Two Alone, Two Together: Nehru-Indira letters captivate


Two Alone, Two Together
Edited bySonia Gandhi Hodder & Stoughton

Price:Rs 1759

For those fascinated by the most popular question of 1992-what is Sonia Gandhi doing?-here is part of the answer. Of course, this particular project began long before the tragedy that shattered her life, but there is an element of continuity between the two volumes of letters of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi she has edited and the album of love which was released on Rajiv Gandhi’s birthday.

Indira and Nehru: deep ties

In her typically self-effacing manner, Sonia Gandhi has concentrated on becoming an archivist of the family that is now as much hers as anv Nehru’s. The Rajiv memoir in a sirz completes a dramatic spectrum.

What a joy it is to read Tawaharlai’s prose, particularly when he can find the time to relish his own creativity. He had a wonderful eye, a brilliant mind, and a pen which delighted in all the pleasures of subtlety. A few sentences map out high society Lahore of January, 1940: “It is surprising how Muslim young women of the upper middle class are taking to socialism, or at any rate think they are.

There is friction in many a home because of this. But this theoretical approval of socialism does not come in the way of the joys of life, which in Lahore consists of the most inane and unsupportable round of parties and dances.”

Or witness the Pathan: “It is really astonishing how much a Pathan can
eat, and remember that he does not waste energy over vegetables and rice
and the like. He concentrates on solid chunks of meat, rich pulao and thick, wholesome bread.” But the point really is that this is not Swift; this is Lamb.


How does one spend one’s time in prison, the ignorant wonder? I remember spending long hours in Dehra Dun watching ants and wasps and various insects. It was not a cold-blooded scientific survey but a human, friendly companionship, and I grew quite fond of them. Here, on a very ordinary patch of wild grass and dried up ground within our prison yard we have discovered an amazing collection of fine stones of all manner of colours.

The letters are not only a sparkling discovery of India, there is also the falling in love with Ghalib in Ahmadnagar Fort Prison or learning the curlicues of Urdu, or repeating a doha of Rahim. One is tempted to believe that Jawaharlal liked teasing his censors, with his choice of couplets:
Unke dekhe so jo aa jati hai munh par raunaq
Woh samajhte hain ke beemar ka haal achcha hai

Naturally, the prison letters form the bulk of the book. The prime minister’s epistles are a different matter altogether-as Jawaharlal himself put it: “Haste peeps through a letter.”

Incidentally, there is a curious view that editing such a volume as this is simply a matter of rearranging papers from an old family trunk. Those who think so should try it. This book is on par with the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, and that is high praise indeed.


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