28 May 2015

The Day Nehru Left Us

On This Day, BBC News
1964: 'With his death an era passed away'

Jawaharlal Nehru, founder of modern-day India and confidant of Mahatma Gandhi, died from a heart attack in 1964 leaving the nation in shock. Politicians wept and party leaders paid tribute to the man who had led India since it achieved independence from Britain in 1947.

As India's first prime minister he took the country along a socialist path, although he refused to align the country to either the Soviet Union or the United States in the Cold War. Although some of his policies have been discredited in recent years, he remains a legendary and much-loved figure and is known as the architect of the state of India.

Here are some of memories of that time.
Our family was deeply attached to the Nehru family. My father was one of his personal secretaries. I was there in front of the bier shouting in tears: " Chacha Nehru amar raho !" While approaching the body, I was literally carried by the crowd and my feet touched ground only after passing the gates. I was awestuck and I was 15 years old at that time. Mohan, France

I was in the first grade in India. We kids used to worship (in the real sense) Nehru. We had a picture of him in the hallway. His death made me cry for days. I was so sad, I couldn't concentrate enough to do my homework. Everything was shut for three days. I got so upset at my teacher's insensitivity when he yelled at me, "Nehru died and you had three days off. What were you doing all this time?" Avanti, USA

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I was 12 years old when this happened. We were playing cricket when all of a sudden a young boy named Umesh came out of his house to tell us that "Chacha Nehru had passed away". Even amongst young boys and girls, Nehru was extremely popular and a role model. We stopped playing cricket and sat down around the radio thinking about what could happen in his absence.
Today it is fashionable and a sign of being an intellectual to criticise Nehru and his policies. These critics, however, fail to recognize the fact that Nehru opted for the best available alternatives within the framework of available scarce resources at his disposal. Despite unfriendly and unreasonable US policies towards India, Herculean problems inherited at the time of partition of the country, Chinese aggression and scores of natural disasters, Nehru assured a stable democratic India for 17 years.
He laid foundation for what India is today by careful economic, educational and social planning. In addition he was 100% honest. Not even one scandal during his long tenure and nothing has come out after he is gone for so many years. None of the modern day politicians across the globe have his kind of world vision and courage to say no to big powers. Jaydev Jani, USA

In Orissa, where he fell seriously ill in Jan 1964 and was never seen again in public, we had always known that Nehru was going. He never appointed a successor as he had himself been appointed by Gandhi. He wanted his charisma to continue after death and didn't care what happened to the country during the struggle for succession. He was otherwise a great man who nurtured the nascent democracy proud unlike many other newly-liberated nations which never got a stable government and never saw progress. His greatest achievement was the unity of the country with 10 different scripts, countless languages, religions and races. Dr. M.Seshagiri Rao, India

Forty years ago, as a young lad, I scrambled up a tree outside Princess Park Officers Mess near India Gate, to witness Nehru's body, wrapped in the Indian tricolour on a military gun carriage, move slowly by, mourned by thousands of my fellow citizens, young and old, rich and poor, for truly a great leader had departed from our midst. More so today, in the world of George Bush and Tony Blair, Nehru's leadership, vision, integrity and accomplishments truly stand out. May his example continue to inspire us all. Christopher Flores, USA

When the news of Mr Nehru's death came all shops were closed including the restaurants. I was on the road near Mumbai. I remember I did not get to eat anything that evening. Nehru was a larger than life figure for a young man like me. In those days we thought he could do no wrong, although now we know his policies set India back by at least 20 years.

His wholehearted co-operation with Soviet Union and blindly following their economic model turned out to be wrong, but you could not tell us that in those days. Some of the countries that aligned with US in those days (like South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand)progressed much faster than India. Nehru was instrumental in getting democracy rooted in Indian minds and that the change should come through the ballot box and not with the military. Overall I am not nostalgic for those days. Mukund Patharkar, USA

It was as if every one had lost a senior family member. Critics and supports alike were equally struck by sorrow. Though foreign newspapers expressed anxiety about the future of Indian democracy, I did not see anyone worried about that. People remembered Nehru for his sacrifices, idealism and steadfast commitment to democracy, secularism and social justice. Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, USA

I remember very well when the news of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's death was broken to our school. The headmaster came and announced with a sad face that Pandit Nehru passed away this afternoon. We could not believe it. After observing two minutes' silence, the school was dismissed for the day. On going back home, I saw the shops were closed and there was no traffic movement on the road. This was a mark of respect towards that great leader whom we used to call as "Chacha Nehru". With his death an era passed away. Kirti Shah, USA

I was seven years old, and living in Kakinada (a town in Andhra Pradesh in southern India) when Pandit Nehru passed away. I remember my father being next to the radio, listening to the news of Nehru's death over All India Radio. His eyes filled with tears and he wept silently for a some seconds before he caught himself. I had never seen my father weep anytime, indeed at that tender age I had never associated tears with my impassive moustachioed father. But those were innocent times in India and perhaps in most of the world, and there were many leaders who were capable of inspiring personal loyalty and admiration of the kind that Nehru and Gandhi did. It would be far more difficult to find leaders of that kind in current times. Ramachandra, USA

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