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Tribute in the thick of toil - Sonia unwraps new editions of Nehru's classics

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  • Published 14.08.04

New Delhi, Aug. 14: She refused to be Prime Minister and she campaigned for an election whose outcome surprised even her party. All through it, Sonia Gandhi burnt midnight oil to produce new editions of three classics by Jawaharlal Nehru.

This evening, she took the dais to present the new editions of An Autobiography, The Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History, published by Penguin Books India. What drove her, she said while releasing the books, was the passion that Nehru brought into his works, his “unencumbered celebration of India’s pluralism”.

“Jawaharlal Nehru’s seminal works are very much part of our contemporary social, political and literary history. He wrote one of these volumes as letters to Indira Gandhi to influence not just his daughter but several generations of Indians,” Sonia said.

Nehru dwelt at length on “the perilous politics of caste and religion, the struggle to conquer hunger and poverty”.

The Congress president has written the foreword for the books. She said Nehru’s selected works have run into 48 volumes and another 15 are to be published.

Nehru’s Autobiography, written between 1934 and 1935, is an account of the political awakening of India, the struggle for freedom from British rule and an exploration of what goes into the making of modern society.

The Discovery of India, written over five months when Nehru was jailed in Ahmadnagar Fort and a classic since it was first published in 1946, delves into India’s rich and complex past.

Glimpses of World History is a collection of a series of letters that Nehru sent to Indira Gandhi, written over 30 months from January 1931.

Addressing an audience that included Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, cabinet ministers, economists and diplomats at Jawahar Bhavan, Sonia said Nehru spent years incarcerated in prisons but that did not make him bitter.

“He had no bitterness. He was a statesman, a philosopher and a committed worker. He was proud and his was a pride free of arrogance, free of prejudice,” she said. Sonia recalled Nehru’s “passionate commitment to socialism and secularism and his liberal traditions”.

Nehru despised fundamentalism and authoritarianism. Although he fought against British rule, “Nehruji wanted India to imbibe the best that the colonial power had to offer in science and education,” Sonia said.

Actors Roshan Seth and Soha Ali Khan and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia read passages from the three books released this evening.

Earlier, Penguin Books India managing director Aveek Sarkar said: “It is important to recall today that despite his uncompromising nationalism, Nehru wrote all the three books in English.... He showed the world and especially those who jailed him that as an Indian, he was master of English, the ruler’s language. That mastery was a step short of the declaration of complete independence.”