Non-fiction; My Dear Bapu by (Ed) Gopalkrishna Gandhi; Published by: Penguin /Viking; Pages 343 pp; Price: Rs599
Over a short gap, after recollecting his old essays for Of a Certain Age, Gopalkrishna Gandhi has come up with another remarkably well researched book- My Dear Bapu. This time, the strength of the book is unusually coming through the letters exchanged from C.Rajagoplachari to Mahatma Gandhi, and also in former's affectionate correspondence with Devadas Gandhi and Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
The letters compiled into this book give a glimpse of the India's independence movement and quite broadly show the difficult circumstances, in which leaders worked to attain the independence. But it also exposes albeit mildly with some letters, how Raja Ji like many other senior leaders didn't play the same important role post independence.
A certain drift of idealism in politics could be found from the letters, written after 1947-it matters, as it's sensed very early by Raja Ji. This book in great deal brings out the reasons of close personal and well as the political intensity between C. Rajagopalachari and Mahatma. The frequent correspondence reveals the urge of these two iconic figures to maximise the chances for a future democratic republic, for which they were fighting hard and selflessly.
Both were finest communicator, and loved writing letters. Nehru had equally penchant for letter writings, he continued this till he remained in the helm of affairs. Both these leaders were not unaware from that fact that freedom struggle was much more than a struggle to end the British rule. It was more a struggle to come in terms with the ideas of freedom and universal rights. It was an imminent collective sentiment shaped by the early bearers on Indian democracy, and they were determined to end the wrong of past.
Unfortunately, only the parts of those dreams could be realised in actual, once the British left the ruling land. Probably a sense of complacency influenced few selective leaders, who were enjoying immense authority, which derailed the actual imagined course of nation making. If Gandhi was a Mahatma and CR his 'conscience keeper', that was because of their intention and not through the impression of moulded opinions.
CR was an independent thinker and politician, but it's essential to know, he was a true Gandhian in larger sense. As the book finds, he played formidable role to make South India completely in the fold of independence movement. The letters published in this book constitutes a rich document on a very critical phase of India history. In those phases, the fate of Indian sub-continent was on the cusp of a major shake.
The later part of the book streamlines those exchanges between the Mahatma and CR, which had family matters in centre. Devadas Gandhi became CR's son-in-law, though the bond between the two was close for long. CR remained Mahatma's 'conscience keeper' and he never availed his high political privileges for personal gain. Even when Devadas died early, he didn't try to push his family into politics, which was very much possible at that time.
The history of modern Indian politics would have entirely different, if majority of the first generation politicians had shown preoccupation for power. The letters have been arranged into a remarkable book. The editor has edge being insider and pre-eminent chronicler of modern India, so the book is here for showing the better picture how India's makers worked together in difficult period and later, the same tradition could not be saved. The letters are supported with the dates and sources, so provide authenticity.
CR's letters to Devadas Gandhi are filled with familiar nuances, though his letters to his grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, are full of affectionate concern and pride in his intellectual progress. In sharing the qualities of Edmund Burk's writing to the normal but very essential wisdom with young grandson, CR appears a proud grandfather. Both shared very fine rapport and this book is result of that.
My Dear Bapu enables the reader to know the beauty of simple and fair politics. In the time politics is getting synonymous with all wrong, this book would be truly valuable for those who feel the 'sense of losses'. For looking back to the causes of deviation in public life, no source could be more genuine like the "letters" exchanged among the front-rank leaders. Those documents would not require the intervention of historians for judgments.
The editor of this book has appeared in the prolific role of enabler but he seems agreed to leave upon the readers to take the meaning of correspondence through their own will and understanding. This is the best merit, he infuses in the book and allows enthusiast to delve in deep, why nation is being adrift from its own ideal? The ideals came with innumerable sacrifices. The book begins in stillness of simpler time but ends with many question marks on the present state of affairs, India as a nation is confronting!
Atul K Thakur
(Published in IBN Live,on February18,2013)