“Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature” By Jairam Ramesh

Author: Jairam Ramesh

Publisher: Simon & Schuster India

Price: ₹799

History highlights Gandhi’s  horrifying excesses of Emergency, applauds her for the Bangladesh Liberation War, debates her foreign policy etc. Missing in the narrative is another enduring legacy without which India would be poorer, and decidedly uglier: A healthier environment and a wealth of forests, and wildlife. It is a glaring gap that Jairam Ramesh’s  meticulously researched book admirably fills.  This unusual, focused biography  reveals  the ‘Iron Lady’s softer, vulnerable self,  disclosing in her own words—through speeches,  notes, memos, official correspondence and private letters—her love for nature, her anguish at its destruction, her efforts to conserve it.   

Indira Gandhi  had a love for wildlife, a naturalist’s curiosity, the commitment of a conservationist, a manager’s sound knowledge, the skill of a diplomat and the authority of a prime minister which she used to formulate a strong institutional and legal framework for conservation. Her initiative in launching India’s celebrated Project Tiger is well-known, equally successful was Project Crocodile that turned the drastic declines of crocodiles and gharials.

The book is well-crafted with a narrative context to each year in what is essentially a chronological environment diary of the former PM.  Significantly, it fills a vacuum powerfully presenting a little known facet of a much-studied Prime Minister so much so that ‘the idea of Indira’ may need some redefining.  Public perception has so far broad brushed her love for nature that we now know as quintessential Indira. Her politics will continue to be controversial and heavily critiqued, but there is no doubting her courage and vision for a natural India were rare and inspirational. 

Read the full published review here: http://www.hindustantimes.com/books/indira-gandhi-linking-forests-to-welfare/story-Iic0BaFhoGCb3JoUsbod3O.html

The Hindustan Times on 4th August, 2017