Sudha Umashanker is an independent writing and editing professional. She is also a professional storyteller. Sudha is a member of our club and a frequent contributor to the Gym Mag.
Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow.”
To whom should this sound byte be attributed? Shouldn’t be difficult to take a guess in the month of November.
Well, those are the words of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and the person who was fondly referred to as Chacha Nehru or Uncle Nehru. Although India began celebrating Children’s Day since the 1950s on November 20th, it was after Nehru’s passing in 1964 that his birthday November 14 is being commemorated as Children’s Day.
Children’s Day is all about celebrating children, showcasing their talents and skills and letting them take centre stage.
There are many childhood memories that people like me have of Nehru – of the Nehru coat, (sherwani) a close collared coat worn over his churidar that became a very popular garment in his times (not to forget the Gandhi cap). And his fondness for pinning a red rose to his coat without fail each day as it reminded him of his dear wife Kamala.
Back in those days exercise note books that students used, had a popular cover page – of Prime Minister Nehru and the former President of the USA John F Kennedy looking skyward, fingers pointing up as they released a dove, as a symbol of peace.
Nehru was home-tutored in his younger days and his teachers had a profound influence on him. He even got interested in Theosophy at an early age. Later his father sent him to Harrow School and Trinity College Cambridge. Thereafter he qualified for the bar at the Inner Temple and began practising as a lawyer in Allahabad High Court. He did not find the atmosphere stimulating and plunged into nationalist politics. He soon came under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and took an active role in the freedom struggle. Whether it was the Salt March or Home Rule, Quit India or Non-Co-operation Movement, he was there in the thick of things. He courted arrest as well.
As Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru was a great votary of universal primary education that he felt children of the country should receive. He launched initiatives to combat child malnutrition through the provision of milk and meals to help undernourished children. He was all for developing a scientific temper and it was with this goal in mind that he played a key role in the setting up of IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) and the AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) He was equally supportive of the Arts. The name of Jawaharlal Nehru also lives on in the institutions named after him – the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Nehru Planetariums, etc.
A prolific author Nehru wrote many books that students and citizens should read – ‘Discovery of India’, ‘Letters from a father to his daughter’, written to his daughter Indira Gandhi, when she was ten years old), ‘Glimpses of World History’- all very educative and engaging works.
He was a good speaker (in his younger days he would actually do anything to avoid giving a speech) and gave many memorable speeches like the one he made on the passing of Mahatma Gandhi the Father of the Nation, which he opened with the words “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere”.
His speech on the occasion of Indian Independence “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom” is rated as one among the outstanding speeches of the world.
Nehru’s former residence, Teen Murti Bhavan has been converted into a museum which is a treasure trove and the other homes Anand Bhavan and Swaraj Bhavan are definitely worth a visit.
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described Jawaharlal Nehru as the ‘Light of Asia’. Let us give him a memorable birthday by celebrating what he held dear – the children of this country.
Happy birthday to a remarkable man and the first Prime Minister of India- Jawaharlal Nehru!