Revisiting Lal Bahadur Shastri’s life through anecdotes

New Delhi: Inspiring vignettes from the life of late prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri fill the pages of a book that chronicles his political, social and spiritual journey through anecdotes revisited by his son, Anil Shastri.

Shastri, a senior Congress leader, and author Pavan Choudary have penned “Lal Bahadur Shastri: Lessons in Leadership” (Wisdom Village, Rs. 195) that encapsulates the growing up years and political life of a man who believed in simplicity and humility. Shastri was prime minister fora brief period from 1964 to 1966, during which he led the country in its brief war with Pakistan and coined the slogan “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan”. He died of a heart in Tashkent after signing a peace agreement, brokered by the Soviet Union, with then Pakistani dictator, Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

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Narrated in simple language, with a “wisdom” box summarising the thought behind Shastri’s particular action in a story, the anthology, according to Choudary, is a representation of different facets of the man who succeeded Jawaharlal Nehru as independent India’s prime minister.

“It was a deliberate attempt to stay away from writing a fat book on his life, and instead use crisp language and choose prominent events of his life. The idea was to keep the content simple so that the book can be read by people of all age groups,” Choudary told IANS.

“Some of Shastriji’s interactions have deep meaning and learning, especially for children. As one can’t change the mindset of middle-aged people or senior people, it is wise to have children read his stories so that they can imbibe his qualities,” Choudary added.

The 158-page book speaks about different facets of the man who shared Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of austere living, followed vegetarianism and led a modest life.

“Today’s politicians and businessmen can learn a lot from his way of living. He came from a humble background and rose to high ranks through his hard work and wisdom. Usually, people in power are rude and arrogant to people with lesser power, but Shastriji treated everyone equal,” Choudary noted.

One important aspect of Shastri’s life was his aggressive leadership during the 1965 India-Pakistan War when he had made it clear that the force will be met with force.

“He was a man who had no illusions, and he knew the only way to protect his country was to be ready to bite. He understood all statecraft and beneath this humility and modest persona was a man who was a great strategist like (Chinese General) Sun Tzu,” said Choudary.

Even though this approach of taking immediate action is missing from Indian politics, Choudary said it would be unfair to paint all politicians with a broad brush.

At the same time, he is disappointed with the state of affairs at the helm.

“In recent years, our leaders at the helm haven’t shown the ability of drawing up an agenda. They lack in being firm and strong,” Choudary concluded.