Say hello to... Sahgal

Born into the first family that led India to independence, here’s an author whose writings revealed her fearless vision.

Updated - November 17, 2021 05:19 am IST

Published - February 05, 2015 04:00 pm IST

Nayantara Sahgal. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Nayantara Sahgal. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Nayantara Sahgal was born in the Nehru family. Her mother, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, was India’s first Ambassador to the United Nations. Her uncle Jawaharlal was a freedom fighter even as early as in 1927, the year she was born. When she was younger, Nayantara Sahgal went with Gandhiji as he went to deliver speeches. She watched her first cousin Indira Gandhi become the third Prime Minister of India.

Power of writing

She grew up surrounded by national leaders and heard them discuss ways to win independence for India. From these close quarters she saw India win freedom; become a non-aligned, socialist country and a world power. She learned her history lessons on India by participating in historical events.

Later, she became a writer. She wrote about Jawaharlal Nehru. She wrote about India. She was not afraid to point out if something was wrong. She wrote repeatedly that the Emergency in India in 1975 should be removed. Her appointment as India’s Ambassador to Italy was cancelled, she was warned, but she was not afraid. Her political writings include The Freedom Movement in India and Indira Gandhi/Her Road to Power and a collection of essays titled Point of View: a personal response to life, literature and politics.

She also wrote wonderful novels. Mistaken Identity, In Rich Like Us and Prison and Chocolate Cake , are some of her books.

Nayantara Sahgal was one of the earliest women writers. She is admired for her effort to protect our freedom to speak, enjoy civil rights.


1985 - Sinclair Prize (Britain) for fiction.

1986- Sahitya Akademi Award

1987 - Commonwealth Writers Award (Eurasia)

1981-82- Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, Washington.

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