Book Reviews

A History Man

Edited with dedication and sympathy and includes contemporary narratives that give it a historical context

Navtej Sarna

A Window On The Wall–Quit India Prison Diary Of A 19-Year-Old
March 25,2010
By H.Y. Sharada Prasad Edited By Sugata Srinivasaraju Navakarnataka

Sharada Prasad briefed the press in the packed Shastri Bhavan hall as Delhi began to dissolve into chaos, hours after Indira Gandhi was shot dead. Despite his personal grief, it was a virtuoso performance: calm, controlled and thoroughly professional in a charged atmosphere in which one wrong word would have further inflamed passions.

The intellectual and moral makings of the man who spent years at the vortex of national affairs as the understated and legendary information advisor to two prime ministers are revealed in this prison diary he kept as a student leader in Mysore during the Quit India movement. The diary, discovered by his wife after his death, is edited with dedication and sympathy and includes contemporary narratives that give it a historical context.

Sharada Prasad’s rigorous intellectual discipline and highly developed sense of human values, inherited from his parents, is in clear evidence. His poetic streak too surfaces often, especially in several evocative passages on the moon and its light. Even as a student leader, he was given to introspection, craving solitude to indulge in self-analysis and self-criticism. It is this dispassionate intellectual approach that makes him an active observer rather than a helpless actor buffeted by events. As he writes: “...events do not touch the core of my being. I experience them, rather, endure them, perfunctorily.” Perhaps that is why he could maintain his impeccable balance that fateful day in 1984.