Thursday, October 8, 2009

From Jawaharlal to Rahul: On a Second Reading of Nehru’s Autobiography

Rahul Gandhi's visit to Kerala campuses trigger a wave of enthusiasm among the youngsters: news

AS ONE crosses fifty, a realisation slowly takes hold that one is no longer part of the present. Maybe not quite passé but still there is something that forces one to think about the past as well as the future. A person at 50, is a person like the Greek god Janus, he looks both to the past as well as to the future, with mixed feelings for both. At 50, a considerable part of one’s life is already behind, and of course there is another considerable part waiting in the future also.

I am at such a juncture, having left behind five decades behind and now I realise one of the things I always think about these days is the future; not my own-- there is nothing much to think about there-- but about our society’s, our country’s.

In the seventies when we were young people and active in politics, we were angry and impatient. We wanted change and nothing short of a revolutionary change, and hence we took up the red flag, the symbol of a revolutionary future.

Now more than thirty years on, I know that these dreams were nothing but pipedreams. We said the freedom from colonialism, from the white bosses to brown bosses that took place at Red Fort, was nothing but a sham. It was not real freedom.

But we grew up in such a country and slowly, but surely, we saw it coming to grips with the massive problems that beset the new nation. Not that we are a completely successful democracy, but what makes me happy now is the fact that we are surely not a failed nation, either.

That is why I was keenly watching the new generation of our leaders at the national scene, trying to come to grips with the Indian reality. Most of them make me sick and tired, but somehow Rahul Gandhi is one person on whom I pin much of my hopes right now.

I was keenly watching his performance at the national scene, and his visit to Krala’s campuses yesterday gave me the feeling that this young man has something quite similar to the spark shown by his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, as he entered Indian politics as a young aristocrat almost a century ago, in the 1920s.

What I liked about him is his simple, straightforward style, his disarming frankness and palpable sincerity. All these qualities were evident in his numerous interactions with youngsters in all parts of the state in a one-day tour.

I was reading Jawaharlal Nehru’s Autobiography again last week and I could not but notice the same frankness, sincerity and straightforward nature of the person who wrote those lines, and his personality that comes through this thick volume that he finished as he spent so many solitary years in jail in the early forties.

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