/Biography

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

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: , , |

Patriarchy & Prejudice


The Telegraph

Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men. Joseph Conrad India’s two main religions, Hinduism and Islam, are both deeply patriarchal. Their scriptures and their historical practice have relegated women to an inferior status. Women were not allowed to assume positions of power and authority. Women were denied [...]

A Writer Among His People


The Telegraph

Last week, the novelist, essayist, and polemicist U. R. Ananthamurthy turned eighty. His Bangalore home is named ‘Suragi’, after a flower that retains its fragrance even after it has aged and dried up. Some might find the name self-regarding; but then Ananthamurty is a man with much to be immodest about. His novels Samskara and Bharathipura [...]

By |2013-01-04T18:30:38+00:00December 29th, 2012|Categories: Biography|

Appreciating Nehru


The Hindu

The most admired human being on the planet may be a one-time boxer named Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. To spend three decades in prison fighting racial oppression, and then guide and oversee the peaceful transition to a multi-racial democracy, surely ranks as the greatest personal achievement since the end of the Second World War. For the capaciousness [...]

Sonia’s Rise


The Telegraph

In Zareer Masani’s recent memoir of his parents, And All is Said, he quotes a letter written to him by his mother in 1968. ‘Yesterday we went to Mrs Pandit’s reception for Rajiv Gandhi and his wife’, wrote Shakuntala Masani, adding: ‘I can’t tell you how dim she is, and she comes from a working-class family. [...]

By |2012-11-08T11:01:46+00:00November 3rd, 2012|Categories: Politics and Current Affairs, Biography|