Chacha Nehru's Inspiring Anecdotes
Strolling In The Garden!
He was taking a stroll along the path that ran around the trees and the shrubs of the open grounds in Teen Murti, the official residence of the Prime Minister. Then he heard the cry of a baby. Where did it come from? Nehru stopped, looked all around. His eyes focused on a baby of two months, howling at its top. Nehru went closer. Where was the mother? She was nowhere around. Nehru guessed that the baby's mother must be working on the grounds. She must be a member of the team of gardeners who worked at Teen Murti. She must have put the baby to sleep and gone to the work spot. More he went on with the guessing game, louder and louder became the cry of the baby. Nehru decided to play mother to the child. He walked close to where the child lay, bent, picked the baby in his arms and rocked it gently. The child's wails ebbed and petered off. A toothless smile lit up its lips. That was a smile that cheered Pandit Nehru. He played with the baby, tickled it, had fun time till the baby's mother, covered with dust and sweat ran in. She could not believe her eyes. Her beloved child was in Pandit Nehru's arms. And he was having fun time in its company. For the mother, it was her proudest moment ever. Her baby had been rocked and soothed by none else but the Prime Minister of India.
The Baloon Seller!
Pandit Nehru was on a tour of Tamil Nadu (then known as Madras). Large crowds lined the roads to have his darshan. Many children had climbed up the trees that lined the roads to get a glimpse of their beloved Chacha Nehru. Set behind the crowd was a balloon seller. The strings of the balloons were gathered in his hand, but the balloons, of all shapes and sizes provided a colorful panorama, a sort of drifting halo behind the crowd. On an impulse, Pandit Nehru instructed the motorcade to stop. He jumped out of the open jeep, signaled to the balloon seller to his side. The man came, hesitantly. Had he earned the wrath of the Prime Minister? What would happen to him now? He bowed, held his head bent. "Buy up all his balloons. Give them to the children," Nehru told his aide. The news was conveyed to the balloon seller. He could not believe his ears. He bowed again, ran back, distributing the balloons among the children. Nehru walked to a plump girl, happily watching the balloon in her hand soar far above her head, pinched her cheek gently and returned to the jeep. The children screamed happily, "Chacha Nehru, Chacha Nehru!”
Not The Occasion For Speech!
One hundred and thirty children of Balkanji-Bari, who had come to Delhi in response to an invitation by the Prime Minister, heartily enjoyed a reception given by him at the lawns of his residence, Teen Murti. Mr. Nehru who came to meet them in the evening after a strenuous four-hour meeting to select Congress candidates, was instantly refreshed seeing the little ones who sat in neat rows enjoying fruit drink and sweets. As soon as he appeared, they rose with joyous shouts of ``Chacha Nehru Zindabad.'' A representative of Balkanji-Bari requested Mr. Nehru to address the boys and girls, but the Prime Minister said, “you do not make speeches on occasions like these.'' Instead, he went round, and made each of his little visitors feel completely at home, patting, caressing, saying kind words, making pleasant simple conversation and cracking jokes. Some children asked Chacha Nehru if he remembered having met them at Santa Cruz airport three years earlier on his way to the U.S.A., and Nehru readily responded indeed he did. Nehru asked the children what they had seen in Delhi. The children mentioned the names of Red Fort, Juma Masjid, Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Qutub Minar and Jantar Mantar. When their host wanted to know what was the most wonderful thing they had seen in Delhi, back came their answer in a piped chorus, ``Chacha Nehru.''
Language Of Your Liking!
At the above Balkanji-Bari get together, a boy, extending autograph book, asked Chacha Nehru,
“Chachaji, can I have your autograph?”
Nehru obliged him. The boy looked at the autograph and pointed out to him,
“Chachaji, you have omitted to put the 'Tarik' (date).”
Nehru put the date also. The boy again said,
“Chachaji, you have not written any 'Sandesh' (message).”
Nehru smiled and wrote a small message. When the boy looked at the autograph book, he was surprised. Nehru had written his signatures in English, the date in Urdu and the message in Hindi. When the boy looked at Nehru questioningly, he, with a broad smile, said,
“My dear kid, you asked for my signatures in English, the date in Urdu and the message in Hindi, and you have them thus.”
In No Hurry!
As official of the International Cultural Forum, India, I had the pleasure of taking a group of children to Prime Minister Nehru's residence for his blessings before the children were to leave for a Summer Camp in the then Soviet Union. Mrs. Indra Gandhi, the PM's daughter, received and rushed us to Mr. Nehru's study for a hurried audience with him as per appointment. However, Mr. Nehru was in no hurry and asked Mrs. Gandhi to arrange for some snacks and soft drinks for us. In the meanwhile he made us feel at home by shifting from the sofa to the carpet to show us on the atlas the summer camp site along the beautiful Black Sea where the children would be spending the summer months. When the 15-minutes allotted time for our appointment was over, Mr. Nehru was still absorbed in giving the children orientation lessons for their participation in the international camp. Mrs. Gandhi had a hard time engaging Ministers and other important persons who were waiting for their turn to meet the Prime Minister as per their respective appointments. Indeed, it is beyond imagination how extraordinary we all felt when we came out after spending the most wonderful time of our life with one of the greatest world leaders, for full one hour.
This Beautiful World!
When the famous cartoonist Shankar started the international competitions for children, Nehru addressed a letter through Shankar's publication to children of the world. It brings out Nehru's abiding love for children:
I like being with children and talking to them and, even more, playing with them. If you were with me, I would love to talk to you about this beautiful world of ours, about flowers, trees, birds, animals, stars, mountains, glaciers and all the other beautiful things that surround us in the world. We have all this beauty all around us and yet we, who are grown-ups, often forget about it and lose ourselves in our arguments or in our quarrels. We sit in our offices and imagine that we are doing very important work.
I hope you will be more sensible and open your eyes and ears to this beauty and life that surrounds you. Can you recognize the flowers by their names and the birds by their singing? How easy it is to make friends with them and with everything in nature, if you go to them affectionately and with friendship.
Grown-ups have a strange way of putting themselves in compartments and groups. They build barriers... of religion, caste, color, party, nation, province, language, customs and of rich and poor. Thus they live in prisons of their own making. Fortunately, children do not know much about these barriers, which separate. They play and work with each other and it is only when they grow up that they begin to learn about these barriers from their elders. I hope you will take a long time in growing up...
December 3, 1949
Chacha Nehru loved flowers as much as he loved children. In his most familiar photograph he is always wearing a red rose close to his heart. The story goes that he started to and eventually got accustomed to tucking the flower to his jacket when a little girl courageously came too close and tucked it on his jacket at a function. In fact, he often compared the two saying that children were like the buds in a garden who needed to be cared, nurtured and loved, as they were the future and foundation of a nation. Since the foundation of a strong future of the country lies in the hands of the children of today, they need to be shown a direction. What better way to show them the way than through Chacha Nehru's inspiring anecdotes.