Category Archives: Independence

Review – Rajaji: A life by Rajmohan Gandhi

Go Buy!!
Go Buy!!

There is not much that one can say about a biography, other than that it is written well or not. This one, written by one of Rajaji’s grandsons is quite masterful, intimate yet critical, sweeping yet detailed.

One of the main reasons to read (auto)biographies for me is to understand the freedom movement or contemporary India from various angles and try to stitch together a coherent view of the past, on which today rests.

This biography of a man who can only be described as a present day prophet for his foresight will definitely have enough in it to entertain and inspire anyone who is interested to read. The research is good, prose is excellent, insights are valid and impartial.

One feels about Rajaji the same way as about Gandhi – if only people had listened to him!! Again like Gandhi, Brahmins hated him for being anti Brahmin, Dalits for his being pro Brahmin, North Indians for opposing Hindi, South Indians for espousing Hindi, Muslim League for being opposed to Partition and Rest of India for proposing a formula for Partition. When lesser minds try to understand genius, this seems to be the inevitable consequence – lack of understanding leading to misunderstanding leading to dislike.

One of my all time favorite personalities from now onward.

Independence and all that.

61 years and counting! The nation that was never meant to be has managed to pull off a minor miracle (If we consider that we are among the few newly independent nations that have not gone under military rule, a major one ;) A nation with already stark contrasts which are growing all the time, and we have not yet, god forbid, seen the equivalent of a French Revolution. Credits and kudos.

On some issues however, we have seen increased dependence. Globalization has ensured that your daily rice can come from Vietnam or Mandya, your wheat from Australia or Haryana, your toilets from Bangalore Industrial area or Italy. We are increasingly dependent on everyone else for our needs. Economists tell us that this is A Good Thing, so leave it at that.

We don’t know where the Electricity company is, since someone else pays our bills for us (at a small commission, of course). We no longer know how to bargain, since prices are decided for us, too.

What with bombs dropping from the skies, we are dependent on our co-passengers in the bus not to kill us. If you are by some unfortunate turn of events a pedestrian, then you are dependent on everyone in vehicles to stay alive, regardless of their possessing bombs.

We are dependent on Robin Sharma and APJ Abdul Kalam for inspiration. We look upto (increasingly white American) comedians for laughter (which is a poor substitute for happiness). We need discotheque-pubs to unwind, shopping malls to relax, Wonder-La to drive adrenaline into our blood stream and Karan Johar (or this blog) to make us cry.

We need employers to give us money, and employment to give our life purpose. We need deadlines to keep us sharp and soap operas to keep us dumb. We need coffee to keep us awake and whisky to put us to sleep.

We need Sri Sri RaviShankar and Osho to fill spiritual voids, girl/boy friends to fill psychological ones, Orkut/Gmail to fill social ones and Times of India to fill mental ones.

We need schools to parent our children and old age homes to parent our parents. We then need Agony Aunt columns to parent ourselves. In chronological order, we need a financial consultant to do our finances, marriage consultant to get married, interior designer to choose our beds, and a legal consultant to keep the person who shares our bed in check.

We need college to get a degree, a degree to get a job, and smooth talking to retain it (hard work can usually help, but is not as fun!). We need classrooms to exercise our voices (and humor) and exams to exercise our eyes. We need teachers to teach us discipline and decency and prime seats in Cafe Coffee Day to unteach it.

We need security guards to feel safe, packaged drinking water to drink safe, the nearest chips packet to eat safe, and generator sets to work safe.

What exactly are we independent of ?