Indira Gandhi
Leader / Persona

Indira Gandhi: A Life In Books

Indira Gandhi remained India’s Prime Minister for 16 years. Her charisma made for a cult following which often resulted in extremities. To measure her presence in the knot of time, we rediscover her through books written on her over the years.

When it comes to Indira Gandhi, what’s the first thing that registers in your mind? 1971 victory over Pakistan? Emergency years 1975-77? Operation Blue Star? A portrait of her sitting with Pandit Nehru? or a wide-angle shot of her assimilating in a large crowd in a simple sari and a peculiar hairdo?

There are many ways to remember the enigma that Indira Gandhi was, or still is, in some sense. Just like our young nation at 73, Indira too went through many phases in her life. Growing up heavily influenced by the freedom fighters in Prayagraj, Indira Gandhi went through various ups and downs as Pandit Nehru frequented prison. As her formative years were filled with the hustle of freedom, it was her turn to settle into a new normal once Pandit Nehru became India’s first prime minister. She saw the struggles of a young nation from up close. Pandit Nehru opened up to her on almost every issue and groomed her well for her future.

Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister is often seen in two different lights. Initially mellow later confrontational, her role in defining India’s destiny has been absolute and hailed by everyone. But the contemporary, rather crude, political discourse doesn’t leave much space for nuances. Nowadays, people are either this or that.

So we bring you a list of books to refer to know Indira Gandhi better. Here we go:

Indira Gandhi, Child of Politics

This book by Sreelata Menon traces Indira Gandhi’s evolution from her childhood to becoming a political leader. This Puffin book consists of fun trivia and anecdotes that make the reading all the more fun. It’s also filled with little-known facts about Indira Gandhi’s life.

It’s a must-have for children and especially for school libraries.

Indira Gandhi, A Biography

Written under the watchful gaze of its subject, this book by Pupul Jayakar peels away the many personalities of Mrs Gandhi until it reaches the core. In many ways, it’s a political biography but also goes at length to reveals the complex personality of Indira Gandhi—”her thoughts and feelings, her hates and prejudices, her insights and her faults, her loves and emotional entanglements.”

Full of interesting insights, Indira Gandhi: A Biography presents a mosaic of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable women.

Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi 

This biography, the first to be written by a non-partisan, Western woman, focuses on Indira Gandhi’s role as a female leader of men in one of the most chauvinistic, complex and politicised cultures in the world.

Comprehensive, yet also personal, Frank’s biography deals with power and how this often isolated woman handled it, alongside her family and her emotional life.

Indira Gandhi: The Story of a Leader

Rediscovered through the perspective of a Thirteen-year-old girl, this book goes on to talk about a young Indira Gandhi. Written in the first person, the research of the young protagonist leads her to discover the extraordinary story of a shy young girl who grew up to become a bold and forceful leader. Indira Gandhi was the country’s third prime minister, the only woman to ever reach that position. A remarkable and controversial figure, she left her mark on modern India in a way that few men ever did.

Indira Gandhi, Tryst With Power

Nayantara Sahgal`s personal knowledge of her cousin comes shining forth in this book. The letters exchanged between Nehru and her mother, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, make for an unusually penetrating political and psychological portrait.

This book offers unparalleled insight into the personal life and political life of Indira Gandhi as the author is her own cousin. Owing to this close family link, the book is filled with accounts that could only be told by a family member who knew the Nehru family for a long time.

Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature

The politician-scholar Jairam Ramesh weaves a personal, political and environmental history that narrates the staunchly human story of Indira Gandhi, the naturalist. Jairam Ramesh tells us why and how she came to make a private passion a public calling; how her views on the environment remained steadfast even as her political and economic stances changed; how her friendships with conservationists led to far-reaching decisions to preserve India’s biodiversity; how she urged, cajoled and persuaded her colleagues as she took significant decisions particularly regarding forests and wildlife; and how her own finely-developed instincts and beliefs resulted in landmark policies, programmes, initiatives, laws and institutions, that have endured. 

When it comes to scholarly works on the public figures in India, the reference material is often quite a lot. To mitigate the risk of getting lost in the swarm of documents or information, we have brought the general reader this list to understand the many aspects of the life of India’s third prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

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