Banned in India: Reminiscences of Nehru Age by Mathai
Mind blowing!! I had never read any book related to Indian History which is as explosive as this!! No wonder this book was banned by the Govt soon after its launch
Written by M.O.Mathai, who had served as Nehru's special assistant (Personal Assistant – PA) for almost a decade & a half (between 1946 & 1959), it gives the reader some first hand information on several anecdotes, facts & historical references. It is an engaging read in which Mathai effortlessly takes the reader back in time and narrates his encounters & experiences with different leaders in a very blunt & unforgiving style. Neatly divided into isolated chapters, he speaks out his mind (personal opinions along with anecdotes & some facts) about each leader per chapter.
An excerpt from the chapter on Mahatma Gandhi:
An excerpt from chapter on Rajaji:
Lal Bahadur Shastri:
The author's reverence towards Nehru is pretty much evident throughout the book but at the same time, he is not hesitant to talk about some intimate matters like Nehru's platonic love with Edwina, affairs with Padmaja Naidu (Sarojini Naidu's daughter), Mridula Sarabhai and others. Although it does not go into details of these affairs, it helps the reader understand the psychological impact of such affairs on Nehru which in turn would have affected his decisions the national front.
Surprisingly, an entire chapter titled "She" was withdrawn by the author in the last minute due to the contents being "intensely personal".
It was rumored (speculated) to be a chapter about the author's personal (and sometimes intimate) interactions with Indira Gandhi and the unverified manuscript of that chapter has been in circulation in the cyber world for quite some time now: http://www.partitionofindia.com/_archive/00000061.htm
However, he leaves no stone unturned in his scornful attacks towards Feroze Gandhi and even goes on to mention some of his romantic episodes which caused distress to Indira Gandhi.
The column on the left hand in the above website page has links to download the ebook in most of the popular formats including PDF and there is an option to "Read Online" as well.
One can argue over the need to review a banned book which on the first glance appears to be an opinionated work by a Personal Assistant. I agree that there is not really a need to dig into the personal lives of past leaders. Having said that, if such facts & events are related to public figures who have a major role in shaping up the nation, it becomes an important issue because not only the historians & sociologists but even the common man of the nation must have the right to find out how such events affected the future prospects of our country.
For example, Nehru's faith in Krishna Menon (Nehru perceived any attack to Menon as an attack to himself), might have been one of the major factors in India's humiliating defeat during the India-China war but a look into the personal life of Krishna Menon would show that he was not only a communist but a maniac (certified even by Doctors) as well, and almost every nationalist leader worth his salt had criticized him and demanded his resignation back in 1951 itself.
Another example to learn from such books is to understand the the root cause of certain evils that have pervaded our nation. Take the case of corruption. It was Krishna Menon who was involved in corruption cases within just few months of independence, and Nehru's forgiving, lenient attitude towards him had indirectly encouraged others in his cabinet to indulge in more such corruption cases.
Take the case of dynasty politics. Nehru's affair with Padmaja Naidu can actually be related to Gandhi family dynasty politics. Although Nehru had promised his wife Kamala that he will do everything possible to stop Indira from marrying Feroze (Nehru was also against her marrying Feroze), Indira was aware of Nehru's affair with Padmaja and hence cleverly blackmailed Nehru into agreeing to her marriage with Feroze who was renamed Feroze Gandhi which triggered the the tryst with dynasty.
Going into intimate details of personal affairs is not necessary and Mathai has rightly drawn the line between information & sleaze. All that he has done is just informed the readers about such anecdotes without going into uncomfortable details. The reader is advised to use his discretion to just be aware of these facts and understand how they affected the nation and never judge or downplay accomplishments & the contributions of such great & inspirational leaders in shaping of our nation.