Jaya Jaitly Writes A Powerful Memoir Of Being A Woman In Indian Politics

This book is not only a memoir of Jaya Jaitly, it is also a documentation of last 70 years of the socio-political scenario of India. Since her childhood, the writer has seen the gradual transformation of India from British colony to an independent developing country.

The book starts with her childhood experiences with the matrilineal society of Kerala as her mother belonged to one such family. It was quite interesting for me to read about the lifestyle, rituals, incidents of an affluent Malayali joint family. She speaks about some incidents which show how society is unfair to women even when it is matrilineal.

The chapter where she tells how she dealt with the shock of Mahatma Gandhi’s murder as a small kid is something to ponder about as she knew Gandhi Ji personally and watched him and heard him addressing the crowd on a regular basis from a very close proximity of his ashram. Before reading this chapter it was a significant yet just a historical event for me. Her narration added an emotional side to it. She also narrates how her parents helped their Muslim friends during partition. Stories like how Hindu or Sikh wrote fluent Urdu and Hindu cobbler greeted Muslim tailor with “Jai Ram Ji Ki” without hesitation even at that most troubled time in Indian history should be told more often now as we are again going through a difficult period of communal harmony in our country.

Jaya Ji’s father was an Indian Ambassador, so her childhood was spent in different countries like Japan, Burma, Belgium. She has witnessed many historical moments or periods of her time. How her father K. K. Chettur, as the first Indian ambassador in Japan managed to build the significant relationship between India and Japan is an eye-opener to me. I found it very interesting to read the backstory of the famous India-Japan Peace Treaty which was signed in 1952. Then comes her days in Burma and the transition period of Burma to Myanmar. As she lost her father at the age of 13, her life changed drastically. Her life in Kashmir after marriage is very interesting to read. It gives a clear picture of the Kashmiri people and the real struggle of them which we mainland people can’t understand from far.

The chapter about Sikh massacre in 1984 following Indira Gandhi’s assassination was really disturbing. I was very small to comprehend all these when it happened. Reading the descriptions of torture and murders kept me restless and depressed for few days. The rescue work and the relief work Jaya Ji and others did for Sikh community is really commendable.

The episode about how she first started working with the rural craftsmen of our country and then helped them grow big and what all burdens were laid in front of her while she developed her idea of Dilli Hut into reality deserves an entire book itself. Her contribution towards the betterment of cottage arts and crafts industry is exceptional.

Now the most important part of the book is her journey through active politics as a woman. She joined this most complicated world of politics as an activist after her mentor, George Fernandes insisted on her joining the trade union. Later together they founded Samata Party. Jaya Ji narrates her experiences, both bad and good, in matter-of- factly tone without targeting anyone even though there are many people whom she could. There were many who clearly discriminated her as a woman and of course as a human so calling them scorpions is only justified. I found that very impressive and dignified. You really need to read the book to know this part. I have really no words to explain how much I learned about our Indian politics from this book. The only complaint I have is that she didn’t see the Gujarat riot in the same light as she saw the Sikh massacre. But that’s just my opinion and she is entitled to have hers.

Her ordeal of Tehelka episode is very heart-wrenching. Hope the court proceeding ends soon and she gets the relief she deserves. She spent her childhood in luxury of VIP yet she seemed very down-to-earth. Her foreign education or the fact that she can speak so many languages since she was very small is also something she could easily boast about but she effortlessly avoided to do so. I loved the photos added in the middle of the book too. Her smooth writing made the reading extremely enjoyable.

Author(s): Jaya Jaitly
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Release: November 2017
Genre: Non Fiction/Politics
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Swati Sengupta
A visual designer who loves to read, draw, paint, listen to music, dance, learn new languages, travel, eat, take photographs and write. I love to write my random thoughts, what I feel and what I experience.

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