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LETTERS FROM A FATHER TO HIS DAUGHTER

Jawaharlal Nehru
Viking
2004

Summary:
The 30 letters in Letters From A Father To His Daughter, were written by Nehru in the summer
of 1928, when Indira was in Mussoorie, and he was in Allahabad. To make up for his absence,
he wrote these letters. He wanted to make his daughter aware of her circumstances, of her
environment. Nehru's intention was to nurture Indira's young and impressionable mind with an
unprejudiced view of history, as well as the current state of affairs. In these letters, Nehru takes
up a variety of topics. He discusses natural history, the beginning of the earth, and evolution. He
talks about the varied races of the world, the genetic make-up, the differences in communities,
and races, how these races were formed, and why people look different. Nehru also touches
upon the topic of civilizations. He discusses the ancient civilizations, the great cities of ancient
times, the origin of language and religion, the growth of mankind, and the changes in religion
and its current manifestations. Nehru also elaborately discusses the history of India, the
Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the great kings of the past and their kingdoms. The topics of
economics, trade, and travel were also tackled by Nehru. He wanted Indira to have an
empathetic view towards the world, its conflicts and woes. He also touched upon topics like
division of labour, problems of the peasants, and the economically deprived. The letters show
Nehru's love for nature, for people, for history, and also show his overwhelming desire to
cultivate the same in his daughter. As Indira Gandhi says in the introduction, these letters were
instrumental in arousing in her an interest in people, and concern for them. These letters written
by Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter contain priceless guidance, advice and information given
by a loving father to his daughter.

It is a collection of 31 letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter, Indira Gandhi in 1928
& 29. These are very short letters sharing knowledge on natural history and origin of civilization
in the Indian background. They are simply good enough to generate enthusiasm in a knowledge
thriving kid. The readers of this review may wonder how a book written to a kid of 10 can be of
much use to the grown ups like us. I will say read the book to find out how!!

Having said that the letters are passing the natural history and evolution of civilizations does not
misunderstand it for a history book or an information sharing book. It does share information;
but it does not limit its scope there. This is a good example of how we can pass ‘WISDOM’ to
our children than mere KNOWLEDGE. If the child Indira Gandhi turns great the seeds are
thrown by these pearls of wisdom. The proud father who value and encourage the enthusiasm
in the kid determine and make sure that the thirst for knowledge is filled well and made the
water of knowledge sweeter by adding the sugar of ‘curiosity’.

Salient Features:

1.Nature is the greatest book and each stone have a story to tell. He describes beautifully how
we can chase a stone and find its story to add to our information, experience and wisdom. Here,
the call is to be a seeker.
2.Thinking power i.e. intelligence is the difference between animals and humans and it will be
the ruling factor in new generation too. To move ourselves to freedom and empowerment, we
should engage our deep thoughts and intelligence in action.

3. We are not different from nature. Adaptability to nature is for survival. Each animal live along
with the nature and we humans too get along with it. If we accept some changes to live with the
nature there is no harm in it. In other words, there is no need to blame ‘blacks’ for their colour.

4. Many of our religious believes were first originated out of our lack of knowledge and fear. The
book gives good examples of how lack of knowledge guide the earlier religious believes and
how it passed through centuries and become rituals.

5.Service to the society. If we are not doing something for the welfare of the society we lives in
there is no difference between us and the stones. If our action is not guided by our thoughts and
intelligence, there is no difference than a wild animal and human being.Rulers are servants of
people. They were only care takers and from the moment they assume possession of things
given for safe custody the administration lose vision.

6.Freedom& Pride. The father reassures his daughter that we belong to a great country which
was early in generating civilizations and wisdom. We need to be proud children of the country.
Sadly, we are less powerful now and we lack freedom. Intelligence and empowerment are the
sole way out of this mess.

7.Humanity and Equality. One of the greatest visions of Nehru is that the world is one village
and we all belong to one family. We need to respect each other, irrespective of their country,
religion, sex or money. There is no great or meager. Basically we are all equal and brothers and
sisters.
During summer of 1928, 10-year-old Indira Gandhi was in Mussoorie. Her father Jawaharlal
Nehru was then busy working in Allahabad. During summer, Nehru wrote several letters to tell
her stories about when and how the earth was made, how animal and human life came into
existence, and how societies and civilisations evolved throughout the world.In his letters, he
speaks of races, early and present-day faiths and beliefs of religion, the beginning of
communication using languages by making sounds that are meaningful, how writing evolved
through meaningful marks, and how the different languages were related. He also referred to
civilisation and division of labour, which paved the way to the patriarch and the rule by kings and
formation of kingdoms. He also wrote about trade and travel.He speaks of the Aryans coming to
India, and the morals taught by the great epics, Ramayana and the Mahabharata. He has
explained the summary of these great epics interestingly in an easy way for a 10-year-old girl to
understand, and his way of explaining complex matters is very appealing.
About Jawaharlal Nehru :
Jawaharlal Nehru was an idealist and visionary, statesman and scholar of international stature,
and an outstanding writer.Apart from Letters From A Father To His Daughter, his three most
renowned books include The Discovery Of India, Glimpses Of World History, and An
Autobiography. These are classics, and all of them are published by Penguin books.Each story
is told clearly and bring about the affection that a father has towards his daughter. Though these
letters were written way back in 1928, even today their vibrancy and freshness are felt by
readers and they succeed in representing the love Nehru had for people and Nature.Born in the
year 1889 at Allahabad, Jawaharlal Nehru did his education in Cambridge and in England, at
Harrow. Also known as Panditji, Nehru was a statesman and a politician. He was the leader of
the Indian independence movement, and independent India’

The book is a collection of 30 letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his 10 years old daughter,
Indira Gandhi in 1928. When he was in jail and she was in Mussorie. A father and his daughter.
The bond has to be seen to be believed. This book is by the slightly pedantic father, who is not
able to spend enough quality time with his daughter, owing to his political obligations, and thus
tries to form a bond with her by writing letters to her from prison. Nehru speaks to young Indira
both lovingly and with clear respect for her intelligence, treating a ten-year-old-young girl as the
future leader she would become. These letters are not the usual communication between a
father and a daughter. These are not mere letters to a daughter, but a way that developed a
standing bond between a dad and daughter. They neither talk about daughter’s dreams nor the
father’s worries or expectations, but are an effort at the daughter’s education, especially her
outlook towards her country and world at large. Indeed, we see in these letters the foundation of
becoming a future leader. In these letters, Nehru begins with the very beginning and talks about
the basic history of the world, origin of our solar system, the story of civilizations, the story of
people. He talks about how the world was formed, how life evolved in this earth, about how
there is a book of nature, where we can learn about the prehistoric times by observing rocks
and fossils. He talks about how people began forming tribes. How there are so many races and
languages in the world, the story of how there are monarchs, how different classes came into
being, talked about the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India and Crete, and
about Aryans, Dravidian, Mongoloid, and about how trade started. He has explained everything
in the easiest of words and in the most straightforward manner. Each object carries a lot of
history behind it and becomes a major part of the slow change which is happening every
moment around us, around the world.
But what caught my attention the most was his love for people. Not just his own people, but for
people all around the world, who deserved a good life, deserved peace and happiness. He tells
his daughter;
‘As Indians we have to live in India and work for India. But we must not forget that we belong to
the larger family of the world and the people living in other countries are after all our cousins. It
would be such an excellent thing if all the people in the world were happy and contented. We
have therefore to try to make the whole world a happier place to live in’
In one of his letters, he addresses the prides of nationalism and the threats of stereotyping in
equally simple yet expressive terms and exploring the origin and social purpose of religion,
Nehru explores the inner ambiguities of religion, which bothers us to this day;
‘He tells her, You will also see that most of us now living in different countries far from each
other long ago were one people. We have changed greatly since then and many of us have
forgotten our old relationships. In every country people imagine that they are the best and the
cleverest and the others are not as good as they are. … This is all conceit. Everybody wants to
think well of himself and his country. But really there is no person who has not got some good in
him and some bad. And in the same way there is no country which is not partly good and partly
bad. We must take the good wherever we find it and try to remove the bad wherever it may be.’
‘This seems horrible but a man who is afraid will do anything. This must have been the
beginnings of religion. So religion first came as fear, and anything that is done because of fear
is bad. Religion, as you know, tells us many beautiful things. When you grow up, you will read
about the religions of the world and of the good things and the bad things that have been done
in their name. . . . We see even today that people fight and break each other’s heads in the
name of religion. And for many people it is still something to be afraid of. They spend their time
trying to please some imaginary beings by making presents in temples and even sacrifices of
animals.’
All 30 letters are short, written in a very simple yet beautiful way. Each is a story logically told, a
father’s affection for his daughter coming across in each. TBH, It is such a wonderful and
amazing book. The language is simple yet beautiful. And the good part is that the whole is not
really filled with so many details about history.
Rather, this book contains the basic details about the most interesting subjects. Nehru has very
beautifully explained the basic details of the history of our Earth, the people on the Earth, the
ancient Evolutions. This is enormously heartening book about how we shape the world we live
in through our understanding of it and the choices we make in it.