Relevance of Nehru today
- Part 1 -

Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte *

Introduction: Any interest in the outstanding figure such as Jawaharlal Nehru does not diminish with time. More so, with his relevance which needs hardly to be over-emphasized. It is mostly due to his charm coupled with far-sighted vision and statesmanship, his personality and concern for the masses and downtrodden that he remains ever fresh in the minds of the people.

It is also due to fascination of not only those who were lucky to work with him personally but also those who came to know him through his rich literary works, numerous memoirs and several scholarly publications about him.

The other reason for the unflagging interest and relevance of him in the readers and researchers lies in the fact that as a thinker he touched upon a vast variety of problem which concern mankind today.

As a matter of fact, Nehru does not belong only to India he belongs to all mankind. He was one of the architects of international peace and solidarity. He believed in a common destiny of mankind, in rapprochement between the West and the East.

'Panchsheel' became the beconlight for all peace loving countries in the world. Sino Indian relations were built upon this idea in the hey day of Nehruvian politics. Nehru was, in fact, a multifaceted personality.

In him we have a happy blend of western scientific temper and modern Indian idealism. He accepted Gandhi's moral leadership and yet he retained his modern outlook. He was a great democrat and a true socialist. He was a nationalist of the first order, yet an internationalist of great repute. In short, must I say that Nehru was a rare phenomenon in the history of mankind?

Relevance of Nehru: With all these contributions in the background, can we today visualize any good reason to relegate Nehru's relevance?

On the contrary the more world communities march ahead towards closer international co-operation and better understanding between countries, Nehru's relevance becomes not only relevant but increasingly becomes indispensable, particularly for the Third World countries who in their strive towards the goal of becoming developed nations follow a non-aligned path.

What appeals us most in his relevance to us today is his intense love for India and the Indian people. He loved his motherland more than anything else in his life. To keep alive his thoughts and ideals we have nowhere to go but study those clearly expressed views in his own writings that stand out today unparalleled in their range and variety.

In his writings are revealed his hopes and aspirations, struggles and the patterns on which he hoped and strongly expressed to shape the future of our country. He was indeed passionately devoted to his ideas that are being vigorously pursued even today. It is given cognizance by all international communities as an up-coming great power of the world. Can we dispense with his relevance today? Perhaps not.

We know that Nehru was a prolific writer and an acknowledged master of English prose. He corresponded with his friends, colleagues and admirers both in India and abroad. In his 'Autobiography', 'Glimpses of World History' and 'Discovery of India', are found his ideals and thoughts written in lucid and flowless language, which are frequently interspersed with rare beauty of thoughts.

Indeed, such noble thoughts have seldom been enshrined in such a noble language. These three great works of Nehru encompass the inevitable relevance of him today. To illustrate let me discuss in brief about them.

(1) India Old and New: It is generally acclaimed as among the few truly great memorable autobiographies of the country. Nehru himself proclaimed it as having traces of his mental development which surveyed the courses of events in India prior to attainment of independence and revealed an insight into the blueprints of the 'New India' he cherished that was soon to emerge.

In this work he reflected how greatly were his father, Motilal Nehru, Gandhiji and Rabindra Nath Tagore, influential upon him and who moulded his life and the love for his country. This may be summed up in his own words [1]

"And yet India with all her poverty and degradation had enough of nobility and greatness about her, and though she was ever-burdened with ancient tradition and present misery, and her eyelids were a little weary, we had a beauty wrought from within upon the flesh, the deposit little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions."

Behind and within her battered body one could still glimpse a majesty of soul. Through long ages she had traveled and gathered much wisdom on the way, and trafficked with strangers and added them to her own family, and witnessed days of glory and of delay, and suffered humiliation and terrible sorrow, and seen many a strange sight; but throughout her long journey she had clung to her immemorial culture, drawn strength and vitality from it, and shared it with other lands.

Like a pendulum she had swung up and down; she had ventured with the daring of her thought to reach up to the heavens and unravel their mystery, and she had also had bitter experience of the pit of hell. Despite the woeful accumulations of superstition and degrading custom that had clung to her and borne her down, she had never wholly forgotten the inspiration that some of the wisest of her children, at the dawn of history, had given her in the Upanishads.

Their keen minds, ever restless and ever striving and exploring, had not sought refuge in blind dogma or grown complacent in the routine observance of dead forms or ritual and creed. They had demanded not a personal relief from suffering in the present or a place in a paradise to come, but light and understanding:
"Lead me from the unreal to the real, lead me from the darkness to light, lead me from the death to immortality".

In the most famous of the prayers recited daily even to-day by millions, the 'GAYATRI MANTRA' the call is for knowledge, for enlightenment.

(2) The Variety and Unity of India: With such background as legacy, Nehru expressed his cherished dream to see a unified India despite multiple ethnic diversities with differing religious beliefs that were embraced by its multitude populace as expressed in his work, the 'Discovery of India'2 . This book is his last major work wherein he sets out to discover his own country.

Coverage of the book ranges from the earliest days of Indian history to the dawn of independence. This survey provides clear interpretations of history and the complexity of contemporary problems as revealed through the mind and personality of one of the noble sons of India whose importance in the framing of policies is as ever more relevant in contemporary India than before. Instance of his vision is found in that "The Pathan and the Tamil are two extreme examples, the others lie somewhere in between.

All of them have their distinctive features, all of them have still more the distinguishing mark of India.

It is fascinating to find how the Bengalis, the Marathas, the Gujaratis, the Tamils, the Andhras, the Oriyas, the Assamese, the Canarese, the Malayalis, the Sindhis, the Punjabis, the Pathans, the Kashmiris, the Rajputs, and the great central block comprising the Hindustani-speaking people, have retained their peculiar characteristics for hundreds of years, have still more or less the same virtues and failings of which old tradition or record tells us, and yet have been throughout these ages distinctively Indian, with the same national heritage and the same set of moral and mental qualities.

There was something living and dynamic about this heritage which showed itself in ways of living and a philosophical attitude to life and its problems. Ancient India, like ancient China, was a world in itself, a culture and a civilization, which gave shape to all things.

To be continued ......

* Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on December 01 2019.

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