Nayantara Sahgal

Unflinching Faith In Gandhian Ideology

Nayantara Sahgal, a brilliant novelist and an eminent political columnist was born on May 10, 1927 in Allahabad. She is the second of the three daughters of Vijay Lakshmi Pandit and Ranjit Sitaram Pandit. Nayantara Sahgal had balmy days of her childhood with her parents, her maternal uncle Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, and her cousin Mrs. Indira Gandhi in Anand Bhawan at Allahabad. Her father was a roaring success in the field of lawyer ship but soon left it to join the Indian National Movement. He died in Lucknow jail in 1944. She had a vital influence of her mother Vijay Lakshmi Pandit: the first woman cabinet minister in the world and India’s ambassador at the U.N.

Nayantara Sehgal Book on Indira Gandi

Nayantara Sahgal has been an eminent novelist with a mission. Her life is dedicated to politics, literature and social advocacy. She has been an activist, author, emissary, educator and an inspiration for the generations to come. Working as a committed advocate for freedom and civil rights her life is one of action. She has been active on the literary scene both as a creative author and a political columnist. Though she is not the only writer to combine creative writing with journalism yet she proves to be the only one to correlate and in the process strengthens the two by a common concern. Her works are based on the realistic ground but are in no way the mere reflection of the values she holds supreme, rather these are the changing values of a society which find their due place in her novels in the struggle for freedom and power.

Winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Sinclair Fiction Prize and Sahitya Akademi Award, Nayantara Sahgal is the pioneering spirit with a penetrating psyche who has brought fiction a new outlook. Among the remarkable novelists of twentieth century Nayantara Sahgal is the most prominent Indo- Anglian novelists whose childhood and youth themselves are, infact, the reflection of the influence of Gandhian ideology on her.

Charged with the missionary zeal and zest Nayantara Sahgal’s novels successfully bring forth the human predicament. She has adopted a broad humanistic approach to life with all its innumerable pains and pleasures. Her novels are thought provoking as ‘thinking leads to action and action leads to revolution’ hence it is purposeful indeed. Her robust optimism, her love for humanity, her compassion for the weak and the poor as well as her crusade against the anti- human institutions and practices have irresistibly found expression in all her works of fiction and non – fiction.

Her childhood and youth themselves have an indelible mark of Gandhian ideology on her. It is noteworthy that she received an inspiring and motivating shimmering in the personality of Mahatma Gandhi who strongly stood against shemozzle and led a life with full simplicity and high thinking. Progressive people usually attribute to this thought that to build a new world, the old one had to be razed to the ground, but different from them Mahatma possessed a distinguished personality which was strongly rooted in Indian tradition and simultaneously made significant contribution to the development of modern India. He conferred politics ethical and moral values, which took India at the zenith and could make a remarkable entry in all the spheres. In the figure of this exuberant and serene man she found the ideal-balanced man.

Nayantara Sehgal

As “the child of Gandhi’s India” her own life literary and personal presents her as a great champion for the cause of Gandhian approach and ideology in life. Her novels including her autobiographies clearly bring forth the influence of the Gandhain principles and thoughts on her. In her second autobiography, From Fear Set Free she clearly puts forth her faith in the Gandhian principles as the perennial source of fearlessness, energy and vitality.

If we try to trace the reason behind Nayantara Sahgal’s deep involvement in the national happenings, we may reach the conclusion that it is her own background which provides her the inspiration and better understanding of the socio-political scene. Various factors have altogether contributed in the making of her personality; she has inherited and cherished a certain set of values, democratic temper and the positive approach towards life which as a whole bear the special hallmark of Gandhian ideology. It is this force which has played a great role in conditioning, moulding and formulating her way of thinking and her life.

The first novel of Nayantara Sahgal in the scene, after the ground breaking presence of her autobiographies, is A Time to be Happy which successfully captures and redefines Gandhian movement for the freedom of India. The Gandhian impact on Sahgal’s novels neither imply the mythical proportions of Raja Rao nor do they have any resemblance to the legendary and somewhat mystical account of R.K. Narayan’s Waiting for the Mahatma or Mulkraj Anand’s Untouchable. Her novels are entirely historical and profoundly personal manifestations of India.

We may say that Nayantara Sahgal has potentially presented the fact that the principles laid down by Gandhi encompass nearly everything required for an ideal society. Therefore, she brings forth the glory and grandeur of the ideology of Gandhi such as freedom, non- violence and the moral relationship between means and ends as represented by Gandhi in the Indian politics.

To sum up we may state that charged with the missionary zeal and zest Nayantara Sahgal presents a vivid panorama of real India along with various relevant issues begotten from the Indian soil. She has successfully recomposed the coarse facts into her fiction by her artistic genius and in the process she has evaluated both roots and blossoms of traditions and modernity. We can vociferously state that Sahgal herald a new era.

Here I am going to unfold three facts of Nayantara Sahgal’s life which bring forth her close bonding to Lucknow: The City of Nawabs.

>>There are many strings which closely bind her to Lucknow: The City of Nawabs. Her connection and bonding is even more evident in many of her novels where she has beautifully captured the soul of the city, Lucknow, along with it’s culture: Tameez, Tahzeeb, Zaban etc.

>> At the same time she was educated in Lucknow and Wellesly College (B.A.1947)

>> Lastly she went through a trauma when she lost her father in Lucknow jail in 1944.

Dr. Aniqua Sadia

Writer has earned her Ph.D. on Social and Political Issues in the Novels of Nayantara Sahgal.

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