yet thought-provoking and fresh

Corbis (From Outlook, December 20, 2010)
A Paradox And A Visionary

For the first seventeen years of India’s independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, a man of infinite paradoxes—a moody, idealist intellectual who felt an almost mystical empathy with the peasant masses; an aristocrat, accustomed to privilege, who had passionate socialist convictions; an Anglicised product of Harrow and Cambridge who spent over 10 years in British jails; an agnostic radical who became an unlikely protege of the saintly Mahatma Gandhi—was India. Upon Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, Nehru became the keeper of the national flame, the most visible embodiment of India’s struggle for freedom. Incorruptible, visionary, ecumenical, a politician above politics, Nehru’s stature was so great that the country he led seemed inconceivable without him. India has in many respects moved on, but Nehru remains a compelling figure, irresistible to historians, biographers and politicians alike.

Forty-six years after his death, Nehru’s niece Nayantara Sahgal, author of several fine novels and a coruscating book...



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