24 November, 2020

Brown's Sahib

Fruitful criticism of Nehru, but a lost chance to relate BJP's India to his idea of India

Hulton Archive
Brown's Sahib
The headmaster’s report was unambiguous when Jawaharlal Nehru left Harrow in 1907. "A thoroughly good fellow and ought to have a very bright future ahead of him." As it turned out, the good fellow did rather less well at Cambridge, ran up a few debts living fashionably in London’s West End, and struck a few political poses in letters to his father. During his seven years in England, Nehru was often, as he confessed, "almost overpowered by the sense of my solitary condition".

This was the loneliness of the man who feels deprived of intimacy with his native as well as his adopted culture. It stayed with Nehru, giving his persona its attractive tinge of melancholy. Barely four years before he became the prime minister of independent India, he was still telling himself that, "You do not represent India or the average Indian; you cannot walk in step with the West. It is your fate to fall between the two."

If the young Nehru appears to be someone looking for a cause that could rescue him from his loneliness, and give meaning and weight to his life, much of his...



To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

More from Pankaj Mishra

Latest Magazine

November 30, 2020

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section