Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Discovery of India

I intended to post this update about The Discovery of India on August 15, but then I got all busy with work, so here goes:

The Discovery of India, as far as I have read, is an intimate study of India and what she has been to Jawaharlal Nehru- a man who would later go on to be India's first ever Prime Minister. This book was written by Nehru at Ahmadnagar Fort Prison Camp and chronicles his thoughts on India in general and also in relation to her impact on Nehru's life.

Every incident in life, every small occurrence, every visible image- all lead to Nehru's greater understanding of his motherland. It is a deeply emotional, often stirring and certainly a moving read. To me, the strength of this book is definitely how Nehru analyzes India's problems with just as much clarity as he proclaims with pride, his love for his motherland. Now that is not easy, I'd say, to be critical of the place you so much love. But Nehru's writing is like a mother chiding the child she so much loves. The criticism is out of love, not hatred.

The topics that Nehru analyzes in the book are mind-bogglingly varied, which is why it takes me a lot of time to read it all and actually internalize it. Nehru talks of the Indus Valley civilization and often wonders how the civilization survived for 2000 years and yearns to discover that spirit, that strength that held a country together. He talks about India's diversity, her rivers, her languages, her people, the Bharath Mata, philosophy, Lenin and Marxism, his refusal to meet the Duce Mussolini and so much more!

At one point in the book, Nehru admits that at first he did not know the real India. The Cambridge educated Nehru felt like a 'friendly foreigner' delving into India's mysteries, history, culture and heritage.

As Nehru discovers India through this book, you begin to discover Nehru. I found myself agreeing with him so many times which is why I'd say he was a man with quite a formidable vision.

Sample this:
'India, constituted as she is, cannot play a secondary part in the world. She will either count for a great deal or not count at all'
I entirely agree with this line! 'Constituted as she is' obviously refers to India's immense population that leads to great man-power and her significantly large landscape, her culture, her unity in diversity.

Nehru's admiration for China, which would later initially influence India's policy regarding China and was at one point symbolized by the catchphrase Hindi- Chini bhai bhai ( Indians and Chinese are brothers) during his tenure, is also evident from several instances in this book.
They (the Chinese) are not a new race, nor have they gone through that shock of change, from top to bottom, which came to Russia. Undoubtedly, seven years of cruel war has changed them, as it must. How far this change is due to the war or to more abiding causes, or whether it is a mixture of the two, I do not know, but the vitality of the Chinese people astonishes me. I cannot imagine a people endowed with such bed-rock strength going under.
The book is a treasure to cherish for sure. It is a long read, but a rewarding one which teaches you as much about India, her glories and challenges, as it does about one of the men who helped make India what it is today. I look forward to reading the rest of the book and I certainly recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about India as seen from the eyes of one of her sons.


Anonymous said...

Kals this inspirational book is really highlighted by your review. It's as if I can feel the emotions of the author coming off of your blog page! I especially like how the author found that very difficult spot to find between criticism and love.


Kals said...

Thank you! It is quite a marvellous book :)


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