Without Nehru India would stagger and perhaps collapse. Photo:
To safeguard India, Nehru will do practically anything.

James Michener’s insightful analysis of Nehru, whose 123rd birth anniversary falls this month, remains interesting more than half a century later. Although addressing a Western readership, we look back and realize that nearly everything he predicted for India via Nehru was correct—democracy and freedom have prevailed and the large industries Nehru set up have helped the economy. Nehru’s relations with India’s neighbours and with the US, too, are worth reflecting on. Michener, who died in 1997,  was an avid traveller and author of more than 40 books. He also wrote regularly for Reader’s Digest.

Here, we publish an excerpt of Michener’s article. To read the entire piece, see the November 2012 issue of Reader’s Digest.

In some respects, America’s best friend in Asia is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India. This view is so contrary to general belief that I must explain it. For six weeks I travelled across India talking to people about Nehru. Peasants, landlords, shopkeepers, maharajahs advanced their theories. Here are the facts that help to explain the man who rules India.

Pandit Nehru is an aristocrat. He was born a Brahmin and although he has discarded the Brahmin religious customs, he continues to think like one. He believes that a few superior people must rule a partly illiterate, unformed nation like India.

As a child Nehru knew substantial wealth—servants, big homes, influential friends. He was a typical Indian aristocrat. A friend points out, “He is the kind of man Communists shoot when they take over.”

Nehru is like an Englishman. He was born in India, of Indian blood, but he grew up an Englishman. His governess was English. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, and he studied law at the Inner Temple. He knows English literature, constitutional history, law and social philosophy. Nehru himself points out that spiritually he hangs suspended between India and England. “They are both part of me and create in me a feeling of spiritual loneliness. I am a stranger and alien in the West. But in my own country also, sometimes, I have an exile’s feeling.”

Nehru spent many years in jail. As a result of his revolutionary activities, Nehru

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