I read “Indira” by Katherine Frank immediately after reading “Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, which tells the story of Mahabharata from the eyes of Draupadi. And later I read the biography of Mother Teresa by Navin Chawla. All the books in quick succession.
Three strong willed women with remarkably eventful lives.
“Indira” by Katherine Frank introduced me to her vulnerable side who is otherwise known to be strong, arrogant, adamant, and vengeful.
Instead of plainly chronicling the events in her life Frank’s endearing writing brings Indira alive, I could feel Indira’s fears, pains and upheaval, as if she voiced it herself.
Diagnosed at a young age, with a rare pulmonary tuberculosis in her lungs she spent most of her childhood in medical treatments which disrupted her education. The turbulence of Indian independence movement in which her father, Jawaharlal Nehru played a pivotal role, made her growing up years tense and lonely.
“Long periods of inactivity, illness, and a relentless urge to be of worth in the freedom struggle, in early childhood; frequent bouts of depression, triggered by solitude and loss of dear ones; estranged relationship with her philandering husband, Feroze Gandhi; perpetual emotional harassment by her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, on whom she doted blindly; petty domestic squabbles and frequent clashes with her daughter-in-law, Maneka Gandhi; and above all, increasing insecurity of being stripped of power in the political scene inherently dominated by men, all contributed to her taking some impulsive, erroneous decisions which had disastrous consequences.”
In her letter to Dorothy Norman, an American writer and activist, Indira writes
“Since earliest childhood I have been surrounded by exceptional people and have participated in exceptional events…The circumstances in which I passed my girlhood- both domestic and public spheres- were not easy. The world is a cruel place for the best of us and specially so for the sensitive.”
“I have felt like a bird in a very small cage, my wings hitting against the bars whichever way I move. The time has come for me to live my own life. What will it be? I don’t know at all. For the moment, I just want to be free…and find my own direction. The experience of being President of the Congress has been exhilarating at times, depressing at times, but certainly worthwhile. But…..I can only be warped & unhappy if I have to continue.”
I loved the way Frank gave a glimpse to the vulnerable side of a powerful leader who was once celebrated as, “India is Indira and Indira is India.”
I gifted this book to my dear friend Malavika. A few years back, Malavika reached out to me after seeing my TEDx video while she was pursuing her Masters in Public Health at LSHTM, in London. She then worked with NalandaWay briefly and then moved to Delhi to work with young people and their sexual/reproductive rights at IPPF.
A deeply introspective book, which gives you a glimpse into the mind of a woman.
#GiftABook #PayitForward 19/100