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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reminiscences of the Nehru age - Book by M. O. Mathai (Jawarlal Nehru's Personal Assistant)

Reminiscences of the Nehru age - Book by M. O. Mathai (Jawarlal Nehru's Personal Assistant)

For a long time I searched for a hard copy of this book. I learnt in the process that it had been banned by the Govt. of India. Naturally, I was curious. My perseverance paid off and for a modest price I was able to download an electronic version of the book, which I am Sharing with you guys for Free.

It is extremely informative and at the same time EXPLOSIForVE to say the least. The author, Mr. M. O. Mathai, as Nehru's Special Assistant, was in an exceptional position to first hand see the goings on in the national and international arena. He also admits to a 12 year-long affairs with Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, and the fact that Mr. Nehru was aware of that liaison. Although a kiss-and-tell chapter titled "She" in the book was dropped from publication at the last minute, there is an unverified text floating on the Internet, with credit to Maneka Gandhi, Mrs. Gandhi's younger daughter-in-law. However, there is little of no proof that Mr. Mathai penned those words. For the rest, the author had very little reason, if at all, to publish a scandalous book risking legal ramifications.

The book contains many interesting facts and historic anecdotes. If the mind boggling information contained therein is true, it is unconscionable that the public has been denied access to the facts. Suppression of information only makes the public even more determined. In this electronic age, it is much easier to obtain information and disseminate it to the masses with a simple click. The action of Govt. of India to take such extreme measures-- to prevent circulation of this book-- only supports the author's claims. The reader sees how some able and competent ideologists did not survive the politics to claim their rightful place in running the country. It is an equal shame that early in the emergence of the Republic of India, the corrupt and egotist politicians, who were ill-prepared as administrators, took impulsive, self-serving, near-sighted and ill-advised decisions (or without proper counsel, which often were more for vindictive reasons against their political rivals rather than for the good of the country) that in the process they only caused irreparable damage to India's national security, as well as financial and political viability, not to mention tarnishing her international standing. It took nearly six decades for India to do damage control and to claim her rightful place on the world stage.

Even though the book chronicles one man's views and recollections of events and individuals, which may be colored by his perception of the truth and/or personal biases, it has to be in a great part factual. (In fact, growing up I recall hearing from my parents many incidents or liaisons, which supposedly were public knowledge. Nonetheless the press remained kind to Nehru for the high esteem in which he was held by the public and the media.) A smart man like Mr. Mathai would neither gamble with his reputation nor would he risk libel/slander charges. Most significantly, he was already a man of means when he joined Pt. Nehru in 1946, and did not need regular income to support himself. He served Mr. Nehru during one of the most momentous periods in the Indian History, and long before Mr. Nehru was part of the Government. (In fact, Mr. Mathai joined his staff on Government payroll only reluctantly. His resignation in 1959 was tendered in the aftermath of communist propaganda. Mr. Mathai did not want to make public any of his personal matters. Mr. Nehru knew him well, trusted him implicitly, and was aware of no wrongdoing on Mr. Mathai's part. He, however, did include them in his letter to Mr. Nehru (Appendix III of this book) when requesting termination of his Govt. employment.) Naturally, in his 13-year association with Mr. Nehru, Mr. Mathai had a unique opportunity to see many significant events unfold. No one else knew Nehru as well or as closely as he did. It is fair to say that Mr. Mathai's reminiscences had to do little or nothing with "grinding an axe" against anyone. One exception is the missing Chapter 29, titled "She," allegedly dealing with his 12-year affair with Indira Gandhi. Since the book was published soon after the "Emergency" imposed by Mrs. Gandhi, it is likely, and understandably so, why this chapter (which even though is included in the Table of Contents) was withdrawn before the book went to the printing press. A page with chapter title She is included, with the publisher's note that says: "This chapter on an intensely personal experience of the author's, written without inhibition in the D.H. Lawrence style, has been withdrawn by the author at the last minute. PUBLISHERS" The date is November 1st, 1977.

This book gives a snap shot of major happenings in the history of India from 1946 through 1959. Mr. Mathai's account of major events is very informative. His candid verbal sketches of a number of key players: Lord Mountabtten, Sardar Patel, Govind Vallabh Pant, Maulana Azad, Sarojini Naidu, Rajendra Parsad, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and others are invaluable. The reader is invaluably benefited by an understanding of the events and actors of a crucial time in Indian history and the country's emergence as a republic. His insights, impressions and reminiscences of the noted key figures of the times are interesting for a generation like mine that grew only hearing those names. Even when he jumps between various characters one does not lose the thread. Whenever pertinent, he links an ongoing discussion with an earlier chapter to sort of jog the reader's memory.

Mr. Mathai's writing is crisp. His style of narration is a combination of being matter-of-factly and funny at the same time. He minces no words. In his recollections, he is both poignant and witty. Mr. Mathai's affection and admiration for Mr. Nehru, and his loyalty comes through and through. Mr. Mathai comes across sincere and perhaps that is another factor that lends credibility to his book.

It is a must-read book for all "inquiring minds." After downloading, I printed a hard copy for the ease of reading, and just could not put it down. Now begins my feverish search for the other banned Mathai book: "My Days with Nehru."

Link to the Book- Part 1

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Link to the Book- Part 2

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