Benevolence

What is Benevolence? It is an act of kindness or an inclination to be kind. It is a disposition to do good by a generous gift.
 
 
We Indians have a habit of bestowing divinity on famous personalities, be it from Politics, Films or Sports. We hear stories of temples being built for film personalities in southern India. People like Rajnikant, Amitabh Bachchan, MGR, and NTR, generate a sense of awe and are revered as Demi-Gods. Sachin Tendulkar is termed as God of Cricket. However, it is more complicated in politics. The followers of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Savarkar, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Indira Gandhi are so blinded by these towering personalities that they completely ignore the fact that they were also human. We see the same trend being continued today with Narendra Modi. And like any other humans, they must have made mistakes or blunders. We must understand that “To Err is Human“. 
 
Today society has become so polarised as if only two categories exist in India – Modi Bhakts vis-a-vis Modi Haters. The bhakts propagate that Modi can do no wrong, while the haters want everyone to believe that he is doing everything wrong. Now, both can’t be right. However, nobody seems to think logically about a golden mean. There is also a new trend: bhakts berate Nehru & Gandhi, and haters praise them to the skies. 
 
India’s history indicates that Nehru made some mistakes, but I believe he must not have done them knowingly. It could have been an error of judgement which ended up being a wrong decision. But it is an injustice to him to brush him aside thoroughly. I am narrating the following story to show his soft and unselfish side. 
 
 
Swaraj Bhavan
 
 
 
 
At Number One, Church Road in Allahabad stood a massive estate with a grand mansion replicating an English country house. Motilal Nehru, a prominent Allahabad lawyer, bought the estate in 1900. He renovated the crumbling house, and his family shared the 42-room mansion and a staff of over 100 people for almost three decades. However, the estate was believed to be with a female ghost and majestic cobra snakes. It was here that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was born in 1917. 
 
The house was called Anand Bhawan and routinely hosted MK Gandhi and other Congress Party luminaries. The political activities against British colonial rule were so hectic that Motilal donated the house to the Congress Party. 
 
Anand Bhavan 
 
 
 
In 1930, he designed a new home for himself and his family, a more modern but equally grand mansion which he initially called The Cottage and later Anand Bhawan. The older house was renamed Swaraj Bhawan as it was the lap of the freedom struggle. 
 
Motilal had hoped for happier days in his new home pictured above, but an astrologer predicted that its owner would not live too long to enjoy it.
 
Son Jawaharlal lived in the second-floor apartment with his wife Kamla and daughter Indira. Throughout the making of the new home, Jawaharlal had criticised his father for spending too much money on making it fancy, with too many marble floors and elegant furniture.
 
However, Motilal Nehru dreamt of another kind of building. He wrote, “we have to labour and work hard to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We must build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell”.
 
In 1937, when his daughter Indira was in Europe, Jawaharlal wrote to her from a desk in Anand Bhawan: I rejoice in your letters telling me of your life full of activity, work, and joy and also informing her letters recalled innumerable pictures to his mind, a crowd of memories and visions of days gone by and the sense of emptiness in the silent, deserted house. ‘Anand Bhawan is sometimes quite oppressive and reminds me of my days in prison,’ wrote Nehru to his daughter.
 
It is here that Swarup Rani, Nehru’s mother had her third and final stroke in January 1938. When Swarup Rani collapsed, Nehru took her gently to her bedroom. Writing to Indira on 14 January, he said that his mother tried to walk but was not very successful. She was taken to her bed, where she fell wholly unconscious and at 4.45 am, it was all over. Precisely at the same time, seven years ago, Motilal had died in the same house.
 
Nehru wrote in strict confidence to his old friend Dr Jivrah Mehta about his desire to turn Anand Bhawan into a Nehru family museum. Indira never wanted to live in Anand Bhawan, and she had made that clear to him, and the home was too large for him to keep just for the occasional night he spent there alone.
 
When Krishna, Nehru’s little sister, was reduced to tears at the thought of losing her birthplace, her childhood home, he consoled her by saying, ‘Do not think of it in terms of our losing Anand Bhawan. We shall not lose it. Our lives have become part of the larger nation, and we go up and down with it. If that is so, why not share the house also?’
 
The new home of the Nehrus remained the family residence in Allahabad until Indira donated it in 1970 to the nation to be converted into a museum.
 
It was indeed a grand gesture
 
(I know I could be branded as Liberal, Socialist or Samajwadi. This piece is only to show the humane side of the personalities. I also don’t need to be told what his Pariwar did in later years).  
 
 
@ Yeshwant Marathe
 
 
Ref: Mehru Jaffer’s Article 
 

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