Who can really sit and read? I can.
I lie. I have mini-libraries at my home, at my office, and many shelves full of books. Fictional never happening romance, sterile laws to boring lectures on how a scene was shot from the memories of a hit and classic filmmaker.
I am a realist. I like to live in the present. Hence, I considered history a bootless walk. Then I met Kuldip Nayar. On a table, in an old lodge.
He was just sitting there, gathering dust. I wanted to listen to him, his dress-up was catching my eye. He told me about Partition, a chance encounter with Jinnah, Mountbatten’s role in Partition, the Radcliffe award that decided the boundaries between India-Pakistan, and the fallout of partition.
As I read, I started simultaneous thinking… With every major policy decision that the government takes, we hold a grudge, sometimes, without thinking things through.
Like everybody else who grew up from innocent 20s to internet-laced late 25-30s, I learned about how to blame Nehru, and how to hate Gandhi, because we collegians, poets, and intellectuals search for art, and in our search, we find our fruit in angst-laced, polite discussions.
As a child, I loved reading. I began with Hindi books in the 4 school bags at home. I was in class 5. I read stories from books of class 8. Once I love someone’s voice, they can talk to me and Kuldip Nayar told me this:
During the Nehruvian years, Gobind Ballabh Pant had prepared a parliamentary report to recommend Hindi as the principal language and English as a subsidiary one. But Pandit Ji was educated in English. He took offense and forgot his aim of thinking about a way to unite Indians in South and North, East and West. Instead, he got caught up in the defense of his tongue, English from a ‘vassal’ word, i.e. “subsidiary“.
At a time when swadeshi was high, English was not our representative, but in a country made from 121 languages and 270 mother tongues, probably more, issuing a hurried circular making Hindi the principal language of the Indian union was a violent mistake. (Credit: Gulzarilal Nanda, then Home Minister).
It was not the decision of the prime minister. It was the home minister’s doing. Yet, we, the public, immediately blamed the party. We blamed the prime minister. And what was but natural, riots. People blazed themselves. The circular was called off but the cancellation order was written in a trail of blood-red ink.
The next chapter was, ‘After Nehru: The fight for succession.” Lal Bahadur Shastri became the Prime Minister and I closed the book.
After reading, I got lucky. I found someone to discuss it with, who had more research, financial data, and inside scoops. He told me more about Morarji Desai, Shastri’s opponent who had then lost the elections.
Morarji too initiated note-bandi in 1978 without any buffer time for our ancestors, i.e. the public (although an ordinance was ratified).
Unprecedented, major headlines on 9th November 2016 used this word.
How? A look at the books told me it was done before. Surprising because news channels rarely pulled out history books. Only the well-read or well-informed of our species knew or did not remember perhaps. None of the sarcastic ones knew either in my surroundings, and I was in law college.
Narendra Modi learned from history. And from Congress (Jawaharlal Nehru).
We should read history just to be prepared, for what could be next, the answer may well be found in the past.
I will not put a disclaimer that I hate or love Modi. I am a person who is simply reading and learning.