Zareer Masani: When personal meets political


March 3, 2012

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London-based historian Zareer Masani’s new book, And All is Said — a memoir on the breakdown of his parent’s marriage — is no ordinary tale.

Article by Aarefa Johari, Hindustan Times

His Parsi father, Minoo Masani, was a left-wing Congress politician, who later founded the liberal Swatantra Party. His mother, Shakuntala,  a wealthy Hindu Kayasth and a politician in her own right, joined Indira Gandhi’s militant socialist Congress faction in 1969.

Given their tumultous relationship, which played out against their conflicting backgrounds, Masani, 64, their only son, feels his family’s story is also that of India.

“My parents came from very different family backgrounds, whose interaction was both creative and conflicting. India, too, is characterised by this diversity,” said Masani, who decided to write the memoir after his father and mother passed away in 1988 and ’99 respectively. He is in the city for the book launch at Crossword, Kemps Corner, at 7pm on Friday.

“Reading the letters and diaries my mother left behind, I relived painful memories and realised my parents’ stories would die with me if I didn’t record them,” said Masani, who completed his PhD in modern history at Oxford and settled in London, to escape a troubled family life and find a place more accepting of his homosexuality.

He went to Mumbai’s Cathedral school and studied history at the Elphinstone College. His parents’ marriage, he claims, began to break long before their political differences grew clear. The final blow came when he and his mother joined the socialist Congress party, while his father was leader of the Opposition.

“My father took it as a personal blow,” said Masani, who was eventually disillusioned by Gandhi’s imposition of the Emergency and no longer considers himself a socialist. “Politics in India today is disappointing, with the decline in ethical standards and high corruption.”