‘I didn’t get my hands dirty’
You’ve been very candid in the autobiography. You’ve said in one place that you used to “imagine [yourself] as a genie and then return to the self-centred life of good meals and an air conditioned room” while writing the autobiography. That’s a harsh light to cast on oneself.
Why not? Because, if I was really so moved, I should have done something. I didn’t do anything. Maybe, yes, I’ve written about things that troubled me. But I didn’t really go in and get my hands dirty, and really do something.
I found it quite amusing when you said that you used to be bullied in school. It’s very hard to imagine someone bullying you, and I think politicians you’ve written about would agree.
(Laughs) Well, that’s true, but I was a coward in my childhood. Someone would just have to say, “Hai!”, and I would...(makes a cowering gesture), and you know, I was very timid. So, yes, I could be bullied, and probably I still am bullied? (Laughs)
You mentioned that you were once caned by a policeman, during the Freedom Struggle. But while I get a sense of the spirit of the time among students, you haven’t said much about your own participation in the Struggle.
I do somewhere mention that I organised a strike in the local college there, in Lahore. This was part of the Movement. It was in 1942, as part of the Quit India movement. All of us were very involved in the Struggle.
When the British eventually left, did you see it as a victory India had achieved, or did you feel circumstances had forced them to leave anyway?
No, it’s true that circumstances also forced the British to quit. But imagine us...we’re having a Movement, all the time, relentlessly wanting them to go...and they suddenly decide to go. So, it’s not that their circumstances only made them leave, it was our push also.
Circumstances, yes – they couldn’t sustain themselves. But ultimately, the credit is ours that we made them go. Otherwise, if the going was easy, they would have stayed on. But it had become impossible because of us.
When you were growing up, in a colonised country, with British flags everywhere, and knowing we were their slaves, did you ever think that one day, you would have Hindustan, a free country?
Oh, yes. I was confident that it was a question of time, that we would free. But in 1947, I didn’t think it would happen. I thought it would take a little more time. Yet, that’s how it happened.
In Picture: Schoolchildren enact a scene from the Indian freedom struggle at the Manek Shaw Parade Grounds in Bangalore on August 15, 2011.
Image: AFP. Any unauthorised reproduction is prohibited