Saturday, May 8, 2010

The man behind the ghost

Book release functions tend to be about the living, the famous, and the soon-to-be-famous. Liquor flows freely. Many come not to listen, but to be seen, and hopefully to be photographed. But recently in Bangalore I attended a different kind of book release. For one thing, it was held in the morning. For another, it offered coffee and upma before the event, rather than whisky and chicken sandwiches afterwards. For a third, the author was dead. For a fourth, although the book was undoubtedly written by him, he had no intention of having it published.

This posthumous publication was the prison diary of a 19-year-old resident of Mysore who had been arrested for his role in the Quit India movement of 1942. The diarist was H.Y. Sharada Prasad, who was then a student leader in Maharaja’s College, Mysore, but who in later life became the press adviser to, and speechwriter for, successive prime ministers. In his native Karnataka there has always been an ambivalence about the public career of Sharada Prasad. To be sure, Indira Gandhi’s speeches were undoubtedly more literate — not to say literary — because of the work he put into them. The prime minister’s office would also have been a more humane place for his presence — among the sycophants and intriguers, at least here was one honest, decent, upright and always patriotic man. Still, among his many friends in Bangalore and Mysore there persisted the feeling that he, and we, would have been better off had he written books and essays under his own name. After his retirement, he wrote a most readable column in The Asian Age. But by now he was too old to have the energy to write full-length books.

Full report here Telegraph

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