FROM MANCHESTER TO PULAU MANIS. THE CHRONICLES OF A ONE TERM ADUN. Part 4
Then I remembered the book by Nirad C. Chaudhury- the Autobiography of an Unknown Indian. He was writing in a style at a time when the world was familiar only with two Indians- Nehru and Ghandi. Mr Chaudhury, unlike his two illustrious countrymen, was an ordinary and unknown person. But the book is extraordinary in many ways.
The book was written in 1951 when Mr. Chaudhury was 50 years old. It is a popular book read by many in the world. Unfortunately it is not so in Malaysia, especially among Malays who have a morbid distaste of the English Language. So I will tell you something about it.
It was written by an ordinary Indian man chronicling his life story. Mr. Chaudhury wrote about his native India, at the turn of the 20th century and right through independence. India was still under British colonial rule and changes were taking place quickly. The fire of nationalism was fast engulfing India. Mr Chaudhury captured these changes that were taking place. His India was the Colonial India of the good old days. She was spilling over to the new India. Mr Chaudhury was able to experience firsthand the effects of colonial rule and the India that was emerging post colonial rule, the new India founded on Nationalism. The India that gained independence in 1947 immediately sank into upheavals. The country was soon partitioned into India and Pakistan. Independent India was afflicted with a multitude of social ills- poverty, caste system, political and religious turmoil.
What caused these? Regarding himself as an Anglophile, where does Mr Chaudhury stand? He chose to discover himself and tell the story about India by writing An Autobiography. It is a book about self discovery crafted from the author’s fiercely independent viewpoint.
That fierce independence at once placed Chaudhury at variance with conventional Indian thinking at that time. The conventional wisdom held that all the ills visited upon the Indians then were the results of British imperialism. Chaudhury chose to state it unmistakably and dissentingly clear- that the societal ills suffered by Indians were caused by Indians themselves.
On a much smaller and humble scale, I want to think of my own book as a chronicle of self discovery borne of my own independent viewpoint. It will trace my own political footsteps from my beginning to the present. The 22 years under Tun Mahathir are my colonial days of Chaudhury’s India. 2004 was declared the year free from Mahathirism. Yet barely 4 years into post Mahathir UMNO, UMNO sank to its deepest political abyss.
The conventional wisdom is to assign blame on the previous administration. The independent and bold spirit will distance itself from this pleasing and conventional thinking. Most fittingly, just like the lesson imparted by Chaudhury, I believed that much of UMNO’s own problems were caused by UMNO itself.
UMNO’s precipitous decline was caused notably by inept and incompetent leadership. So with some trepidation and the risk of being accused as presumptuous, I decided to write this book in a not so common style.