When Indira was born on Nov 19,
1917, the Scottish doctor who was attending to Kamla Nehru
announced to Jawaharlal Nehru: "It is a bonny lassie, Sir!"
The womenfolk around Jawaharlal's mother, Swaroop Rani, pulled
long faces in sympathy. This irritated his father, Motilal,
prompting him to chide his wife: "You must not say such a thing.
Have we made a distinction between our son and two daughters in
their upbringing? Do you not love them equally? This daughter of
Jawahar's, for all you know, may prove to be better than a
The baby was named Indira by Swaroop Rani, who was a strong-willed
and dominating woman. Jawaharlal and Kamla wanted to name their
daughter Priyadarshani ('dear to behold'); so she was named Indira
Priyadarshani. As per the Nehrus' custom, after a few days, the
young baby was taken to the major-domo of the house, the ailing
Wrapped in an exquisite Kashmiri shawl, Indira was carried to
Mubarak Ali's cottage. When the pink and white baby was placed in
Munshiji's outstretched hands, tears of joy rolled down the old
man's cheeks, wetting his long white beard.
He looked up to Motilal, Jawaharlal, Kamla, Swaroop Rani and the
rest and said: "Mubarak ho, Bhai and Bhabhi Saheb! May Allah's
blessings go with the child, who should be a worthy heir to
Jawahar as Jawahar has proved a worthy and wonderful son to you,
and may the child illuminate the name of Nehru."
According to Indira's aunt, Krishna Nehru Hutheesing, who was
there when Mubarak Ali said this, Munshiji was told that the baby
was a girl but he kept addressing her as the 'grandson' of Motilal
Writer and filmmaker Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, a close friend of
Nehru's, witnessed Indira's acumen in economy first hand in August
1954. Abbas had just screened his film, "Munna", the first
songless Hindi movie, for a select audience including Nehru.
Nehru, a movie buff, was so moved by child star Master Romi's
performance that he invited him for breakfast the next morning.
Abbas asked Nehru if the entire unit, including the other actors
and technicians, could accompany Romi. Before saying 'yes', Nehru
called up Indira and asked her in a low voice: "Indu, have we got
enough cereal and eggs to invite this whole gang for breakfast?"
Later, Abbas met up with Indira and asked her why she had not said
an outright 'yes' to her father's query. To the filmmaker's
surprise, the prime minister's daughter, who ran the household at
Teen Murti House, said: "It's no joke running the house of a
hospitable and large-hearted man like my father on the fixed
salary that he gets!"
Indira told Abbas that quite often the prime minister's salary was
not enough to pay the grocer's bills and at the end of the year,
Nehru owed a substantial amount to various creditors. The debts
were paid when the prime minister received his yearly royalties
from the foreign publishers of his books.
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excerpts from the book
"24 Akbar Road"
"24 Akbar Road" has
been published by Hachette India.