Autobiography Writing of Indira Gandhi
Let’s try to understand how to write the autobiography of Indira Gandhi. Today when we talk about women empowerment and women being in every sector of society, we must thank a few of the great women in history who dared to take the first step and became the pioneer for generations to come.
Women empowerment in the Indian context has always been a topic of debate, but that doesn’t mean that India lack in any way when it comes to women representation on the world stage. However, it was never very easy.
There can be no doubt that with a so called patriarchal society prevailing for centuries, women taking part in unconventional sectors like sports and world politics has never been easy. Even to this date, one has to dare to step forward in politics even the candidate is a woman. So, you can imagine the picture before the independence of this country.
This is where the role of Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi is perhaps the most significant. She paved the path for many to come after her. But following the footsteps of her father was never really easy. But despite everything, she became the third prime minister of India after Laal Bahadur Shastri, following the footsteps of her father, the first prime minister of Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru.
But her road to becoming the third Prime Minister of this country and the central figure of Indian Politics during her regime was not easy. However, being a woman of strong will, she entered this male-dominated territory and left her mark forever for the generations to come.
She was not just highly educated, being schooled by Rabindranath Tagore himself at Shantiniketan, Indira Gandhi was a remarkable politician who helped shape this country during its formative years of independence. Carrying the will of past great leaders like her father and Mahatma Gandhi, she took the responsibility of making India a strong and independent country in the face of the world.
With her husband Feroz Gandhi, she had two sons, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, respectively. Both of them also followed in their mother’s footsteps and entered into Politics. Whereas Sanjay Gandhi has left his mark despite his untimely death, Rajiv Gandhi went on to become the fourth Prime Minister of Independent India.
It is very difficult to cover every phase of her illustrious life in such a short span. Moreover, writing the entire thing in the form of an autobiography is all the more difficult. However, I would try to trace the most significant incidents of her life and what made her an iconic figure of Indian politics and the world.
Let’sLet’s get started.
I was told that I was born on 19th November 1917 in Allahabad as Indira Nehru. Our family was a Kashmiri Pandit family. From an early age, I realized that my family is closely related to something that they used to call politics. In this respect, my father was the most active one, and soon when I came to understand that the country I was born in was not completely free, I saw my father becoming one of the leading figures in the freedom movement of Indians against the British Rule. Little did I know back then that my fate had already been sealed, and I, too, one day will take charge of this country as my father!
When I was just a child, I had lost my brother, so I started growing up with my mother. Her name was Kamala Nehru, and we used to stay at the Anand Bhavan. It was one of our large family estates in Allahabad. Although we had a reasonably large estate, I was actually quite lonely and unhappy during my childhood. I could hardly see my father as he was often away from home, directing political activities or incarcerated. I couldn’t blame him; he was serving his nation. But to my utter m misfortune, even my mother was frequently bedridden with illness as well, and when I was pretty young, she suddenly died one day from tuberculosis. Even during these difficult times, I had very limited contact with my father, mostly through letters.
As far as my education was concerned, I remember being taught mostly at home by tutors, and I had only attended school intermittently until matriculation in 1934. I was a student of Modern School in Delhi, then St Cecilia’sCecilia’s, and finally St Mary’sMary’s Christian convent schools in Allahabad. But it didn’t stop there. Thanks to my father, I had the opportunity to attend the International School of Geneva, also, the Ecole Nouvelle in Bex, and the fantastic Pupils’Pupils’ Own School in Poona and Bombay, which was then affiliated with the University of Mumbai.
Apart from that, when my mother was alive, we had even moved to the Belur Math headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission under the guardianship of Swami Ranganathananda. Later on, I had the chance to attend the Vishwa Bharati in Santiniketan, which became Visva-Bharati University in 1951. I definitely consider this phase of my life as one of the most significant ones since I had the fortune of being acquainted with Gurudev himself, Rabindranath Tagore. It was during an interview with him that he observed something in me and named me Priyadarshini, which is a Sanskrit word that means “looking at everything with kindness”, and ever since, the name stuck with me, and I came to be known as Indira Priyadarshini Nehru.
But unfortunately, I couldn’t complete my schooling there as I had to attend to my ailing mother in Europe. It was then that my father and other family members decided that I should continue my education at the University of Oxford. When my mother had passed away, I had attended the Badminton School for a brief period just before enrolling at Somerville College in 1937. There I fell in love with history and began my studies. I was never really good at Latin, and for this sole reason, I had to take the entrance examination twice since I had failed at my first attempt. Even at Oxford, I did pretty well in history, political science, and economics, but my grades in Latin were still relatively poor. But I had a wonderful time at the university as I had always taken an active part in my student life, and I was also a member of the Oxford Majlis Asian Society.
But it was around that time that I fell seriously ill and was under the constant supervision of several doctors. I had been to Switzerland many times to recover, which significantly disrupted my studies. When I was being treated there, the Germans managed to conquer Europe rapidly. Understanding the threat, I tried to return to England through Portugal but was I was left stranded for nearly two months. Fortunately, I managed to enter England in early 1941, and then I decided to return to India without completing her studies at Oxford. Despite that, it was their utmost cordiality that they had awarded me an honorary degree. When I was in England, I had met Feroze Gandhi. Little did I know back then that I would fall in love with this man, and he would become my future husband! I knew him from Allahabad, and around that time, he was studying at the London School of Economics. When we both came back to India, we decided to tie the knot, and our marriage took place in Allahabad according to Adi Dharm rituals. With him, I had two beautiful sons, Rajiv Gandhi (born in 1944) and Sanjay Gandhi (born in 1946).
But as I had said earlier, fate had something else in store for me. So just after getting married and becoming a mother, I started serving my father, your beloved Jawaharlal Nehru, unofficially as his personal assistant during his first tenure as the prime minister of India. It was around this time that I was actively involved with the Congress Party, and near the end of the 1950s, I even served as the President of the Congress. During my tenure, I played an active role in getting the Communist-led Kerala State Government dismissed in 1959. But amidst all this, tragedy struck me and when my father passed away in 1964. However, it was a clarion call as well because shortly after his demise, I was appointed a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and served as Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’sShastri’s cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
But when Shastriji died in January 1966, the Congress legislative party and all its members had elected me over Morarji Desai as their leader. During this phase, one man was instrumental in my victory. He was Congress party veteran K. Kamaraj who had immense faith in me as a leader. I must admit that this decision didn’t go down too well with everyone, mainly because I was a woman. Many other political leaders saw me as a weak link and thought that they could use me as a puppet once elected.
However, history will tell you something else because I was not a puppet. Thus began my career as the third prime minister of this country.
Hence, we have got the basics of the autobiography writing of Indira Gandhi. On 31st October 1984, two of Indira Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, shot her with their own service weapons in the garden of the prime minister’s residence at 1 Safdarjung Road, New Delhi.
Later, it was revealed to be an act of revenge for Operation Blue Star. This day is still considered as one of the darkest days of Indian Politics.
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