|Politicians & Literature|
Meenakshi Natarajan | 39 | Madhya Pradesh
TO BEGIN WITH, Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, and Jawaharlal Nehru’s The Discovery of India had a profound effect on me. Gandhi’s struggle to understand himself and deal with his inner conflict — and the message he sends out to keep challenging one’s thoughts not only critically but also with passion — is truly inspiring.
Every book you read changes you, but some have a more lasting impact than others. I, for instance, was particularly inspired by Nehru; his writing is like poetic Sufiyana, and I look up to his way of functioning, which was based on the premise that our job is not to change others but to keep improving upon ourselves as individuals. That’s the lesson I take from Nehru’s book.
I don’t think a politician necessarily needs to read in order to learn more, because different people learn from different mediums. Reading is one form of learning, but I believe to learn is to read people. You learn when you meet poor farmers and understand their problems, you learn when you meet menial labourers, you learn when you talk to people from backward communities and different classes, and grasp their lifestyles, the challenges they face and how they strive to overcome them.
Other than that, one can also learn from movies that move and impact people greatly. For instance, Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin, or even those based on books, like Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Satyakam (based on a Bengali novel by Narayan Sanyal), or Govind Nihalani’s Tamas (based on Bhisham Sahni’s Hindi novel).
Among the books I have read recently, Dennis Dalton’s Non-violent Power in Action, which chronicles Gandhiji’s method of non-violent resistance, is quite powerful. Empires of the World by Nicholas Ostler is also very captivating as it delves into history and documents how the languages of the world came to be. Some other good reads that I particularly enjoyed were After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 by John Darwin and Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Bhagvad Gita is, of course, an all-time favourite. It’s very special to me and what’s better literature than that?