Biography, according to Lytton Strachey, is “the most delicate and humane of all the branches of the art of writing”. It is also a difficult art particularly when the story told is that of Jawaharlal Nehru, a man who strode the world like ‘a gentle colossus’ until very recently, and whose life was an open one, openly lived almost in ‘the glorious privacy of light’. The task is further compounded by the fact that the character of the hero is a complex mixture of the dreamer and the fighter, the aesthete and the politician, the thinker and the activist, the reformer and the revolutionary and the conformist and the iconoclast—all contained within the trembling general equilibrium of a rounded and integrated personality. It has been said that the biographer’s task is to reveal the real man lurking behind the well-known personality. The real Nehru, for all we know, is very much the familiar Nehru, and it is just as well that in this first volume of what promises to be a great trilogy on Nehru, Dr. Gopal has not embarked upon a Freudian exploration into the origins of his hero’s psychological make-up, but has adopted the historical method of biography.
January 2006, volume 30, No 1