How a small Incident led to self-realization in life of Pandit Nehru
by Shailendra Sial
It was the summer of 1920 and Nehru’s mother and wife were unwell. He decided to take them to Mussoorie and have his younger sister, Krishna, admitted to a school. There an incident occurred that culminated into something far more important.
The family was staying in a hotel and so was a delegation from Afghanistan. The delegation was in India for some political talks with the British government. Nehru was not aware of their presence until his arrival, but the British government was afraid that he may try to contact the delegation and influence them in some way. As a matter of fact, he never did it as he was not interested in seeing them. However, the British government asked him to sign an undertaking that he would not get in touch with any of the delegates. This infuriated young Jawaharlal as he strongly believed that no one had the right to prevent him from doing so.
As a result, the authorities ordered him to leave Mussoorie within 24 hours. He returned to Allahabad and having no further engagements, decided to visit a group of farmers who were camping on the banks of river Yamuna under the leadership of Baba Ramchandra. The farmers appealed to him to help them set free from the clutches of greedy landlords who were making it hard for them to earn a living. This was the first time when he realized something important – he realized where his true sympathies lay.
Till this incident, Jawaharlal had never come so close to the common man of India. He had grown up in Allahabad and England and hardly knew anything about rural India. He realized that it was not his elite circle of friends, political colleagues or educated class who needed him, but the people living in the rural areas. Thereafter, he started his journey and began to engage with the poor, downtrodden and exploited lot.
A shy young man started shedding his inhibitions of public speaking and soon turned into a great orator. He began to identify and relate himself with the rural masses. This was evident from the fact that people were ready and eager to listen to him. As he increased the frequency of his visits to villages, he was appalled to see the wretched conditions in which people were living. He wrote, “Looking at them and their misery and overflowing gratitude, I was filled with shame and sorrow, shame at my own easy-going and comfortable life and our petty politics of the city which ignored this vast multitude of semi-naked sons and daughters of India, sorrow at the degradation and overwhelming poverty of India. A new picture of India seemed to rise before me, naked, starving, crushed and utterly miserable.”
These visits had such a deep impact on him that throughout his life, he visited villages again and again in order to talk to the poor, listen to their problems and provide an apt solution.
The author can be contacted on twitter @ssial
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Nehruvian blog. Feel free to engage, discuss or correct us on feedback [at] nehruvian.com.