On the 14th of November

By Aditya Dev Sood

One monsoon afternoon, in the days when I had not yet begun shaving the soupstain on my upper lip, I was clambering around my parent’s attic, when I came upon a box of books, left with us, by another family, now gone overseas. Inside I found An Autobiography and The Discovery of India, penned by a familiar figure, whom I had not known, really, to be a writer. It is a hard and nice thing to write of oneself, Nehru began, in a lilting prose whose musicality intoxicated me, as if I were acquiring a new faculty, or power of mind, which in fact I was.

In these liberalized times it is hard to find much praise for the man who built the foundations of India’s policies of non-alignment and envisioned India’s planned economy from the commanding heights of the public sector. Nehru was the very paradigm of a top-down innovator, someone who brought change about with a grand and synthetic vision for how the many parts of the future might interconnect. Such men are often wrong, but they remain visionary.

Today the India International Trade Fair will open in Pragati Maidan, schools will celebrate Children’s Day, and the rituals of the nation will be transmitted, more or less, to another generation. For my part, I would like to mark the occasion by thinking of Nehru’s forgotten legacy as perhaps the world’s foremost socialist innovator, the architect of those crude concrete temples of modern India that were built by the country’s Public Works Department, upon which our current and future prosperity is now being built.

 

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