“The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar

While there is so much written ( including many books) about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, respectfully called the ” Mahatma ” and the “Father of the Nation”, relatively less is known about his wife, Kastur. We get glimpses of the life of Kasturba Gandhi (1869-1944 ) through a recent book titled, “The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar.

Born Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia, in a wealthy family in Porbandar, in then British India, she was ( as was common in those days) married off at the young of 14. The bridegroom, who was a year younger than her, was Mohandas Gandhi. They remained man and wife for over 60 years and had five sons. The first son died shortly after his birth, but the others Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas, and Devdas outlived her. As the book reveals, quite often in their lives there was tension in the family because of the way Gandhi wanted the boys to be brought up. He had his own ideas of the kind of education they should have and the principles and life style they should follow, which was irksome to them and to Kasturba at times. The fact that the eldest surviving boy, Harilal became totally wayward was a direct result of the frequent conflicts he had with his father. The mother was torn between the two all her life.

Kasturba played a major role in Gandhi’s life and he could not have asked for a more suitable or devoted wife. While the world admired Gandhi for his deeds, the book describes the difficulties faced by his wife and children while he sought to conquer his inner desires and lead a life according to his own tastes and choices.

It was clever of Ms Adhar to have written the book in the first person singular as Ba. This has been done brilliantly. We can therefore see things through Kastur’s eyes, first as a teen aged bride, then as a young mother, and later as the revered mother or Ba as she was called  universally. The flip side is that since it is established that Ba had not penned her autobiography ( she was barely educated, in any case) the very title of the book is questionable.

It is a good read though and is well written. You will enjoy it, if like me, you are fond of Indian history, and biographies. The book is full of detail of the lives of the Gandhi family over many decades. It even goes beyond Ba’s death in 1944 to the time when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948. I feel that some notes of what became of the sons could have been added in the post script.

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“A German Officer in Occupied Paris: The War Journals” by Ernst Junger

I saw this book in NetGalley and jumped at it being an avid reader of military history. I expected it to be an interesting account of the Second World War as seen through the eyes of a German Officer. I thought it would have stirring accounts of pitched battles, and stories of intrigue, bravery and sacrifice, although as seen from the perspective of the Germans ( read: Nazis). I could not have been more off the mark. The wrong expectation was because I had, at that time, no idea who Ernst Junger was.

It turns out that he had fought in the First World War with distinction and his book, “Storm of Steel” still remains one of the best accounts of the bloody battles in the trenches from 1914-1918. Later it appears he did not join the Nazis though they appealed to him many times to join their emerging organisation. He remained aloof from the Nazis and it would appear that in later years, he did indeed privately wage war against them although he was on the outer fringes of the plot to assassinate Hitler. Continue reading ““A German Officer in Occupied Paris: The War Journals” by Ernst Junger”

“Restless: Chronicles of a Policeman” by Dr V. R. Sampath IPS

I must admit that I found it rather difficult to write a review of “Restless: Chronicles of a Policeman” by Dr V R Sampath IPS (Retd). On reflection, I think the difficulty was in distinguishing between Dr Sampath the person and the book he wrote. From what one gathers from the book, Dr Sampath is an admirable and talented individual. He comes across as being honest, upright and with a big need to satiate his inborn curiosity to learn new things. I particularly liked his message that we need to constantly re – invent ourselves in order to survive, if not flourish in a fast changing world. This message has huge impact as most people tend to become complacent with their successes. Consequently they feel all at sea when the world around them changes and makes their skills redundant.

This message has been exemplified by the author in his own life as he has transformed himself with the passage of time. As far as career is concerned, he started work in a bank then was selected to India’s prestigious Indian Police Service where he served with distinction for 25 years . Most of his batchmates would have stayed on in the Police Service and retired, but Sampath being restless left the service at the peak of his career. He still had a decade of service left before the age of retirement. He joined India’s private sector businesses and held important positions there, working with some of the country’s top most industrialists like the Ambanis and the Adanis, to name a few. He then left the world of business, to begin all over again as a student when he enrolled for the MFA program in Creative Writing in the United States. Of course, the fact that both his sons were well settled in the United States contributed, I would imagine, to this decision.

The book itself is in two parts, the first half ” Mechanical Life & Awakening” deals with his career as mentioned briefly above. The chronicles of a policeman were not as exciting as I imagined they would be. There are descriptions of waiting for cadre allotments, transfers, postings and the like but not too many incidents about his experiences as a top cop. The few that have been described have been very well written which leads me to believe that instead of the book being equally divided in two parts, I would have preferred if the book was 75-80 % about his policing days and 20-25 % about his explorations of life, for the many like me who are less spiritually inclined. He could later have written a separate book built on Part 2 of this book. Sir, by the way, as a child you read Erle Stanley Gardner and not Perry Mason.

The second part is titled,  “Exploration, Expansion and Integration.” As you will appreciate, this lifetime of diverse experiences enabled Dr Sampath  to think deeply of life and what it means in its entirety. Being of a scholarly and spiritual bent of mind, he did not rest content with his first Ph.D  ( about Airline Security) in India. He is currently working towards the Master’s degree in Fine Arts specialising in Creative Writing and subsequent PhD in Consciousness Studies at School of Consciousness and Transformation at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He summarizes the essence of his life experiences in one sentence: ” Life is accidental and random in occurring, unless your consciousness level is high enough to neutralise them.”

Dr Sampath said he, all through his life and career held on to his identity which has four parts. In his own words, he says, ” first and foremost , I am a Hindu; second, I am a Tamilzhan, third , I am a Brahmin; and fourth I am a Srivaishnavan. I am aware that all four have been under siege for hundreds of years. I am confident that one day, all of them would triumph.” Hats off to you, Sir.

All in all, if you are spiritually inclined and would like to explore what life means you would love this book. If not, the second part could be heavy reading as it needs concentrated attention as it has vast amounts of information and insight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friendly Advice to Would Be Writers

A good friend whom I have known for many decades now has decided to write a book. This is not on any management subject nor is it a work of fiction. What makes this one different from books that most people say they will write is that his book is about a personal tragedy that took place in his life a couple of years ago. His daughter whom he was very fond of passed away when she was only in her early 30s. She had been through an unsuccessful love marriage a few years ago. This tragic event prompted him to write a book on her life as seen through his eyes as her father.  Continue reading “Friendly Advice to Would Be Writers”

“Tiffin” by Rukmini Srinivas

Writing a story of a large family that starts in 1892 till the present day is in itself a huge challenge. To write about the wonderful food which you have cooked, eaten, and enjoyed over the decades is again an incredibly challenging task. Added to this, you need to choose the most memorable from amongst a long list and carefully write their recipes while catering to an international audience. Mrs. Rukmini Srinivas surprises us by doing all this and doing it with finesse and style in her semi-autobiographical book, “Tiffin” described as “Memories and Recipes of Indian Vegetarian Food.” I loved  this book and would commend it to anyone fond of family stories and who look for a bunch of amazing recipes mainly from the South of India.

Continue reading ““Tiffin” by Rukmini Srinivas”

“Inside IB and RAW” by K. Sankaran Nair

I just completed “Inside IB and RAW” by K. Sankaran Nair, the former Head of India’s external intelligence agency RAW and a former Indian High Commissioner to Singapore. I grabbed this book with eager anticipation as I love reading about spies and the like and I thought Sankaran Nair was best qualified to write about it considering the title of the book. Continue reading ““Inside IB and RAW” by K. Sankaran Nair”