New Delhi, May 27 (ANI): Forty- seven years ago on May 27, there was heavy downpour in Delhi. That was the day when India heard that first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who was unwell, had passed away.
As a young officer, who was in Delhi on tour from Jammu and Kashmir, I had then felt that heavens had joined people of India in shedding tears for the first Prime Minister of the country, who laid the foundation for building a strong and vibrant country. .
Jawaharlal Nehru had charted the course for free India, by promoting the nation's unity in diversity, worked tirelessly to establish communal harmony which was a difficult task after the violence that the country had witnessed during Partition riots, and worked for the establishment of socialist pattern of society where the poor felt that the Government is concerned about their welfare.
He conceived and built the hydroelectric projects and steel plants, which were called by him as the temples of modern India. He was keen on building a knowledge-based society and conceived the Indian Institutes of Technology, and set up two score or more scientific research laboratories.
I wish those who are talking about the 'standards' of our engineers and scientists look back and be grateful to the faculty that built the institutions.
Men like Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai enjoyed his patronage. Pioneering progress was made in field of atomic energy and space exploration. ehru was committed to keep India non-aligned and wanted the country to be free to take decisions in national interest. India held her head high in the comity of nations
A universally respected leader, he trained us in working of parliamentary democracy. .
People of my generation remember with nostalgia memories of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister. A person of infinite charm, he was transparent in all of his actions. The office of Prime Minister of India sat lightly on his shoulders.
My first 'encounter' with Jawaharlal Nehru was in 1956. I was on a visit to Delhi, and had come to All India Radio to listen to the music competition in which a cousin of mine was participating. During a gap of two hours in the competition I strolled towards the Parliament House. There were no security restrictions those days
A seminar on the Indian Constitution, conducted by the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies, was in progress. . The subject interested me, as I had just finished my papers for the MA degree in Political Science from the Bombay University and Constituional Law for my law degree. .
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was addressing the gathering, mainly consisting of Parliamentarians on the role of the Parliament and the State Assemblies in the country. During the tea break the participants came out on the lawns outside the Central Hall.
I noticed Jawaharlal Nehru coming near the table where I had poured myself a cup of tea. He saw me - a young man of 21 --in a crowd of elders. He asked me, I guess you are a student. Do you find the speeches interesting? I took courage to say that the speeches were good but I felt that the Indian Constitution should have been more unitary than federal in character. Nehru smiled, patted me on my back, and told me to keep my interest in the subject alive.
It was too overwhelming for me to be in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru and be spoken to by him.
Soon after, I joined the Press Information Bureau in Delhi. The event that I used to look forward to was the monthly press conferences of the Prime Minister. Jawaharlal Nehru's press conferences were like classrooms lectures -he spoke on colonialism, India's relations with neighbours and planning.
The Prime Minister sought to educate the people through the medium of newspapers. Witty, always responsive, Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference yielded many quotable quotes.
I also had the opportunity to be on duty at the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day, when he addressed the nation It was a magnificent sight, the sea of humanity extending from the Jama Masjid in the left and Chandni Chowk in the front listening to the Prime Minister with rapt attention.
During the Republic Day celebrations, I never missed attending the function when folk dancers from different parts of the country, called on the Prime Minister.at the Teen Murti House. Jawaharlal Nehru met each and every contingent, wore their headgears and danced with them. He could identify himself with each group. The folk dancers visit to Teen Murti was a delight to photographers.
In 1959, I was asked to cover a function at Teen Murti House. The Prime Minister was to present a shawl to the horse Prithviraj, adjudged the best at the Army Horse show. The presentation was to be done around 6 p.m. The horse was to be shown to him by Major General B.M. Kaul , the Quarter Master General. General Kaul had not come, and I was waiting in the porch of the Teen Murti House, when the Prime Minister arrived. from his office in South Block. .
Jawaharlal Nehru got down from the car. He asked me what brought me there. When I said that I had come to cover the presentation of the shawl to the best horse of the Army Horse Show, he said let us go. When I explained that the function was scheduled at six p.m.,. and that Major General B.M. Kaul was to show him the horse, he said "not to worry, come in". He asked me to sit down and asked the bearer to bring some tea. He then said he would take a quick wash and return to have tea with me.
I narrated in detail to my colleagues how I had the privilege of being offered a cup of tea by Panditji himself in his house. . When I look back I wonder which young officer would have the privilege of being shown such courtesy by the Prime Minister in his house. No wonder, Nehru endeared himself to everyone who came in touch with him.
The next opportunity to see Jawaharlal Nehru from a close distance was in l962, soon after the traumatic events that followed Chinese aggression. The Indian Army had suffered reverses in North East Frontier Agency (now Arunachal Pradesh) and in Ladakh. The function was the concert by Lata Mangeshkar at the National Stadium to raise funds for the war effort.
When she sang Hey Mere Vatan ke Logo, Zara Aank Me Bhar Lo Pani., jo Shaheed huve hai Unko, Zara Yaad Karo qurbani.... I saw Panditji wipe his eyes. He walked slowly. For a person who was always sprightly, suddenly he had become aged.
The last time I saw Panditji was in 1964 when he had just passed away. I had come on a visit from Srinagar, where I was posted. I was put on duty to conduct the photographers covering the Prime Minister's last journey. The weather was burning hot, even though it rained heavily the previous evening. As advised by a colleague I had stocked many jugs of water in the two open Army trucks in which the photographers travelled. .
The journey from Teen Murti to the banks of Jumuna, now known as the Shanti Van, took over four hours. The crowd was fifty deep all along the route on either side of the road. There was no pair of eyes, which were not moist.
Looking back, India was fortunate to have a person like Jawaharlal Nehru to lead the country for seventeen years and instill in the nation the true values of democracy.
An endearing person, he spoke, wrote and interacted with everyone in a transparent manner.
I. Ramamohan Rao, former Principal Information Officer, Government of India. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org By. I. Ramamohan Rao (ANI)