Date of: 10 May 1927
Known for: Writings in politics, feminism(English)
Awards: Sahitya Akademy Award
Nayantara Sahgal’s Biography
Nayantara Sahgal is part of the Nehru-Gandhi family. She is the second of three daughters born to Vijay Lakshmi Pandit. Pandit was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and the first Indian woman to be a Cabinet minister. Sahgal’s father was a freedom fighter and a classical scholar who died in prison in 1944. Sahgal was an alumnus of the Wellesley College and settled in Dehradun.
Nayantara Sahgal was an independent-minded writer and journalist. She wrote on feminism, racism, and history. She is noted for her criticism of her cousin Indira Gandhi during the Emergency period. She is also the mother of Gita Sehgal, who is a writer, journalist, and director of prize-winning documentaries on racism, feminism and other issues.
Nayantara Sahgal’s Career and Achievements
- Nayantara Sahgal was appointed as ambassador to various European countries, following in her mother’s footsteps.
- Her independent tone and criticism of Indira Gandhi caused the latter to cancel her appointment to Italy after she was elected back to power.
- Sahgal published a number of fiction and non-fiction books in English over the course of her life. A Day in the Shadow was a novel published in 1971. Plans for Departure was another novel that came out in 1985.
Nayantara Sahgal served as an advisor to Sahitya Akademi’s Board for English from 1972 to 1975.
- Sahgal was an activist all her life.
- Protesting against the murders of activists like MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, and Narendra Dabholkar, Sahgal joined a host of other academics in returning her government awards in October 2015.
- She cited the increasing intolerance against dissent in the country as the reason.
- The relationship, a collection of personal letters exchanged between Sahgal and her husband Mangat Rai were published in 1994.
Nayantara Sahgal’s Awards and Recognition
- Her masterpiece was “Rich Like Us” that also came out in 1985. The novel was historical and politically motivated fiction.
- It followed the chaotic life of two girls in Delhi trying to survive in the politically turbulent times between the 1930s and 1970s.
Nayantara Sehagal received the Sinclair Prize (Britain) for fiction in 1985, Sahitya Akademi Award in 1986, and Commonwealth Writers Award (Eurasia) in 1987.
- While tackling the burning issues of political corruption, it distinguished between viewing women as objects versus feminism. For its themes and writing, it received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1986.