/Biography

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

FAITH AND FREEDOM


The Telegraph

It is well known that when India became free on the 15th of August 1947, Mahatma Gandhi declined to join the festivities in New Delhi. While his follower Jawaharlal Nehru spoke in the Council Hall about India’s tryst with destiny, and the crowds danced on the streets outside, Gandhi was in Calcutta, seeking to restore peace [...]

NEHRU IN A NOVEL


The Hindu

Arguably the best single-volume study of India’s first Prime Minister is Nehru: A Contemporary’s Estimate, by the Australian diplomat Walter Crocker. This is a book that I have long known (and admired). However, when I met the author’s son recently, he presented me a copy of a lesser known work by his mother, a novel through [...]

By |2011-11-30T19:45:26+00:00May 24th, 2009|Categories: Biography|Tags: , |

SEARCHING FOR CHARLIE


The Telegraph

It was on on my last trip to Kolkata that I went searching for the grave of Charlie Andrews. A friend had told me that it was in a cemetery on Lower Circular Road. I decided to walk there from my hotel in Park Street. Fortunately, it was winter, so the weather was (relatively) mild. More [...]

THE GOOD INDIAN


The Hindu

One of the forgotten figures of Indian journalism is a man named Syed Abdullah Brelvi. Google ‘SA Brelvi’ (as I just did), and all that comes up is a road carrying that name in south Bombay. The road was so named in a more enlightened age, when Mumbaikars were free, and willing, to praise those who [...]

THE GANDHI RESERVOIR


The Hindu

For many years now, my principal teacher on the subject of Mohandas K. Gandhi has been a man who is only incidentally his grandson. To be sure, Gopalkrishna Gandhi does respect and honour the memory of his two grandfathers (the other being C. Rajagopalachari). But his own identity is by no means restricted to the genes [...]

By |2011-11-30T19:46:53+00:00February 1st, 2009|Categories: Biography|Tags: , , , |

THE INDIAN MOTHER’S DREAM SON-IN-LAW


The Hindu

Although I have been a cricket-nut since childhood, and have written several hundred columns on the sport, I count only one Test cricketer—Bishan Singh Bedi—as a friend, and have a passing acquaintance with only a few others. The two letters I have written to cricketers were both addressed to residents of my home town, Bangalore. The [...]

A FORGOTTEN BENGALI HERO


The Telegraph

Nothing gives the historian greater joy than to discover an individual significant in his time but forgotten in our own. I was thus very pleased to have brought, to the attention of the present generation, the achievements of a Bengali mathematician-turned-civil servant named Sukumar Sen. He is one of the heroes of my book India after [...]

RAJIV RE-ASSESSED


Hindustan Times

I think it was Voltaire who said that while we can flatter the living, the dead deserve nothing less than the truth. I recalled that injunction when reading Vir Sanghvi’s tribute to the late Rajiv Gandhi (Remembering Rajiv, HT, Sunday 7th February). This praises Mr Gandhi as a compassionate visionary who helped heal the wounds of [...]

By |2011-11-17T13:39:54+00:00September 13th, 2008|Categories: Biography|Tags: , |

A MAESTRO IN MANIPUR


The Telegraph

If the mast-head of this newspaper was long enough, or if the type it uses was smaller, this column could have carried the title: ‘MEETING A MAESTRO ON A MISTY MORNING IN MANIPUR’. Over the past decade, the little and beautiful state of Manipur has replaced the larger and even more beautiful state of Nagaland as [...]

GANDHI IN ORISSA


The Telegraph

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was by birth a Gujarati bania, but the admiration for his life and work transcended the boundaries of caste, language, religion, and gender. He was a man who was trusted by women, a Hindu who reached out to befriend Muslims, and a suvarna who fought for the rights of the lower castes. Above [...]