The Scope of Happiness is the autobiography of an outstanding world figure who was the sister, confidante, and lifelong political associate of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and the aunt of Indira Gandhi. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit participated in the Indian national struggle for freedom from its inception and was imprisoned three times. In this very personal view of the struggle for independence, she gives an evocative picture of the cultured and protected world in which she grew up in Anand Bhavan in Allahabad, conveying even the textures, aromas and sounds of her childhood home. She offers an unprecedented picture of life in India under British rule, with its rigorous restrictions and racial bigotry.
A compelling strength of this book is the intimate picture the author draws of many great figures: the searching and affectionate view of her brother, the insight into her niece Indira, a personal record of Mahatma Gandhi that no one else could give—and penetrating and entertaining anecdotes of world figures such as Krishna Menon, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Chester Bowles, Dag Hammarskjold, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Tito and Prince Charles. No other living individual could draw the sweeping historical picture that Mrs Pandit has given us in her memoir, making it a book of rare significance that will speak lastingly for generations to come.
When Mahatma Gandhi gave the call for the nation to join in the freedom struggle, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit threw herself wholeheartedly into the Movement, along with her father, Motilal Nehru, brother Jawaharlal, and husband, Ranjit Sitaram Pandit. Prison Days is an account of her third and final term in Naini Central Jail in Allahabad. She was arrested on 12 August 1942. World War II was on, the country was under military rule and arrest and imprisonment took place without trial. Several lorries filled with armed policemen arrived that night at Anand Bhawan to arrest one lone, unarmed woman.
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was soon joined in jail by her 25-year-old niece, Indira Gandhi. In this diary, Pandit recounts her experiences in jail and the hardships she endured along with others who had joined the fight for freedom: rations mixed with dirt and stones, a lack of water and sanitary facilities, surviving on an allowance of 9 annas a day, and only the hard ground to sleep on.
Though it is more the personal, day-to-day details of her life that fill Pandit’s jail diary, it is the politics of the day—the overarching desire to throw off the shackles of British rule and Mahatma Gandhi’s unique approach of non-violence and non-cooperation to achieve this, that define the book. It is this that gives Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and her fellow prisoners the courage to carry on the fight with unbroken spirits—and at the stroke of the midnight hour on 15 August 1947, victory was theirs. India was reborn as an independent nation