August 10, 2020
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Historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam says: “We’ve a distaste for saying things about the dead which the Westerners don’t share. Besides, a good number of biographies are commissioned and hence there is complicity between subject (or heirs) and biographer.”
Sex As Lies
Says B.R. Nanda: “For Gandhi, sex is straying from brahmacharya. He believed only sublimation would give him power and he attributed all his political failures to any impure thought he may have had. He believed the Partition was because of his impure thoughts.”
Nationalism
Says Stanley Wolpert: “The lack of candour has nothing to do with being Indian. I think Indians are no better or worse than any other nation’s authors at writing biographies. Some are more brilliant than the others, but that is hardly nation-related.”
Licence
Responding to Frank’s recent biography of Indira Gandhi, Sarvepalli Gopal, S. Radhakrishnan’s son and a historian, says: “I knew about my father’s infidelities, therefore, I write about it. But about others, how can you ever know for sure? Unless a biographer knows for sure about his subject’s sex life he has no business to write about it.”
Imagination
Former PM Narasimha Rao protests: “‘The Insider’ is not my memoir, it’s fiction, a work of imagination. How many times must I shout from the rooftop that I wrote about a particular system and not about myself.”

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