Chacha Nehru – a real colossus

November 14

The Children’s Day.

Etched in memory with the fragrance of flowers and sweetness of chocolates associated with the celebrations in School.

Prior to 1964 Children ‘s Day was celebrated on 20th of November as part of the Universal Children’s Day celebrated by the United Nations.

After the demise of Nehru in 1964 it was decided to celebrate Children’s Day on November 14, his Birthday.

There is a colourful panorama of sweet memoirs associated with Children’s Day celebrations in my youngsterly years.

It was almost like a festival.

Flowers and chocolates were a must.

Elocution and extempore speech competitions and a variety of cultural programmes……

Vivid memories…………… as sweet as the chocolates we used to get on the Day.

But I want to say something else on the beloved Chacha Nehru.

He was the first Prime Minister of India. He left behind a legacy of education and development.

His love of children and flowers was legendary.

He created the AIIMS, the IITs and laid the foundation for IIMs.

It was Nehru who recognised the significance of Space Research and set up the INCOSPAR in 1962 under his close aide and scientist Vikram Sarabhai which continued till ISRO was formed in 1969. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

A real visionary……

And right from my childhood, my craze for reading took me to the marvellous tomes,

The Discovery of India

and

Glimpses of World History.

My village library, Nethaji Club had both.

Poor me…..!

I had abundant enthusiasm, but only limited vocabulary and just a small pocket Oxford Dictionary for help.

With great patience I devoured the Discovery in one attempt.

It gave me profound insight of the rich Indian history _the Vedas, the Upanishads , ancient India and history right up to the British Raj.

It was written when he was in solitary confinement in Ahmednagar Fort prison from 1942 to 46.

It was my first comprehensive exposure to Indian history, culture and philosophy.

And I tell you, only much later could I appreciate fully the erudition of the historian in Chachaji.

As for the Glimpses of World History, Indira was the blessed daughter to get the 196 letters on World History written from various prisons by her father between 1930 and 33.

The letters encompassed a panoramic sweep of the history of humankind.

The book has 1192 pages and I completed that in 5 years in instalments!

Despite being a voracious reader.

And while on Nehru who was born on November 14, 1889, I can’t help recollecting the way he died….

With his favourite red rose flower on his study table , on top of a sheet of paper with his pet lines

“Woods are lovely dense and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep”.

On this Children’s Day, I bow my head in admiration and adulation of a colossus who was literally Bharath Ratna.