Dev Anand’s  minor classic

Dev Anand can write such English with literary merit? Spring comes to Bollywood!
Dev Anand’s “Romancing with Life”  is a minor literary classic!

Mr. Sunil Dutt and Mrs.Nargis Dutt life stories poignant and deeply moving One, an  autobiography. The other, a loving portrait of a famous film couple. Together they bring back a lost spring time,the golden days of theBollywood cinema.When,the actors were genuine super heroes and actresses were the reigning queens.The film was always a creative work and we see in the pages of the 400 and odd pages of Dev Anand’s beautifully-written,yes, he is a B.A. Hons from the Government College,Lahore, when that college prided itself as the best east of Suez.

Yes,it produced the higher class of ICS officers and others who went on to shape society and much else.’Dev Saab’as he is called by the industry,for he had lived through all his 84 years as a youngish man of handsone features who could speak impeccable English with proper accent and there are no such highly educated persons,then or now in the tinself town.So,the autobiography comes as a great surprise,it commands one’s attention,not just the usual attention but an intellectual and even artistic curiosity as well.Here is a mind that is optimistic all times,young in attitudes,never say die spirit and what a life it has been! His story reads like any other rag to riches as Sunil Dutt and countless other  artists who ran away to Mumbai and made it big.

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What price earthly glory ! No man is immortal!
An autobiographical odyssey? Not quite!Here are certain random thoughts on why some choose to write autobiographies,while more prominent leaders don’t do the same?

An intriguing question?Yes,if you look beyond the superficial writings most autobiographies and biographies are.Some autobiographies are just ego trips.Some others,the ones often by living politicians are just sponsored or ghost-written ones are displays of delusions of grandeur,or patent twists of facts and events to suit one’s illusions of greatness.
The point is that not all autobiographies are truths in the conventional sense.Even the Gandhi autobiography,”An Experiment with Truth” would these days invite some amount of scepticism and demand the more than conventional loyalty to the Mahatma.
One very important development nowadays is the growth of new technologies and new promotional weapons.Thus,organised publicity also helps to sustain certain autobiographies like those of Gandhi and Nehru.For Gandhi,there is the Navajivan Press and for Nehru,the Nehru Memorial Trust.Organised promotion and for others systematic promotion through print and television media and now the latest,the Internet,are all powerful forces for publicity.
So,it is becoming more and more difficult to judge the longevity of the many of the books ,autobiographies and biographies.But one thing is sure.Whatever may be the current popularity and the boom in sales of copies,it is no sure guide to the authentic quality of the books.
Gandhi’s own autobiography when it was first published in 1927(English translation edition),the print order was 6,000.The second edition was only in 1940.Print edition was 5,000 copies.The third edition was in 1945,print order,again,5,000 copies.In the same year in December,another print order,this time,it was 10,000 copies.In all these editions you see the young student Gandhi in his school,two photos and two photos in England and as a barrister.Gandhi hasn’t yet become yet a Mahatma or not yet widely seen as Mahatma which we have come to see in later years.
The point here is that sometimes,a figure gets a build-up as an icon,all of a sudden thanks to some historic circumstances.For Gandhi this icon image came also slowly.We should also remember that at that point of time there were other icons hovering on the horizon.Nehru,Nethaji,Jinnah and Ambedkar.They were equally formidable and also given to much mutual jealousy and even hatred in the case of one or two!
So,while writing autobiographies we have to keep in mind at what stage in their lives the writers start this self-examination.Many do so for of course articulating their thoughts on a wide variety of subjects,to understand the world and assess their own place in it.For others,more so in recent times,and also more in the case of politicians or holders of high offices,the autobiographies,in my opinion,seem largely contrived activities.Indira Gandhi also published one ,titled as”My Truth”.In recent times,the President,APJ Abdul Kalam published one and gave wide publicity!
So all autobiographies are not the same and all autobiographies or biographies also don’t tell the whole truth or truths!About the writers or about their own convictions!
We seem to be living in a sceptical age.So,there is a great need to clarify our own scepticisms and also define our own stands on several issues and personalities before we start reading and analysing their writings and their contents.

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Madras Legislative Council is perhaps the first legislative body set up in India in the then Madras Presidency. So it has a enviable pedigree and commanded great prestige and attracted great talents. I was elected when I was barely in my early thirties and perhaps one of the youngest members of the council ever elected through a keenly contested election. The major parties fielded their candidates and I won as an independent candidate.

Each generation learns to study, learn and like to remember certain historic moments or some individuals whom that generation takes as extra-ordinary individuals. They may be leaders, leaders of politics or society or in some significant ways some individuals who in the short run might have had immense impact on that generation. However in the longer -term, historically significant longer period some other individuals emerge to make the most momentous landmark individuals. That is how immediately significant individuals fade away and others like writers or poets come to decide the contours of an age. Who would have imagined that hopeless individuals like Rousseau or the virtually fleeing Voltaire would replace all the glitter and glamour of the royal courts of their times to give mankind a new definition and a new meaning to lives even in our own times?

So, here we read a life and an obscure unlettered village lady’s life that in due course went on to acquire larger than life dimensions. She might not be the mother of the great Franklin D.Roosevelt whose mother from the very start felt convinced that her son is going to become a great man and so she collected all bits of papers and memorabilia as treasures for posterity. She was not wrong. Or, an ambitious Motilal Nehru who started in a humble way and as he prepared himself for service under the Mughals by learning Arabic and Persian, the basic requirements, went on to acquire name and fame and then he did rightly aspire still higher things for his only son.

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They defined the truth and stood up for wisdom!

There were a heady mix of  great minds,in several  disciplines. Of course, philosophers came first and they were in good number,some of the top names who still dominate the world thought. Then came the political and social philosophers, it was time when politics took a back seat with the Second World War over and the mood with Hitler vanquished and Stalin looming large with the Kruschev disclosures started making disturbing impact on the Marxist-Communist camps,it was social theories, the questions about our freedoms, individual freedoms that took  centre-stage.

Economists were very much at the forefront of policy making and some of the basic economic theories were set out and tested, in the post-Keynesian time with some of the living Keynesians like Sir Roy Harrod (who taught me)and Nicholas Kaldor evolving new Keynesian solutions to the changed world. Kaldor was adviser to the Indian government and Harrod came out with what was called then Harrod-Dommar dynamic economics,a new development model.

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