Since the 1800s, the Nehru household exhibited a mix of Indian and western
cultures with close connections to the British. Indira’s grandfather, Motilal Nehru was
a prominent and wealthy lawyer in Allahabad. He preferred the English language, wore
expensive suits, enjoyed western cuisines and was not religious.
Indira grew up as the only child with her mother at Anand Bhavan, a large
family estate in Allahabad. She got a baby brother in November, 1924 who unfortunately
died after two days of birth.
When Indira was about two years old, her parents joined the Indian Independence Movement
with Mohandas K. Gandhi. The Nehru home was often a meeting place for those involved in
the independence movement, creating an atypical environment for an only child.
Even though Indira was spoilt by her family, she described her childhood as
Indira was four years old when her grandfather, Motilal and father, Jawaharlal were
jailed for the first time.
In 1931, Motilal Nehru passed away. After the death of his father, Jawaharlal was free
to give Indira the type of education he wanted. Indira was moved to Poona, to become a
day boarder at the People’s Own School. For her, it was quite a change from the comforts
of Anand Bhawan.
Till the age of 18 or 19, Indira, as she once confessed, was determined not to get
She explained that a matrimonial involvement would have interfered with her political
activities for which she needed to devote every minute of her time.
While Indira was in Britain in 1937, she began to spend
The Green Revolution in India was one of the important pieces of Indira’s radical
programme in the mid and late sixties.
In the later years of Nehru‘s final term and during the Shastri interregnum,
agricultural reform shifted from institutional and structural reform of land use and
ownership, to a variety of technological developments.
In the late sixties, it was increasingly being realised that the economic policies and
power structures had only brought about limited growth. But there had hardly been
equitable distribution of its benefit.
Indira was aware of these ground realities and was by no means separated from the
broader leftist ideological paradigm vis-a-vis development.
It has become almost habitual to view the history of the Emergency (1975-77) in black
and white, where Indira Gandhi is portrayed as a despot with an insatiable appetite for
power while the protagonists of the JP movement are presented as a valorous coalition
battling for the rights of the beleaguered masses. But the fact of the matter is that
history resides not in the black and white of biased narratives but in the grey area of
nuance and context.