Short Reviews: Prison and Chocolate Cake, and Forty Years of Test Cricket: India-England

Recently, I completed two books related to India (and England).

The first one, Prison and Chocolate Cake, is a memoir by Nayantara Sahgal, chronicling her young days growing up during the Raj. As niece of independent India’s first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and daughter of India’s first ambassador to the U.N., Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Nayantara was in privileged position to write about the country’s struggle for independence in which her whole family participated. The memoir written during the early fifties also shows the young woman’s uncertainties:

Bombay was going to be my introduction to what is known as ‘normal’ life, one in which people went to offices to pursue their careers instead of to jail; one where they lived by predictable schedules and made plans, woke up and went to bed knowing what that day and the next would bring. The change, for me, would be total….I could no imagine what people in normal life would talk about. The men would dress in suits and ties unlike the men I had known who wore pyjama-kurta, dhoti-kurta and Gandhi caps made of khaddar. The women would go shopping instead of organizing the women of town’s mohallas for political action. I was looking forward to Bombay as to a new country, but I was aware there might be no coming back from it. The fabric of a whole past – my personal past along with India’s – had vanished with the coming of independence, and there might well be nothing but ‘normal’ life ahead. It was a sobering thought.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it whether the journey is more important than the destination? But it also made me thankful for the monotony of life. We have been spared the terror of the midnight knocks and the inhumanity of prisons because there were some who fought for us.

Recommended for those interested in what growing up in an affluent, politically conscious family was like on the threshold of independence.

Did you know that India made her test debut on Saturday, June 25th, 1932, at Lords? Did you know that while India was led by C.K. Nayudu (though he was not officially the captain of the team), England’s captain was Douglas Jardine whose valiant knocks of 79 and 85 saved England the blushes because at one time England, the masters of cricket, were struggling at 19 for 3?! As Neville Cardus wrote: It was a nice state of things. In my mind’s eye I saw the news flashing over the air to far-flung places in India – Punjab and Karachi – and Kuala Lampur, to dusky men in the hills, to the bazaars in the east, to Gandhi himself and Gunga Din.”

And when England (still led by Jardine) toured India in the winter of 1933, Lala Amarnath became the first Indian to score a century. And that too on his test debut!

I am not a great cricket fan but it was fun going through Saradindu Sanyal’s book on Test Cricket between India and England. Recommended for those who have an interest in cricket or sports in the age of empire.


First Line: SOME things will always remain a mystery o me.

Title: Prison and Chocolate Cake

Author: Nayantara Sahgal

Publication Details: ND: Harper Collins, n.d.

First Published: 1954

Source: OTS since 2006.

Other books read of the same author: Mistaken Identity, Lesser Breeds.


First Line: CRICKET, LIKE MOST Western games, came to India in the wake of the “Union Jack”.

Title: 40 Years of Test Cricket India- England (1932-1971)

Author: Saradindu Sanyal

Publication details: ND: Thomson Press (India) Ltd., 1972

First Published: 1972

Pages: 192

Source: H.M. Library [F.A. 97.5]

Other books read of the same author: None

4 thoughts on “Short Reviews: Prison and Chocolate Cake, and Forty Years of Test Cricket: India-England

  1. Neeru – Such interesting looks at India's past and at the cricket culture! Different perspectives and of course a different focus in each book, but both with some nice historical interest. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Glad to know that your brother is into cricket which is almost like a religion in India. But after the dismal performance in England, I don't know how many would still be glued to their TVs.


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