A memoir of a son of his highly talented and highly committed parents!

Parental failures at the higher levels?
Yes, this book is a painful reminder of this truth?

I like to ask after reading this otherwise deeply moving, deeply touching memoir of a son of his very highly talented and committed parents.

The later half of the book brings out otherwise a very disappointing life of Minoo Masani and his talented wife, Shakuntala Masani, both born in riches and brought up so privileged a life and yet what they encounted in life?

This part of their life grows to prove to be rather very tragic and very heart-breaking.

Masani rose to become the Leader of Opposition in Parliament under Pandit Nehru.

Masani, a well-off Parsi who counted among his friends, no less than JRD Tata. Shakuntala, born to Sir J.P. Srivatsava, the then Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council at the time of Independence. She fell for Masani when he was already twice married.

She was no less talented, she was beautiful and here are extracts from letters from the parents left behind and Zareer quotes the lines, some of the pieces rise to sheer poetic beauties! The one page 222 can be prescribed in every school textbook.

It is a tribute to a husband by a wife who had seen life at the two ends, high and depth.

The one lasting lingering thought, after reading through this remarkably well-written book, Zareer himself is a good writer of English prose; the parents took to their political careers too seriously. India under Nehru might have been a great place (as it really was).But India under Indira Gandhi proved to a great disaster for too many good and great people.

This book proves this thesis.

Both the players, Minoo Masani and Shakuntala paid dearly for taking politics seriously. It is not like our days now. Even now it is already dirty. But under Indira Gandhi it, politics, was cruel and vengeful and Mrs.Gandhi played it to the hilt, so to say.

The end of their lives, they died ripe in age, Minoo at 92, Shakuntala at late Seventies, brings out tears, the book rises to the level of an epic in prose.

One parting word. Zareer must write no more about his British raj themes, he should write on his grandparents from both the sides of the families.

He should take up some grand themes of what Indians gained and lost for their British raj rule.

Zareer has a great duty to perform to the country.
Name of the Book: And All Is Said
Memoir of a Home Divided
By Zareer Masani
Pages 236, Penguin, 2012

This was a painful book to read and digest! Though I was eagerly waiting for this book ever since I read the reviews in popular magazines, when I got it I read it at a stretch for the subjects were all known names and also I have some personal interactions with the other characters who flip through the pages, including Indira Gandhi, her own son, Rajiv and the current famous daughter in law, Sonia Gandhi.

In fact, there is a quotation that had been used by other reviewers for much effect. It is on page 133 where the late Shakuntala Masani, wife of the still more famous Masani, the Minoo Masani of the Swatantra Party founder, the one time Communist or Socialist turned extreme rightwing Swatantra activist talks of Sonia Gandhi-Rajiv marriage.

Shakuntala writes to son:”Yesterday there was reception; we went to Mrs.Pandit’s reception for Rajiv Gandhi and his Italian wife.”I can’t tell you how dim the girl is, a she comes from a working class family. I really don’t know what he saw in her”(page 133).

And much more significant, though this book doesn’t do justice to the man, the father of the writer, Minoo Masani’s greater days and glories when he functioned as the Leader of Opposition in parliament when Nehru was the Prime Minister.

In fact, the book, as I expected doesn’t do much justice to the lives of the two famed names, two very competent an if I can say, great patriots and nationalists, they loved India and in fact they sacrificed their lives and great many opportunities to live a high life for the sake of pursuing what they thought were their great duties to society and the nation and the world.

Minoo Masami was born in wealth and privileges, as a prominent member of the Parsi family of then Mumbai. Likewise, his wife Shakuntala was born as the privileged daughter of the then Sir J.P.Srivatsava, a member of the Viceroy Executive Council, a mill-owner and other wealth and he was almost the opposite of the  other great UP leader, Motilal Nehru. Sir J.P. was all out British toady, if we can say so in this time and age, he was all for the British rule to survive and when Independence came he was still a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council in charge of food portfolio and Mino Masani. As an young MP was crossing swords with his unsuspected future father in law.

Such is the fate life plays with peoples’ destinies.

Now, Minoo Masani was twice married when he met Shakuntala and she fell in love and the marriage was registered in the then Ceylon and it was a happy marriage by all accounts.

Masani moved in high society, he was very close to ,of all persons of the then British Bombay, he was close friend of JRD Tata and the friendship with Jeh, as he was affectionately called, for both Minoo and Shakuntala took some bizarre turns. She, as her son says here, was too sensitive to finer feelings, she was raised in such affluence, good education, Kathak classical dance and an appreciation of the Indian arts and crafts she was easily a centre of attraction for some of the very rich and powerful personalities, if the account of her son is taken at its face value.

Whatever it was, here the book is not about great issues or great personalities. It is a book about the failures of lives of great people, the father with all his political ideological  convictions and commitments to high moral principles, is seen here as a weak-willed man of not so deep a person. May be that is the one critical message of this book, Minoo Masani, I remember his book once, on India was published by OUP, for Indian students, youngsters and it became a classic, right?

Is he the very same man? Is her the very same Socialist ideologue?
Is he the man who joined with Rajaji to launch his Swatantra party and yet he didn’t last long in any of his political pursuits long enough to create and leave and impact?

So too I was saddened to see the wife, Shakuntala with so much personal accomplishments couldn’t sustain a relationship, family life and the family ties of a well-educated Indian household?

Here is what I wanted to say after I read the book.
Here a great failure is portrayed. A portrayal of a breakdown of a family at the top reach of the Indian society.

Shakuntala was moving in the top social circles. She lived in New Delhi as the wife of the Leader of Opposition in Nehru’s times and she must have studied and understood how life whirls around in Delhi.
When Indira Gandhi came along, Minoo Masani turned her critical and one can very well imagine what such a stand would bring forth.
He lost an election and the family, husband and wife fell apart? Yes, it is a cruel irony of sorts.

I read Zareer Masani’s book on Indira Gandhi in the 1970s when I was also living in Delhi and working at the AICC under Atulya Ghosh and Kamaraj.

In fact, I read Zareer Masani’s book at the home of my another Oxford friend, Rudolf De Mello, who was incidentally the President of the Indian Youth Congress and I was writing the campaign pamphlets for the 1967 General Elections at the AICC. So, every day we, myself and Rudolf would meet and discuss politics and many other things.
At that point of time I didn’t know much about Minoo Masani’s political strengths nor about Zareer Masani’s own qualifications.
But now, I see he was doing things in the background of his parents’ politics.

Masani the senior was out of Delhi and Shakuntala was left to live back in Delhi and only at this point she tries to get a “job” and the rest of the book centers around how she met with success and much neglect and the mother-son duo’s correspondence is much about this struggle to earn money to live in Delhi and how much her expectations from Mrs.Gandhi didn’t fructify.

One should imagine Mrs.Gandhi’s own sense of revenge etc. I am sure Mrs.Gandhi wouldn’t have relished Zareer’s book on her, as much as I am now reminded of Do Moreaes (another of my Oxford friend) whose book too on Mrs.Gandhi, she didn’t relish and she almost banned him from then onwards.

Now, in short, I feel sad the marriage of Minoo and Shakuntala broker up and the son, now I find turned a gay and in Indian parental lingo, a wreck?

I have known so many Indian families, all well-educated, well-connected, and wealthy even by ordinary standards. I have known so many of these families. Some of them have been my Oxford day’s friends. But alas! Some of the most gifted of my friends couldn’t live together their families broke up. I feel often distressed.

What is wrong with our Indo-British encounters?
What we gain by our British education?

How that Western education impacts our own Indian women?
Why such gifted men proved to be such disastrous failures?

I want parents of the present day affluence to ponder over some of these questions.

To talk of parental responsibilities seems a bit granny talk, right?
And yet, I like to as: dont the parents have some role in seeing through the lives of their sons and daughters?

I stop with these rather unstructured questions!

2 Thoughts on “Deeply moving, deeply touching!

  1. Thank you.

  2. Thank you

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