Some years back, on holiday in Thailand, I intended to recuperate after finishing writing one book by spending days in a hammock on a beach, eating - lots, drinking - more, and reading - rather re-reading - one book: The Discovery of India.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Discovery_of_India The vacation turned out to be exactly what I needed and the only part of my plan that didn’t work out was that I didn’t end up re-reading as much as I intended to — blame the myriad charms of a comatose holiday. As our hammock days ended, in jest, I turned to my family and said that I could almost hear Pandit Nehru’s gentle rebuke: Beta, aap hamari kitaab nahin kholey?
Fast forward to yesterday when we were driving back from wind-blown Providence after witnessing a graduation — of my friend’s daughter who, in the manner of children we’ve seen grow up, is now a friend too. Sometime during the journey, hubby and I discussed the one defining statement that Brown University’s President made in her commencement address: Do what you love. We both agreed that while that was entirely valid, what was missing in that exhortation was that one essential element of any true love: labour.
How can you know what you love if you haven’t put in the labour that love demands?
Doubtful? Ask any parent or caregiver who raises a child. We love our children, but of course, yet is there a day when raising them — and Lord! we shall not even get into adolescence here when several WWs are resolved in one day, and largely because one party (the parent must always remember to be the adult in the relationship) — that parents are not tested? Yesterday, my friend teared up so often that we joked it was the stinging icy wind of New England. But when you have raised a mewling helpless infant to the day they toss their mortar boards gleefully into the air, you have scars which your children will never know. Until they become parents themselves. That is the circle of life. Labour - Love - Labour - Love…
Now we are living in an age where it has become easy and fashionable to denounce our past leaders, be it Obama in the US or Nehru in India. The current governments seem duty bound to diss those visionary leaders. They love being in the public eye — bespoke suits, grandiose rhetoric, social media glitz — not so much the labour of governance, it seems.
There is the fantasy of love and the reality of worthwhile achievement — Shakespeare well understood this when he wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost. As do our current politicians. Having little worthwhile achievement to show, they are rewriting Nehru’s Legacy via their frothing social media troll wagon. Anyone with a smidgen of historical knowledge knows the “contribution” the RSS and its right-wing cohorts made to the freedom of India — the most famous being the letters of apology Savarkar wrote begging the British for his own freedom, the country be damned.
As for Nehru, he was jailed so frequently by the British that he picked up gardening, often turning part of the prison yard into a flower garden with the help of fellow prisoners. Spinning was another activity he took up in jail. Indeed, the pale pink khaki silk saree that Indira Gandhi wore on her wedding was spun by him in jail. And while Savarkar was writing his mercy petitions, Nehru wrote The Discovery of India in jail in 1944 over five months, without the aid of the internet or any research assistants — it covered 1000 handwritten pages.
Labour - Love. Got it?
You raise a child, you got scars to show. You free a nation and work to ensure its freedom is sustained, you got scars to show. Of his 74 years of life, Pandit Nehru spent almost a decade shuttling between jails. As Prime Minister, he worked to the beat of Frost’s homily to love & labour: I have miles to go before I sleep…
Pandit Nehru died 54 years ago. But his words live on. You can read mercy petitions or you can read the The Discovery of India. Question is: are you willing to put in the labour for what you love?