/Biography

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

CALLING IT QUITS


The Telegraph

The day the Mumbai crowd booed Sachin Tendulkar after his failure in the third Test against England, another Indian legend was formally, finally, leaving his field. This was Dr Verghese Kurien, who announced that day that he was resigning as Chairman of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation. This coincidence got me thinking—when, and in what [...]

THE END OF THE BIOGRAPHER


The Hindu

Many years ago, while doing research on the life of the anthropologist Verrier Elwin, I found myself in the library of the great old publishing house of John Murray, on Albemarle Street in central London. Elwin had once been a Murray author; and so had been some far more distinguished people. One such was the poet [...]

By |2011-11-30T19:30:24+00:00March 26th, 2006|Categories: Biography|Tags: , |

NEHRU AND NIRALA


The Hindu

Many years ago, the anthropologist Triloki Nath Pandey told me a story featuring Jawaharlal Nehru and the poet Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’. The Prime Minister had just returned from a visit to the People’s Republic of China. He was addressing a public meeting in his home town, Allahabad, where Nirala then lived and where Triloki Pandey then [...]

THE FIRST ‘GANDHIAN’ INTELLECTUALS


The Hindu

While Mahatma Gandhi was alive, not many intellectuals would willingly identify themselves as ‘Gandhian’. Writers and thinkers treated him, at best, with a kindly indulgence; and, at worst, with unremitting hostility. The first group admired the Mahatma’s asceticism and personal integrity and, were they Indian, his ability to move the masses and draw them into the [...]

GANDHI AND SCIENCE


The Telegraph

Shelley once claimed that poets were ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. In the decades and centuries since he said this, it has been scientists rather than poets who have been the world’s legislators, and acknowledged ones, too. The power and prestige of modern science is colossal indeed. The prestige comes from science’s manifest successes in [...]

AN ADIVASI CHAMPION


The Hindu

In the first week of February 2002, I got a call from the writer Mahasweta Devi. I had met Mahasweta only once—in a boarding house in Delhi where we both happened to be staying—but knew, of course, a great deal about her. I had not read her novels—I don’t read much fiction—but had been profoundly moved [...]

MAHADEV


The Hindu

A book I cherish greatly, and which I bought in the great Sunday book bazaar in Delhi’s Daryaganj—since closed by a philistine police force—is a 75th birthday tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. Four hundred pages long, beautifully bound and printed (at the Karnatak Printing Press, Bombay—also probably by now a victim of history), it assembles essays by [...]

By |2011-11-16T11:20:56+00:00October 23rd, 2005|Categories: Biography|Tags: , , , , |

THE GREAT HELMSMAN AND THE GOOD BOATMAN


The Telegraph

A social activist I greatly admire recently began a public lecture by saying: ‘We cannot all be Gandhi or Mao, but we can at least try and imbibe some of their spirit’. For a man of my age the juxtaposition made some—if not perfect—sense. But it would perhaps have escaped the many in the audience who [...]

KASTURBA


The Hindu

The wives of the Ieading Indian nationalists lie shrouded in obscurity. Tagore, Nehru, Patel, Rajagopalachari, Bose, Ambedkar—in the meticulous documentation of their careers, their spouses figure scarcely at all. One reason is that in most cases the wives died early; another, that even while they lived the wives were expected to stay out of sight. The [...]

A TOTALITARIAN TREAT


The Telegraph

Even before it became the IT capital of India, Bangalore was the least left-wing of Indian cities. When it was merely a cantonment town it exuded an air of placid contentment; that air is now aggressive, suffused by the competitive urges of capitalism—but it remains largely inhospitable to Communist thought. In other Southern capitals, Hyderabad and [...]

By |2011-11-16T17:16:08+00:00October 1st, 2005|Categories: Biography|Tags: , , |