Letters written half a century ago continue to have relevance in "Jammu and Kashmir 1949-64"
`Jammu and Kashmir 1949-64', edited by Jawaid Alam, is a collection of around 200 letters which re-create history on a personal level. The correspondence between Jawaharlal Nehru and Karan Singh offers an insight into their personal and political lives. The Prime Minister of a country serves as a mentor for an 18-year-old boy at the helm of his state. The Penguin Viking book was released at an illustrious event at the India International Centre in New Delhi recently. UN Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor and established actor Roshan Seth read extracts, while diplomat and author Pavan K. Varma and Ravi Singh, Editor-in-Chief, Penguin, also spoke on the occasion. Varma said the book was important for various reasons. It evokes the lost art of letter writing, in an age of cryptic writing. It gives insight into the evolving situation of Kashmir and provides important archival material. The book is about negotiating a friendship between an eager young man and the Prime Minister, through tempestuous times. Former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Karan Singh joked on the occasion, "Re-reading the letters I'm astounded at my own audacity!" He confessed that his letters often sound like he's proclaiming from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Singh basked in memories while Tharoor and Seth read extracts.
Of ballets and mishaps
The book, while dealing with serious political and ideological questions, also entertains with accounts of Russian ballets and humorous mishaps. Singh also mentioned that his father clearly disapproved of his relationship with Nehru due to their ideological differences. He waited this long to publish the letters to avoid problems with copyright. Asked if his vision for Jammu and Kashmir had been fulfilled, Singh replied with a laugh, "Not exactly." Speaking about the book, Tharoor said it resonates with a contemporary relevance as it could apply to his generation and even to his children's generation. Tharoor described the footnotes, which contextualise every person, place and incident, as "very effective". A biographer of Nehru himself, Tharoor said that this book confirmed his notions of Nehru as a very generous and intelligent man. While in India, Indian writings in English receive much hype and fanfare, was there the same excitement about it outside India? Finger-combing his hair back, Tharoor replied that at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair he was pleased at the interest not just in Indian English writing but also the interest in the vernaculars. NANDINI NAIR