By Paresh Malakar
Biographies, autobiographies and memoirs reveal certain historical truths. But they also suffer from hagiographical defects and subjectivism. After the independence of India, countless number of biographies have been written on Gandhi and Nehru- two important persolities of modern India who left indelible marks in the history of our country. Some of these biographies have survived the test of time and are already accepted as great sources of writing history on modern India. Likewise generations after generations have profited by reading the autobiographies of Gandhi and Nehru for their truthfulness, frankness and tryst with momentous times. We have also seen some bureaucrats writing their autobiographies and memoirs in last few decades. Some of these books are appreciated and well received by the readers for their frankness, objectivity, and readability. Here, we can refer to three such memoirs, authored by three eminent policy makers and bureaucrats of by gone days. These three books are: "The Partial Memoir of V K R V Rao","Nice Guys Finish Second" by B K Nehru and "Indira Gandhi, the Emergency and Indian Democracy" by P N Dhar. An economist by profession, Professor Rao played important role in founding a number of sterling institutions in the country, including the Delhi School of Economics. During Nehru's prime ministership he was a member of Planning Commission and with Indira Gandhi he was a member of her ministry. B K Nehru was a top bureaucrat and administrator. Besides being India's ambassador to US and High Commissioner to UK, he also served Assam as Governor. P N Dhar, again an economist of repute was the head of Indira Gandhi's secretariat and one of her closest advisers in those tumultuous times in 1970s.
This prologue is necessitated for introducing a book of similar importance written by someone nearer home, who closely worked with six chief ministers of Assam, from Bishnuram Medhi to Hiteswar Saikia for more than three decades. He is none but Jatin Hazarika who was one of the advisers of Government of Assam till recently. Jatin Hazarika reminds us to Kathleen Hill, who was persol private secretary to Winston Churchill and then worked for six other British prime ministers from Clement Attlee to Harold Wilson. Like Hill, Mr. Hazarika neither breached the confidentiality of his office nor betrayed the confidence bestowed upon him by the successive chief ministers with whom he worked. In a way we can also call Jatin Hazarika at 87, a living tradition in the are of administration in Assam. His position is unique in the sense that no other person has served the administration in Assam for so long a period with such an unblemished image. He has acquired a legendary status in the administrative circle in Assam because of his efficiency, uprightness and amiable ture. Jatin Hazarika started his career at a different time in different milieu. India had just become independent. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India was a product of Indian freedom struggle. Nehru was a modern man with his leanings towards socialist ideals. Nehru could communicate with the masses at their level. He wished to realize the hopes and aspirations of the common people by trying to build new India for them. That was his dream and hope. The chief minister of various states also tried to follow Nehru's footsteps. Assam was no exception.
The book "Shadow Behind the Throne", memoir of Jatin Hazarika, rightly captures that milieu and those times in Assam. From this point of view, borrowing Nehru's words, this memoir can be described as glimpses of modern Assam. As Mr. Hazarika worked with six different Chief Ministers and was posted in many important positions during his career spanning more than three decades, he was not only witness to many developmental projects and schemes which shaped the future of Assam, but also took an active part in making them happen. From the various anecdotes, mentioned in the book, one can also peep into the characters of the Chief Ministers with whom Sri Hazarika worked with. B R Medhi was known for his efficiency and strict principles. B P Chaliha could see the larger picture and had an all India stature.Golap Chandra Barbora was a thorough gentleman and Hiteswar Sahikia was truly an astute politician and a workaholic chief minister. But the true hero of Sri Hazarika was Sarat Chandra Singha. Not for nothing he came in flying colours in his memoir. Sarat Singha could truly feel the pulses of the common people. In Sri Hazarika's words he was a "people's man and people's welfare was his prime concern."
Expectedly the style of the memoir reflects the persolity of Sri Hazarika. Sri Hazarika is a man of fewer words. He never indulges in verbosity. Approach him with a complex and difficult problem, immediately he will go into the crux of the matter and come up with the possible solutions. That is his ture and method. As a man his style is impeccable. Brevity is his order. The readers of his memoir will feel it in every chapter, even in every sentence. And there is a great flow in the book. The book is written in such lucidity and flavours that, if the reader wishes they can finish reading it in just one sitting. The rrative is crisp and absorbing. This is a remarkable book which is going to stay.
(The writer is the president of city based organization Anwesha)