/Biography

Biography presents word-portraits of a range of fascinating or forgotten individuals in India and beyond.

What Champaran Meant To Gandhi


The Telegraph

A hundred years ago this week, Mohandas K. Gandhi arrived in the district of Champaran in north Bihar. He spent several months in the district, studying the problems of the peasantry, who had been forced by European planters to cultivate indigo against their will. Farmers who refused to meet this obligation had their land confiscated. Through [...]

By |2017-04-23T23:13:10+00:00April 15th, 2017|Categories: History, Biography|Tags: , , , |

A Contemporary View Of Nehru and Patel


Hindustan Times

My home town, Bengaluru, has the country’s best second-hand bookstores. For decades now, they have sustained me in a personal and professional sense, providing materials for my bed-time reading as well as rare documents for my research. In one of these stores I recently picked up an old book that served both purposes. This was A. [...]

By |2016-12-01T23:21:24+00:00November 5th, 2016|Categories: Biography|Tags: , |

A Privileged Peep Into Gandhi’s Inbox


The Telegraph

Mohandas K. Gandhi’s own writings are well known to the world: through a series of books and anthologies under his name that appeared in his lifetime; and, more authoritatively and substantively, through the ninety-seven volumes of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, published between 1958 and 1994, and put together and lovingly edited by a team [...]

How Gandhi’s Martyrdom Saved India


Hindustan Times

On the 31st of January 1948, a former Indian Civil Service officer named Malcolm Darling, then living in retirement in London, wrote in his diary: ‘Gandhi was assassinated yesterday. … Very difficult to say what will happen, but it is as if a ship has lost its keel. Further disintegration seems inevitable, and what happens to [...]

Good Husband Better Man


The Telegraph

Wives of famous men do not always get their due from historians and biographers. Lincoln, Lenin, Churchill, De Gaulle, Lee Kuan Yew— the women they married and whose sacrifices enabled their work are scarcely known to posterity. What is true of politicians is usually true of writers as well. We read and admire Kalidasa, Goethe, Dickens, [...]

By |2015-01-06T15:13:33+00:00December 27th, 2014|Categories: Biography, Culture|Tags: , , , , |

Nehru and Patel


Hindustan Times

The best biography of Vallabhbhai Patel was written by Rajmohan Gandhi. Based on full access to Patel’s own papers, it is a rich account of his life and struggles, set against the context of the historical forces which shaped them. Rajmohan Gandhi’s Patel: A Life, was first published in March 1991. The preface, written in April [...]

The Man Who Knew Almost Everything


The Nation

Eric Hobsbwam, Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the Twentieth Century. Little, Brown and Company. 213. Pp xv+319. I first read Eric Hobsbawm as a doctoral student in Kolkata in the 1980s. I started with his books on popular protest, Primitive Rebels (1959) and Bandits (1969), before moving on to his trilogy on the ages, respectively, [...]

By |2014-01-22T15:04:48+00:00November 30th, 2013|Categories: Biography|Tags: , |

Nehru’s Nationalism – and Ours


The Telegraph

One of the books I read as a boy was the autobiography of the mountaineer Tenzing Norgay. I grew up in Dehradun, in a home with fine views of the lower Himalaya. From the nearby hill station of Mussoorie—which we visited often—one could see the great snow peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul, and Bandar Poonch. As [...]

By |2013-11-27T19:48:03+00:00November 16th, 2013|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs, Biography|Tags: , , , |

Gandhi’s English Housemates


The Independent

In April 1931, Mohandas K. Gandhi attended an inter-faith meeting in Bombay. He had just been released from one of his many terms in prison. Now, while listening to Christian hymns and Sanskrit slokas, he had as his companions the Admiral’s daughter Madeleine Slade (known in India as Mirabehn) and the Oxford scholar Verrier Elwin. Thus, [...]

By |2013-10-31T09:24:02+00:00October 26th, 2013|Categories: History, Biography|Tags: , , |

The Miracles of Mao


The Telegraph

Marxism claims to offer a materialist approach to history, where class relations and the forces of technology are given more importance than the doings of individuals. In practice, however, political regimes based on professedly Marxist principles have indulged in an unprecedented worship of their leaders. Communist parties the world over brook no criticism of the Holy [...]

By |2013-04-06T23:00:47+00:00April 6th, 2013|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs, Biography|Tags: , , |