Few years back my dad bought ‘Letters from a father to his daughter’ by Jawaharlal Nehru’, and asked me to give it a read. But since I was not much into reading I kept it in my book shelf to read it later sometimes. Few days back, my dad reminded me again and I finally planned to give it a read. Frankly speaking, I haven’t read any of Nehru’s books or any history books all my life! But, Now, with this book I am all excited to read his books where his single book made me a fan of him. I can see that many of the ideologies which now we hold as dear were there in Nehru’s mind, including secularism, empowerment and above all, humanity. And I loved the letter in which he tells his daughter very beautifully that ‘One little test I shall ask you to apply whenever you are in doubt. Never do anything in secret or anything you would wish to hide. For the desire to hide anything means you are afraid, and fear is a bad thing, and unworthy for you. Be brave, and all the rest follows’ . Not only this one letter, but all of his letters to Indira are Inspiring. Well, I have been reading it past few days and now when I’m finally done with it, lemme tell you that I absolutely LOVED IT! And also, I thank my dad for forcing me to read this amazing book.
So, basically this book is a collection of 30 letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his 10 years old daughter, Indira Gandhi in 1928. When he was in jail and she was in Mussorie. A father and his daughter. The bond has to be seen to be believed. This book is by the slightly pedantic father, who is not able to spend enough quality time with his daughter, owing to his political obligations, and thus tries to form a bond with her by writing letters to her from prison. Nehru speaks to young Indira both lovingly and with clear respect for her intelligence, treating a ten-year-old-young girl as the future leader she would become. These letters are not the usual communication between a father and a daughter. These are not mere letters to a daughter, but a way that developed a standing bond between a dad and daughter. They neither talk about daughter’s dreams nor the father’s worries or expectations, but are an effort at the daughter’s education, especially her outlook towards her country and world at large. Indeed, we see in these letters the foundation of becoming a future leader. In these letters, Nehru begins with the very beginning and talks about the basic history of the world, origin of our solar system, the story of civilizations, the story of people. He talks about how the world was formed, how life evolved in this earth, about how there is a book of nature, where we can learn about the prehistoric times by observing rocks and fossils. He talks about how people began forming tribes. How there are so many races and languages in the world, the story of how there are monarchs, how different classes came into being, talked about the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India and Crete, and about Aryans, Dravidian, Mongoloid, and about how trade started. He has explained everything in the easiest of words and in the most straightforward manner. Each object carries a lot of history behind it and becomes a major part of the slow change which is happening every moment around us, around the world.
Okay, so up till this, I actually thought that this is the easiest way to learn history and a parent could be the best teacher and how lucky Indira Gandhi was to have a highly intellectual father, who could explain any phenomena in the world in such an easy way to a 10 years old-young girl. But, as I went on, I felt a sudden swing in the tone of letters. The father seemed partial against a community. Brahmins were displayed as bad men. Who distressed and exploited people and spoiled the peace and well-being of humanity. They were only there to corrupt the minds of the rulers. By this, I understood that when he wrote these letters, the country was going through a cultural, social revolution and the old ties of religion and castes were being mutilated to let the humanity breathe.
But what caught my attention the most was his love for people. Not just his own people, but for people all around the world, who deserved a good life, deserved peace and happiness. He tells his daughter;
‘As Indians we have to live in India and work for India. But we must not forget that we belong to the larger family of the world and the people living in other countries are after all our cousins. It would be such an excellent thing if all the people in the world were happy and contented. We have therefore to try to make the whole world a happier place to live in’
In one of his letters, he addresses the prides of nationalism and the threats of stereotyping in equally simple yet expressive terms and exploring the origin and social purpose of religion, Nehru explores the inner ambiguities of religion, which bothers us to this day;
‘He tells her, You will also see that most of us now living in different countries far from each other long ago were one people. We have changed greatly since then and many of us have forgotten our old relationships. In every country people imagine that they are the best and the cleverest and the others are not as good as they are. … This is all conceit. Everybody wants to think well of himself and his country. But really there is no person who has not got some good in him and some bad. And in the same way there is no country which is not partly good and partly bad. We must take the good wherever we find it and try to remove the bad wherever it may be.’
‘This seems horrible but a man who is afraid will do anything. This must have been the beginnings of religion. So religion first came as fear, and anything that is done because of fear is bad. Religion, as you know, tells us many beautiful things. When you grow up, you will read about the religions of the world and of the good things and the bad things that have been done in their name. . . . We see even today that people fight and break each other’s heads in the name of religion. And for many people it is still something to be afraid of. They spend their time trying to please some imaginary beings by making presents in temples and even sacrifices of animals.’
All 30 letters are short, written in a very simple yet beautiful way. Each is a story logically told, a father’s affection for his daughter coming across in each. TBH, It is such a wonderful and amazing book. The language is simple yet beautiful. And the good part is that the whole is not really filled with so many details about history. Rather, this book contains the basic details about the most interesting subjects. Nehru has very beautifully explained the basic details of the history of our Earth, the people on the Earth, the ancient Evolutions. This is enormously heartening book about how we shape the world we live in through our understanding of it and the choices we make in it. Also, There are some interesting thoughts I got from the book as well but I wish you to find more by yourself (and this is one of the reasons I have not mentioned all that was in the letters above) where the book is very small and interesting and why to take away more of your fun reading it?
On all account, don’t miss this amazing book! It’s gem of a book! 🙂 Do share your views about it in the comments below. I’d love to know what you think about the book.
Rating details: 5/5 !
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