By 1945, the era of Gandhi was over, and that of Nehru had begun. It is conventional to dwell on the contrasts between the two, but the bearing of these on the outcome of the struggle for independence has remained by and large in the shadows. Nor are the contrasts themselves always well captured. Nehru was a generation younger; of handsome appearance; came from a much higher social class; had an elite education in the West; lacked religious beliefs; enjoyed many an affair. So much is well known. Politically more relevant was the peculiar nature of his relationship to Gandhi. Inducted into the national movement by his wealthy father, a pillar of Congress since the 1890s, he fell under Gandhiís spell in his late twenties, at a time when he had few political ideas of his own. A decade later, when he had acquired notions of independence and socialism Gandhi did not share, and was nearly forty, he was still writing to him: ĎAm I not your child in politics, though perhaps a truant and errant child?í The note of infantilism was not misplaced; the truancy, in practice, little more than coquetry. Like so many others, dismayed by Gandhiís scuttling of Non-Cooperation in 1922, in despair at his fast against the introduction of Untouchable electorates in 1932, baffled by his reasons for suspending civil disobedience in 1934, he nevertheless each time abased himself before his patronís judgment.
LRB 19 July 2012 | PDF Download