a MOTHER INDIA to the masses: a tribute on her 101st Birth Anniversary
....... Indu, Priyadarshini Nehru, born on 19th November 1917 into an illustrious family hailing from Kashmir, settled in Allahabad, the only child to the first Prime Minister of Independent India, Pandit Nehru. With her parents majorly occupied with India’s freedom struggle, young Indu was left to play with her male cousins resulting in a tomboyish character throughout her childhood, though shy, because of which (she mentions in later life) Indira only realised her gender difference after the age of twelve. She got her education from various institutes including Shanti Niketan, under the patronage of Rabindranath Tagore, who had bestowed her the name “Priyadarshini”.
The young Indira made a foray into the freedom scenario while her mother, Kamala’s health started failing. It was during one of these protests alongside Kamala Nehru outside her future beau’s college that she ran into Feroze Gandhi. Feroze then became a close aide to her mother and remained with the family till Kamala breathed her last in Switzerland.
Both Feroze and Indira immersed themselves fighting for India's Independence and were jailed for several months during this tenure.
After initially having rejected his marriage proposal (at age 16), Indira was drawn to Feroze in their later years together in England and eventually married him in 1942. It is said that Nehru did not initially approve the marriage either and stated that only if she manages to convince Mahatma Gandhi of this match, would she be allowed. The rest is history. Despite her groom being a Parsi, they were married with traditional Hindu rituals. Indira Nehru thus became Indira Gandhi.
The next five years were filled with marital bliss ushering in Rajiv (born 1944) and Sanjay (born 1946) as new additions to the family. Indira was a doting mother and mentioned in an interview that despite having caretakers and everything at their disposal both the boys were brought up with simplicity through modest amenities having taught an early age to make their own beds, etc. Whilst Rajiv spent most of his younger life studying abroad and bringing in an Italian bride, Sonia, Sanjay stuck by his mother’s side and became an integral part of the political party. Tragically, Feroze died of a heart attack in 1960 leaving Indira a widow at only 43 yrs of age. Their marriage lasted 18 years.
In 1966, after Shastri's death, the Congress party elected Indira Gandhi over Morarji Desai as their leader. So here she was the FIRST FEMALE Prime Minister of India and SECOND FEMALE PM in the world. Initially, it is said that she would be nerved up to speak out in the Parliament sessions and was termed “Gungi Gudiya” (dumb doll) by her detractors. Apparently, her party members too assumed that they could dictate the Prime Ministership on their own terms putting her up as a mere puppet.
However at the end of her 11 year term in 1977, the “Gungi Gudiya” proved everyone wrong by becoming the most eloquent speaker with a profound fluency and efficiency in her speeches, deeds, administration and taking major decisions culminating into successes like the 1971 War, initiation and further strengthening of ties with countries like the Soviet Union (then USSR) and Iran. The iron lady fearlessly refused to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which strained relations with the United States. In 1981 though, her US visit during President Reagan’s tenure did patch up ties between the two nations.
Everyone’s journey has it’s ups and downs and Indira’s worst is associated with the darkest chapter of Indian Political History: The Emergency (1975 to 1977). Her younger son, Sanjay, already into mainstream politics despite not holding an official portfolio, is said to be a major influence and driving force during this tenure. Indira’s call for re-elections in 1977 after the emergency backfired and Morarji Desai became the first non-Congress I Prime Minister. However all their tall claims and false propaganda against Indira fell into bits only 2 years after forming the government with Charan Singh following as the next PM in 1979. The elections followed in January 1980 and Indira resurfaced as a Prime Minister with a landslide victory.
Sadly, in the same year, on June 23rd, Indira lost her younger son, Sanjay in a tragic air crash. It is said that India never saw Indira as vulnerable as they did on that day. Reluctantly, her elder son, the politically aversive, Rajiv, comfortably settled in domesticity with Sonia and their kids, Rahul & Priyanka, a Professional Pilot at this point, for Air India, was summoned to fill Sanjay’s political void.
New reforms, garibi hatao andolan, abolition of privy purse to princely states and the 1969 nationalisation of the fourteen largest banks in India were few of the highlights of her political career. In 1971, she was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.
The Operation Blue Star in the later years to come did Indira no good and despite advise from her well-wishers to remove guards belonging to a certain section of community, she assured them her trusted security would never breach their loyalty. And the unfortunate happened on 31st October, 1984, a little shy from her 67th birthday, our Indira was assassinated by two of her loyal security guards.
The entire nation was bereaved. Is it a mere coincidence that in her last speech at Parade Ground, Orissa a day before her death, she said to the crowd:
"I am alive today, I may not be there tomorrow...I shall continue to serve until my last breath and when I die, I can say, that every drop of my blood will invigorate India and strengthen it. Even if I died in the service of the nation, I would be proud of it. Every drop of my blood... will contribute to the growth of this nation and to make it strong and dynamic.”
Bangladesh's highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred on Indira Gandhi for her "outstanding contributions" to Bangladesh's Liberation War.
There are several video clips and snippets of Indira’s interviews on the net today, here's a link of one which portrays the grit of this Iron Lady where she retorts back determinedly to every uncomfortable question put across to her.
Today, her admirers, the masses see her persona depicting through her granddaughter Priyanka.
Indira Gandhi was referred to as “Goddess Durga” by Atal Bihari Vajpayee on one occasion and another politician proclaimed that “Indira is India and Indira is India”. When she was once asked what term she'd always want to be remembered with, she smiled, “MAA”.
..... An ode to a Great Indian, a freedom fighter, to a woman who lead the country alongside being a dutiful daughter, wife and mother.....a charismatic persona and to the one who put INDIA on the international podium establishing it’s position on the world stage.... Happy Birthday INDIRA !
is self-analytical, meticulous and believes in fate... A deep fascination for history often subjects her to time-travel through the realm of her subconscious mind!!
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