INDIRA GANDHI: Letters to an American Friend 1950-1984 by Indira Gandhi

INDIRA GANDHI: Letters to an American Friend 1950-1984

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In the eyes of many Westerners, Gandhi's star felt into eclipse in 1975, when she declared an unprecedented state of internal emergency in India, suspended civil liberties, and jailed her political opponents. Her reputation as a closet tyrant grew more entrenched in 1984 when she suppressed the Sikhs in their holy city of Amritsar--an act of violence that rebounded in her own assassination several months later. This rather lightweight collection of letters serves to humanize the Iron Lady with a bit of lipstick, a bohemian's beret, and a wounded heart, as it reveals her personal longings, fears, and frustrations. Norman and Gandhi first met in 1949 and hit it off immediately. Gandhi's letters to her new friend, an American writer and photographer, begin with schoolgirlish gushings about movies, bracelets, children. Very quickly, however, the nightmare aspects of power rear up: Gandhi complains repeatedly about all the strains of being the daughter of Prime Minister Nehru, and--15 years later--of being PM herself. Her whirlwind life brought her into contact with many famous names, but there are no subtle psychological portraits here; Gandhi seemed content merely to note that she met Buck-minster Fuller one day, William Rogers another (and found each appealing). Nor does she delve into the dark machinations of politics. Far more revelatory, although scarcely earth-shattering, are her private asides: her complaints that elastic bras are uncomfortable in hot weather, her longing to meet American avant-garde artists and writers, her delight in the kitchen gadgets at Macy's, her wish to beautify her nose with plastic surgery. Grimmer emotions emerge, too, above all her profound grief at the deaths of her husband and son. If nothing else, these letters remind us that world leaders have much the same desires and needs as the rest of us. A touching tribute from a steadfast friend: a collection of letters filled with tea-room gossip, good wishes, and little else.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1985
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich