Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The women in Nehru's life


Note: This is an excerpt from the Best Seller "I was Nehru's Shadow" by PV Rajgopal. The book is an edited version of the diaries of KF Rustamji, the Chief Security Officer of Jawaharlal Nehru.
A lot has been written about in recent years about the women in Nehru’s life. Nehru was a man, who, like all men at the top, was very lonely. He was often alone. He longed for exchange of ideas with women. I am not sure that justice has been done to JN by all the insinuations and statements that have been made about him and his friendship with Lady Mountbatten and Padmaja Naidu after the death of all the three persons. Having been so close to him, I should know.


Nehru and Lady Mountbatten were good friends. What was the relationship between them? Obviously one of an intimate friendship. One (JN) had been moulded and influenced by England. The other (Lady M) had been influenced by India. Both were friends because they found something novel in a person affected by the thing he or she loved. He was aristocratic and so was she. And both were in love with people, feeling for them, wanting to help them, dedicating their lives to the service of others.

There was forthrightness about Lady M which was typically English, and so was the clipped accent, the high-powered smile and the short, sudden gasp of breath with which ‘pucca’ English women indicate surprise or boredom, or do it merely because they do it so well, so often.

Her feminity was utterly charming. The sweet kisses to the ladies, the testering high heels, the smart frocks, the nail polishing in the plane (“my nails are all clipped trying to pull the ashtrays out in this Russian plane”), the exquisite perfume and the totally unconcerned manner of the gay ‘20’s with which she powdered her face at the breakfast table - all these - I noted with fascination.
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‘Dickie’ always hovered about the edge of the conversation. ‘Dickie’ said this or that - was interested in this - was always right about military affairs, politics, fishing, whatever you want. And, of course, there was always something which could be taken back for him - paintings from the caves, guide books of Ajanta, a mango from the fruits served in the Aurangabad Hotel, gifts presented by village children. He was there all the time with us in the tours; if not in person, in the desire to please him.

Lady Mountbatten had a very young figure although her face looked elderly. Once seated next to her in the plane, I could not but help looking at her feet—delicate, thin, with a most pronounced arch – in fact an exaggerated arch, but very attractive. She was very particular about her clothes and appearance. She was the type of woman whom the PM seemed to like—independent, opinionated, cheerful, even brilliant in conversation but affectionate and sympathetic.

The other intimate friend of JN was Padmaja Naidu. One could write a lot about her and still fail to describe her kindness, her inimitable sense of humour, her poetic expression, her frankness and “say-what-you-will” attitude with JN, her undying love for her mother (Sarojini Naidu) which brought a tear in her eyes whenever she talked about her; her indefatigable championship of the Muslim widows of Osmanabad, and her tirade against Union officers, her interest in solid social work, her love for Hyderabad and her interest in pornography or her desire to wash her hair every day on tour. There was much about her that was noble and kind – and yet petulantly feminine. Padmaja Naidu was a good friend who was already to help with the type of advice that only a good woman can give.

Another woman who tried to get close to JN was Mridula Sarabhai. She became an absolute nuisance to the security people. Mridula Sarabhai, the heavy browed, tight-hipped woman with straight bobbed hair—heavy shoes, and a deep melancholy eyes seemed to be a frustrated woman. She seemed to have loved only one man—grandly, unapproachably, even unattainably - Nehru.

Her frustration found relief in “protecting him.” Every few days she circulated a letter to people high up, informing them of some vague secret conspiracy, which she had heard casually from a boy in the street when she was passing by. Or if it was not a conspiracy, it was some slackness in security in Parliament, in the PM’s house or in the Delhi Police.

One reason for the letters was her desire to protect JN and another and perhaps more important reason was to attain influence in the political and official world. To everyone in the Congress and the Secretariat, she was a friend of Nehru, although JN himself could see through her game.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Like all influential and powerful men of history, Nehru was a great attraction for women. His single status, after the death of his wife, was percieved as a great opportunity for single women in India and the world over. I admire Nehru's ability to maintain a distance from these ladies at the same time not making them feel so.

History will remember great people for their great deeds. Speculation about their personal lives will be discussed by the petty.

Saral said...

HI Gautam,
I was actually, before the start of reading through your blog, expecting you to write more on the frivolous nature of Nehru. It strated well but, unfortunately, became a count of usual folklore in the end. I would actually suggest a book by Mathai if you actually want to dwelve into the promiscous side of Nehru. Strange, I dint know that he had a fling with Padmaja Naidu :). Is it also true that he was born in a red-light district where Motilal Nehru used to ply around brothel houses? Nice read albeit concise. Thanks
Saral

cathy said...

Why is it more realistic to believe
JN's secretary Mathai's book rather than that of his chief security officer? Mathai's book is practically unbelievable in its venomous picture of a debauched Nehru and, yes---even a debauched Indira Gandhi!
When either of them would even have had time for such extensive sexual adventures is beyond me, having read so many accounts of their overwhelming work schedules.
Also, there was a recent interview with Pamela Mountbatten, daughter of Lord and Lady M. She affirmed that the friendship between Nehru and her mother was deep and lasting and that they certainly glowed in eachother's company. But she pointed out that most of the times they spent together was on the Mountbattens' properties; she said that Nehru was much too honorable a man to have a physical affair with his friend's wife in such a situtation!
I am an American admirer of Nehru; he was always one of my heroes. One should always be able to withstand the truth about one's heroes, so---if JN was having affairs, so be it.
However, his security chief's and Pamela Mountbatten's accounts have the feeling and the ring of truth.

Anonymous said...

Trues story of Nehru can be read here
http://karsewak.blogspot.com/2007/02/untold-stories-of-motilal-jawahar-lal.html