Pt. Jawaharlal nehru

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.”
- Pt. Nehru

Who is this dude?

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru was born on November 14, 1889 (that makes him a Scorpio) in Allahabad, (Oh by the way Mr. Bachchan, no not the Bluffmaster, the Shenshah also hails from the same city). His father Motilal Nehru was a prominent advocate and early leader of the Indian independence movement. Popularly referred to as Panditji (Scholar), Nehru was also a writer, scholar and amateur historian, and the patriarch of the Nehru-Gandhi family, one of the most influential forces in Indian politics. After being tutored at home and attending some of the most modern schools in India, Nehru travelled to England at the age of 15 to attend Harrow. He proceeded to study natural sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge before choosing to train as a BARRISTER at the Inner Temple in London (can we stop talking about lawyers!!!).

Frequenting the theatres, museums and opera houses of London, he would spend his vacations travelling across Europe. Observers later described him as an elegant, charming young, intellectual and socialite. (Dude...)

Having made few attempts to establish himself in a legal practise, (Valiant shall I say) Nehru was immediately attracted to Indian political life, which at the time was emerging from divisions over World War I. (Law’s loss is India’s gain)
Nehru was a renowned orator (smooooth!). He could give many extemporaneous speeches in a single day. His most famous speech is the "Tryst with Destiny" address to the Constituent Assembly of India in New Delhi on the night of August 14th and 15th, 1947.

"In a few moments, India was to become independent after centuries of colonial invasion and rule"
Listen to the complete speech
Read the full text

What’s so cool about him?

Jawaharlal Nehru remained the Prime Minister of India for 17 long years and can rightly be called the architect of modern India. He set India on the path of democracy and nurtured its institution - Parliament, multi-party system, independent judiciary and free press. He encouraged Panjayati Raj institutions.

'The Discovery of India’,Glimpses of World History’, his autobiography, ‘Towards Freedom' (1936) ran nine editions in the first year alone. Emotional sensitivity and intellectual passion infused his writings, giving them unusual appeal & topicality even today. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1955.

His birthday is observed as Children's Day (November 14th…Happy Birthday Chachu) He believed that children are the future of the nation. (Now you know why we are covering him this month in our whole new section Who is this DUDE.

An Anecdote

In November 1957, a curious article appeared in an Indian newspaper called The Modern Times. Entitled "The Rashtrapati," the piece scathingly criticized Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

While the author acknowledged Nehru's innate drive and initiative, he also alluded to the prime minister's undeniable autocratic streak. He urged the Indian electorate to exercise caution, lest Nehru turn into a despot. Indeed, electing this man for a third consecutive term, the article warned, would fan his ego and endanger Indian society, saying that his character was marked by "intolerance of others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient". The author, who signed himself "Chanakya", added that Nehru's conceit was "already formidable", and worried that soon "Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar". The author of this article was Nehru himself under a pseudonym of Chanakya. This publication is a significantly important example of auto critique.

[The ruse failed; Nehru remained in office until 1964.]

  • Nehru's verdict of Joseph Stalin? "...that great lover of peace, a man of giant stature who moulded, as few other men have done, the destinies of his age."
    [Source: Karnataka Quiz Association; Obituary tribute, Indian Parliament, 9 Mar 1953]

  • The Nehru jacket is named in his honour due to his preferred wearing of jackets that later inspired the Nehru jacket's design.

  • Roshan Seth played Nehru’s character in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film Gandhi. In Ketan Mehta's film Sardar, Nehru was portrayed by Benjamin Gilani and in Jamil Dehlavi's film Jinnah, he was portrayed by Robert Ashby.

Chinese miscalculation

Nehru assumed that as former victims of imperialism (India being a colony itself) they shared a sense of solidarity, as expressed in the phrase "Hindi-Chini bhai bhai" (Indians and Chinese are brothers). He was dedicated to the ideals of brotherhood and solidarity among developing nations, while China was dedicated to a realist vision of itself as the Big-Brother of Asia. Nehru did not believe that one fellow Socialist country would attack another; and in any event, he felt secure behind the impregnable wall of ice that is the Himalayas. Both proved to be tragic miscalculations of China's determination and military capabilities. As Nehru declared the intention to confront Chinese occupation of the disputed areas, China made a pre-emptive attack on the Indian front. (Damn! Chinese)

Indian casualties were in the tens of thousands largely due to exposure to the raw and frigid conditions, and complete depletion of ammunition in face of Chinese human-wave attacks. India was vanquished by the Chinese People's Liberation Army in a bitter and cold battles in the North and North-East. Only the intervention of the US (Big Brother, apparently they aren’t that bad) 6th fleet in Bay of Bengal convinced the Chinese to stop their advances. The military debacle against China in 1962 was thoroughly investigated in the Henderson-Brooks Report, which successive Indian governments have refused to release.

Regardless of the fault lines, Nehru remains the most important architect of free India. The words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes come to mind here. "A great man represents a great ganglion in the nerves of society, or to vary the figure, at a strategic point in the campaign of history and his greatness consists in seizing that opportunity and being there at that particular strategic point."

“Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends.”
- Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964)

Think about it!