When the subject matter of the book and its author both are equally interesting, one is forced to run after it. I had read Vinod Mehta’s auto-biographical memoire The Lucknow Boy almost immediately after it was made available in the market following its publication. But unlike Sobha De, I found it quite interesting, particularly Mehta’s penetrating analysis of the decay of feudal culture at his hometown, Lucknow, and the decline of Imperial- British culture at London was amazing. It is in that book I came to know that he has authored a couple of other books–one on Meena Kumari and another on Sanjay Gandhi. Before I read The Lucknow Boy, I had heard about Mehta in the journalistic circle of Delhi and knew him as a successful editor at many fronts including the one he is heading right now.
Mehta’s The Sanjay Story was published in 1978, immediately after the draconian Emergency rule of Mrs. Indira Gandhi when Sanjay Gandhi had emerged as a distinct power centre, apart from her mother. A couple of Sanjay’s associates in the Congress during Emergency are still holding prominent position in the country, some have been sidelined and others have vanished in course of time. Any book on ‘Indian Emergency’ has to carry story of Sanjay Gandhi. There are many who blame Sanjay Gandhi for the atrocities during Emergency, some think that his wish to install Maruti was also one important reason for the imposition of draconian rule. Vinod Mehta offers a different explanation, “My own view is that while Sanjay might have greatly favoured a national situation in which he was overlord, and while Mrs. Gandhi was undoubtedly keen in protecting her son from public and Parliament wrath, it is political nonsense to place the blame for June 25, 1975, on the door of Maruti. What Mrs Gandhi was doing on that day was not protecting her son but herself. Would there have been an Emergency without Jagmohan, Sinha and vacation judge Iyer?”
A large number of books have been written on Nehru-Gandhi family covering various events and issues. This is but natural as the elite family has produced three Prime Ministers of India, while other members have been important national entities. The books written on them mention some common events, anecdotes and instances. Mehta’s effort is distinctly refreshing as it provides some information about the dynasty, unheard of so far. Writing about Pandit Nehru’s wife he informs us: “Twenty-one months after the marriage, Kamala produced first and her only child (there was another birth but the baby, a boy, lived only two days).” According to Mehta, this was revealed by Ruskin Bond in his book on Nehru commissioned by Dr Karan Singh for the Nehru Trust, which was subsequently deleted. This and several other stories about the family makes the book unique, interesting, informative and everlasting. The second edition of the book after the gap of more than three decades is not without reason.
By PC Singh