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A Many-splendoured Personality

A.K. Damodaran

By Sarvepalli Gopal
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 662, Rs. 110.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 4 January-February 1981

Anthologies of the writings of a single individual of this type are rare; either they are collections of admonitory sayings with a political purpose on a much briefer compass like Mao Tse-tung's Red Book or varied selections of the utterances of the great man concerned on a particular topic spread over the years, issued as a part of a near industrial enterprise. This is the fate which befalls leaders of nations like Lenin and Gandhi. Dr. Gopal has avoided either of these alternatives and produced an attractive, readable book of excerpts from Nehru's writings long enough to sustain interest and to develop an argument opposite to the particular moment in recent Indian History when it was written and also varied enough to command the reader's attention both as individual pieces and as parts of a larger design. That design is something more than Jawaharlal Nehru's life and work; it is the recent history of India from about the late twenties to the late fifties seen through the eyes of a sensitive partici­pant. It is a highly contemporary docu­ment, full of insights, thoughts and second thoughts about an increasingly complex social and political situation both in India and in the world outside—a period of exponential growth in science and technology, and revolution and reaction in political organization. Most of these writings are not really deliberate masterpieces written to order, or manifestations of an angry and com­pelling creative impulse. They are the relaxed, easy and detached comments of an involved man of action, seeking islands of quitetude and tranquillity amidst the tensions of hectic activity of a political activist and the head of government; brief interludes which are used to record reflections, amused and introspective self-analysis and candid comments on the developments in India and the world outside which concern him, irritate him and continually baffle him in the earlier years, even in the midst of the all-pervasive personal devo­tion, whenever it concerns Gandhiji's ideology, strategy and tactical shifts in the national struggle. The book succeeds, I think, mainly because it is not too ambitious. The large design is only an aggregate of several smaller designs. Nehru was no master political theorist or analyst. He was an intelligent, sensitive and a well­-read student of past and current affairs whose intellectual awareness of modern developments was sensitized into some­thing creative by the anger and frustra­tion ...

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