INDIRA GANDHI by Pupul Jayakar

INDIRA GANDHI

An Intimate Biography
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An intimate friend of Indira Gandhi's offers an eloquent, revealing, and balanced look at the private and public lives of India's longtime leader. Granddaughter of anti-British patriot Motilal Nehru and daughter of Jawarharlal Nehru, Gandhi (1917-84) was born to Indian politics. Relying on taped interviews, as well as on her own memories and contemporary diaries and correspondence, Jayakar (Krishnamurti, 1986--not reviewed) draws the young Gandhi as proud, withdrawn, and lonely, but tremendously ambitious. Indira married Feroze Gandhi (no relation to the Mahatma) in 1942, and threw herself into the activities of the Indian National Congress, assisting her father in organizing resistance to British rule until independence came in 1948. When Nehru was elected PM, Gandhi devoted herself to Congress Party activities and world travel--with the intense strain of her political career eventually causing her marriage to unravel and her relationship with her sons Rajiv and Sanjay to suffer. Upon her father's death in 1964, Gandhi became a member of the cabinet of the new PM, Lal Shastri, succeeding him when he died two years later. As PM, Gandhi pursued a path of modernization, even socialism, as she attempted to rid Indian society of its ancient ways; she also wrangled with China, Pakistan, the Soviet Union, and the US over territorial and other issues. Jayakar criticizes Gandhi about the 1975 Emergency--during which the PM suspended democracy and imposed censorship--calling it her ``monumental error.'' But she's sympathetic in describing Gandhi's 1977 electoral defeat, her brief imprisonment in 1978, and her grief at Sanjay's death in a plane crash. In 1980, Gandhi reassumed office as PM and sought to heal India's deep cultural divisions at the same time that she became a leader of the nonaligned nations. In 1984, she was murdered by a Sikh bodyguard. An absorbing portrait of a complex, troubled woman who was driven by both idealism and ambition, and who both personified and threatened the ideal of Indian democracy. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42479-2
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993




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