Memories Of Teen Murti Bhavan
Mega star Amitabh Bachchan's impressive pictures in front of the famous black door of 10, Downing Street, London and behind it with the British Prime Minister David Cameron were seen splashed across the media worldwide recently.
10, Downing Street, the locale of British Prime Ministers since 1735 vies with the White House as being the most important political buildings anywhere in the world in the modern era. Behind its black door have been taken the most important decisions affecting Britain for the last 278 years. Big B's visit to this famous address as the guest of honor at a reception hosted by British Prim Minister David Cameron's wife Samantha Cameron, brings back nostalgic memories of another famous address, far more important for Indians, Teen Murti Bhavan, New Delhi, that housed the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. The Bhavan was originally known as Flag Staff House and was the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in India. After Independence in 1947, the House was taken over as the official residence of the Prime Minister. On Nehru's death, it was converted into a national memorial in 1964, comprising a library and a museum. The library is one of the finest ones for information on modern Indian history.
There is a special significance in being reminded of Teen Murti Bhavan by Bachchan's visit to 10. Downing Street, because it takes us back to the memory lane of the time when Prime Minister Nehru's grand children, Rajiv and Sanjay were often spotted playing with him and his brother Abhijit in the lush lawns of Teen Murti Bhavan. The stories of that particular period of Bachchan sibling's younger days spent playing with Rajiv and Sanjay were often narrated with pride to us by our next door neighbor in New Delhi, who was at one time the Post Master at Teen Murti Bhavan post office. Those personal accounts of anecdotes told by our neighbor, which we then thought could be imaginary or made up stories by our neighbor to earn his hot cup of tea and tasty snacks made by my wife, were confirmed to be true when they found place on pages of many books and magazines on the topic of Bachchans' friendship with Nehru-Gandhi family. And this brings us to another famous house – Anand Bhavan, Allahabad.
It was the pre-independence era when Anand Bhavan was famous as the House of Nehru family and the Headquarters of freedom movement. One fine evening the famous poetess and political leader, Sarojini Naidu entered the Bhavan with another famous poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and his wife Teji Bachchan and introduced them to Pandit Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi as the Poet and his Poem. That was the beginning of a long friendship between the two families. When Pandit Nehru moved to New Delhi's Teen Murti Bhavan as India's first Prime Ministe, Rajiv and his brother Sanjay turned the Bhavan into their playground along with Bachchan siblings Amitabh and Ajitabh. While Rajiv and Sanjay were studying at Doon School, Amitabh and Ajitabh were at Nainital's Sherwood. During the holidays which fell around the same time, the boys met at Teen Murti and went for swimming every day at the pool of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Rajiv and Sanjay also exposed Amitabh to avent garde cinema when European films were specially screened at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for the Nehru-Gandhi family. Teen Murti Bhavan will ever retain sentimental significance for Big B because of the beautiful memories of the childhood days spent there in the company of Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi.
On a personal note, I too have a very special emotional attachment to Teen Murti Bhavan on account of an unforgettable event:
As Chairman 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 the great world leader, for full one hour. That visit to Teen Murti Bhavan I cherish for ever as the most precious moment of my life.