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Nehru - The Invention Of India - By Shashi Tharoor

February 14, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 211

In India, when we walk into a bureaucratic office, the first thing that greets our eyes is a portrait of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, hung on the bare walls. The amazing thing about Shashi Tharoor's book is that it exactly answers how India's curse of bureaucracy was created, both because and in spite of the famous man himself.

However, as Tharoor argues, little is left about Nehru than the portrait. Little is left of all that he once stood for individually. 'Nehru- The Invention Of India' is a wonderful testament to the often-ignored truth that, for better or for worse, it was the eponymous man who has shaped the country of our present.

Tharoor's perspective veers from heartfelt admiration for Nehru's ideals and a honest criticism of his obvious flaws and miscalculations. The result is a nice, slim and often relevant account that continues to be objective but enlightens us as well. We begin with Nehru's bare beginnings- a pampered upbringing, a strictly average schooling and an even more insignificant and brief legal career. Tharoor amazes us with little nuggets of revelation and humor- the contradictory approaches of parenting and young Nehru's growing disillusionment with his studies and legal work.

But the story easily and smoothly swings into action, as the young idealist is soon tugged into a world of chaotic nationalism against the British rule in India. Infatuated with Gandhi's novel ways, disillusioned with the moderate constitutional struggle strategies, Nehru also becomes the poster boy for Congress and he labors hard to live up to the image. He works hard for freedom and secularism, spends years in prisons with his intellectual pursuits and dedicates himself to Gandhi's ultimate goal- involvement of the masses.

But while Tharoor celebrates these accomplishments willingly, he is also ready to analyze some of Nehru's often-lamented failings. He praises his independent-mindedness in his actions and principles, but questions it in his reluctance to press stronger for radicalism as against the stifling moderate approach. The same is questioned in his arguments with Gandhi and his disappointment with his domineering power. Yet, Tharoor openly admits that Nehru often swallowed his discontent both out of his admiration for Mahatma and also his belief in a united struggle for independence.

Post independence, however, Nehru was thrust the responsibility of running the country. He was unwittingly responsible for the catastrophic Partition because of his own single-minded belief in his opinions. Now, it were his opinions that would shape the final outcome of his Invention Of India. He began on the right track, forging alliances between the rival positions in the ministry and anchoring the amalgamation with a clever-handed assertion of his power and indispensable influence. However, Nehru's firmly entrenched faith in himself and his men led to the stagnation of the country's progress. Here, Tharoor examines Nehru's greatest strength and weakness- a firm sense of belief in people, in principles and in entities. The much-lambasted public sector was a Nehru creation, so was the much tough and stringent foreign policy, both borne out of the man's nationalist sentiments. His romaticized admiration for the progress in post-imperial China brought India on the throes of war with the neighboring country in 1962.

Tharoor concludes that Nehru's achievements and failures were the result of a number of factors. His secular and intellectual upbringing helped him to achieve a worldy look at politics and in democracy. But the same blinded him to realities of a post-independence India. He tried to inculcate an egalitarian and secular sense in the country. But today, the same is exploited by petty politicians for their self gain. His distrust of the West was born out of the charged nationalism in the heyday of the freedom movement, but it cost his country for a long time depriving it from much needed foreign assistance.

The biography wonderfully flips between his political life and his personal front- his detached sense of fatherhood and family responsibilities, and his personal love for sports and vigorous intellectual pursuits. With an easy-to filch tone and casual language, Tharoor has written a wonderfully relevant book, without diving into controversy and still being matter of factly and informative as well as entertaining. It is a book that will delight many who want to know more about this man.

Source: EzineArticles
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