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Sunil Sethi

By K.A. Abbas
Vikas, New Delhi, 1977, 551, 45.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 1 January-February 1977

There is no clarification in the pre­face about the ‘experimental’ nature of this autobiography; there is instead a brief account of the unhappy circumstan­ces in which this book came to be writ­ten. At the age of 60, says Mr. Abbas, it struck him at the instigation of a friend that he had led an interesting life, and that ‘many more people would be interested to read about politics, litera­ture and films.’ Knowing Mr. Abbas's facility with the pen, I doubt if the task appeared to him as a long, difficult or intimidating one. Delay came unexpec­tedly. Illnesses—first an eye operation and then a cerebral stroke—cut short the venture, but quite heroically Abbas strug­gled through to set down his story. For that one can only commend the author. Certainly Mr. Abbas has had a varied, accomplished career, as a journalist, novelist, film producer and director, and a privileged member of what I would call the ‘Nehru generation’, Abbas had his moments of glory. These one can read about in elaborate detail. Four chapters (and they are, I must admit, not too long), entitled ‘My Long Love Affair’ are devoted to his encounters with Nehru over the years. But even before they met—’the very first time I met Jawaharlal Nehru, it was love at first sight’—Abbas was a Nehru fan of long standing. At the age of 17 in 1931, when Abbas first came face to face with the future Prime Minister, his excitement was understandable.  Abbas initiated a correspondence—and Nehru often complied with replies. A  reoun­tal of the first meeting thus positively glows with boyish enthusiasm. As a raconteur Abbas is not without talent. Being a journalist of many sea­sons he has an ear for both dialogue and detail; recalling the past seems an easy business. And successfully he turns out functional but inevitably sloppy journalistic copy. As an observer of major national and international events Abbas often found himself in a vantage position. In 1938, Nehru encouraged him to go abroad (actually he offered to go as Nehru's secretary but the offer was poli­tely turned down). Abbas undertook a world tour by boat: through China and Japan, the U.S., Europe on the brink of war, and the Middle East. He passed through Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany and impressions of these are narrated like the rest of the book, ...

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