Tue, 22 Dec 2009 09:37:22 GMT

Secret wish: Indira yearned to have a daughter

Did you know that Indira Gandhi yearned for a daughter, or that veteran communist parliamentarian Hirendranath Mukherjee tried to find out if Comrade Jyoti Basu had accepted money to deliver the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture in 1998?

These and other nuggets of information are recorded in former External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh's book Yours Sincerely, a selection of correspondence between him and eminent public personalities -- among them Indira Gandhi, P N Haksar, H Y Sharda Prasad, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Rajiv Gandhi, E M Forster, Nadine Gordimer and Mulk Raj Anand.

The book, released earlier this month, does not include any correspondence with Sonia Gandhi. But many letters, written by people long gone, remain relevant even today.

In December 1971, Indira wrote: "It is not important what the Chinese think or what they want. What is important is what they do. So far they have kept to the expected line." Nearly four decades later, her advice would still make sense.

In April 1975, with Morarji Desai on a fast demanding elections to the dissolved Gujarat Assembly, Indira wrote to Natwar, then India's Deputy High Commissioner in London: "We have given in to a part of Morarji's demand... It seemed such a silly point for which to fast or for us to hold out... However, our difficulties are acute and varied enough without having a dead Morarji haunting the scene... I was deeply shocked at the manner in which some (Opposition parties) seemed to (claim) that his disappearance from the scene would clear the way for Opposition unity."

Congress leaders grappling with the fallout of their seeming capitulation before the fasting K Chandrasekhar Rao earlier this month would find Indira's reaction insightful.

Some of the correspondence reveals Indira's softer, affectionate side. In January 1970, after Natwar suffered a slipped disc while bending to give his son a teddy, she wrote to him, "Do you remember when the same thing happened to KPS Menon? He had to stand in a very artistic Ajanta pose for quite some time. Now you know the pleasures of fatherhood."

When Natwar's daughter was born, she wrote, "You certainly have done better planning than many of us. My heart has always yearned for a daughter, so I can imagine your joy in Jagat's having a baby sister."

A letter from Hiren Mukherjee demonstrates the CPI veteran's commitment as a public representative.

On January 10, 1999, he wrote to Natwar: "For reasons I can guess but cannot relish, the Jawaharlal Trust got my old comrade of close to sixty years to give the annual lecture (November 1998). I remember in the old days the lecture carried an honorarium of a hundred thousand rupees (plus, expenses, etc.,) which may well have been enhanced. As the only surviving original trustee, I might perhaps inquire (thought I am not doing so - this is a purely personal request) if Jyoti was offered and declined or accepted any such payment..."

There is no indication why Mukherjee decided to contact Natwar instead of asking Basu directly.

The book contains the gracious letter Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to Natwar the day after he resigned in the wake of the oil-for-food scandal. "I have received your letter of 6 December 2005... I have... asked the Rashtrapati to accept your resignation," the PM wrote.

"Under your leadership, the external relations of the country have seen immense progress and we have been able to make giant strides on all fronts. In the last 17 months the prestige and standing of the nation has risen to unprecedented heights on the international plane. Your contribution to the peace process with Pakistan, moving forward our relations with neighbours and in making a historic breakthrough in our relations with the US are indeed praiseworthy accomplishments," he added.

Source: The Indian Express

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