The Nehrus, Motilal and Jawaharlal

The Nehrus, Motilal and Jawaharlal

The Nehrus, Motilal and Jawaharlal

The Nehrus, Motilal and Jawaharlal

Excerpt

Many people today remember Motilal Nehru as the father of Jawaharlal Nehru, just as in the nineteen twenties there were not a few in whose eyes Jawaharlal's chief title to distinction was that he was the son of his distinguished father. Both verdicts are equally superficial. The fact is that Motilal's place in Indian politics in the last ten years of his life was second only to that of Gandhi. And Jawaharlal, even in the life-time of his father, had climbed several rungs of the ladder which was to bring him to the top as the leader of the national movement and the logical heir of the Mahatma.

It is exactly one hundred years since Motilal's birth, and thirty since his death, but no biography of him has yet been written. If this has made my task more laborious, it has also made it more interesting, as the story of his life had to be pieced together from original sources, including his own papers. However, I had not gone very far in my research when I realized that it was impossible to understand or interpret his life without dealing in detail with the ideas and activities of his son, that a biography of Motilal could not but become the biography of his son as well.

Father and son played very different parts in the national struggle; but so intertwined were their lives that they influenced each other, not least when they differed. Love of one's children is a natural and common enough emotion, but in the case of Motilal it had a rare quality, which Gandhi, a deeply religious man, described as 'divine'. It was this extraordinary emotion, deeply rooted in his being and strangely incongruous in a hard-headed lawyer, which gave a new twist to the story of the Nehrus. That story was not always of a triumphal progress with garlands and banner-headlines; more often it was a chronicle of sweat and toil, loneliness and suspense, personal anguish and political frustration, against which their only defences were their proud patriotism and indomitable faith. Such of course is the stuff of which politics -- the politics of nationalist revolt -- are made.

The story of the Nehrus ran parallel with and merged into the story of the Indian freedom movement. A survey of that movement has already been attempted by me in my biography of Gandhi. But the Mahatma was not directly concerned with the early period of the Indian National Congress before 1915; nor . . .

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