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Friday, 13 January 2012

My Books (Four) - A Window on the Wall

A WINDOW ON THE WALL
Quit India Prison Diary of a 19-Year-Old
By H Y Sharada Prasad
Edited and Introduced by Sugata Srinivasaraju
Navakarnataka, 2010 

RAMACHANDRA GUHA on the book in the Telegraph (8 May 2010):
Book in translation: Arivina Adumbola by Rosy D'Souza
His prison diary, lovingly edited for publication by Sugata Srinivasaraju, offers glimpses of what Sharada Prasad could have contributed to the worlds of literature and scholarship had he not allowed himself to become a speechwriter for prime ministers. He writes here about being torn between communism and Gandhism, the contrasting poles that then, as now, competed for the attentions of the intelligent and sensitive young Indian. He says, in one revealing entry, that “I am departing more and more from the sloppish sentimentalism, shallowness and hypocrisy that form the bulk of the Congress’s frame of mind”. In another entry, written in February 1943 while Mahatma Gandhi was on a fast in prison in Pune, Sharada Prasad remarks that “Gandhi’s life, sacred as it is, unique as it is, is not too great a price to be paid for the independence of our country and for the crumbling of an empire”.
Full article: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100508/jsp/opinion/story_12304116.jsp


NAVTEJ SARNA's review of the book in the Outlook magazine (10 March 2010): 
Sharada Prasad briefed the press in the packed Shastri Bhavan hall as Delhi began to dissolve into chaos, hours after Indira Gandhi was shot dead. Despite his personal grief, it was a virtuoso performance: calm, controlled and thoroughly professional in a charged atmosphere in which one wrong word would have further inflamed passions.

The intellectual and moral makings of the man who spent years at the vortex of national affairs as the understated and legendary information advisor to two prime ministers are revealed in this prison diary he kept as a student leader in Mysore during the Quit India movement. The diary, discovered by his wife after his death, is edited with dedication and sympathy and includes contemporary narratives that give it a historical context.
Book launch invite

Sharada Prasad’s rigorous intellectual discipline and highly developed sense of human values, inherited from his parents, is in clear evidence. His poetic streak too surfaces often, especially in several evocative passages on the moon and its light. Even as a student leader, he was given to introspection, craving solitude to indulge in self-analysis and self-criticism. It is this dispassionate intellectual approach that makes him an active observer rather than a helpless actor buffeted by events. As he writes: “...events do not touch the core of my being. I experience them, rather, endure them, perfunctorily.” Perhaps that is why he could maintain his impeccable balance that fateful day in 1984. 


Report of the Book Release in the Bangalore Mirror on 02.03.2010
A New Window on Sharada Prasad's Life
A diary discovered after his death throws new light on the life of a man who was advisor to three prime ministers, including Indira Gandhi

Holenarsipur Yoganarasimha Sharada Prasad, better known as H Y Sharada Prasad and more popularly respected because he was the information advisor to three different prime ministers, continues to intrigue even after his death. Legend has it that Sharada Prasad politely declined the same post offered from the only man from Holenarsipur to become the prime minister.

The books 'A Window On The Wall' and its Kannada translation 'Aarivina Aadumbola', based on a diary he wrote during his imprisonment during the Quit India movement in 1943 were released on Sunday. The diary was discovered by chance by his wife months after his death in September 2008. The book is edited by journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju and its Kannada translation is by Rosy D'souza.

Early Maturity

The book "does not offer surprises. It goes on to prove what we later knew as HY Sharada Prasad," says Srinivasaraju. But it does shed light on a many number of things. Prasad was just 19 when he led college students in Mysore with his speeches, picketing government offices and courts and shouting Quit India slogans. But he was ever reluctant to assign himself the grab of a freedom fighter.

"He wrote only a few pages about his first arrest during the freedom movement in 1942. Any pompous person would have assigned himself history. But Sharada Prasad gave up that idea," says Srinivasaraju. This book however concerns his second imprisonment between February 1943 and December 1943. When Prasad quit his job as advisor to the prime minister after serving for nearly three decades, Sharada Prasad went home in an autorickshaw. After relinquishing his official house in Lodhi Garden the following day, he lived in a single bedroom flat for the rest of his life.

The man who would be addressed only as Sharada Prasadji by Indira Gandhi later (no first name or nick name she would assign to her other colleagues) was the student's union secretary at the Mysore Maharaja's College and for a teenager had the clarity of thought and vision of the world that shows he was well-prepared to take on the challenges he took in later life. "This was the wisdom that prime ministers of India dipped into. The books he had read, the environment that surrounded him at that stage were the precursors to what he became later. It is no small task to be in a very high post for 20-30 years," says Srinivasaraju.

Freedom Movement in Old Mysore

The freedom movement in Old Mysore region is often dismissed as insignificant. The revelations provided by Prasad's diary dispels this notion. "Students led by Sharada Prasad kept the flame burning. There was the Communist movement on the one hand and the movement of the workers and students. If anything this book will disprove the notion that nothing significant happened here," says Srinivasaraju. Prasad was the undisputed leader of the students participating in the Quit India Movement in Mysore. Decades later Indira Gandhi would advice people around her, "When in doubt, do as Sharada does."

'A Window On The Wall,' is a "remarkable writing for a young man. This is the seed of foundation for his writing and thinking later. This makes the book very significant," says Srinivasaraju. The book was released by freedom fighter Doreswamy. Present like during Sharada Prasad's previous book release (Yella Ballavarilla, the Kannada version of 'The Book I Won't be Writing and Other Essays') was the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Justice M N Venkatachaliah, former bureaucrat Chiranjivi Singh and historian Ramachandra Guha.

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