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. His wife, Swarup Rani, on the other hand, was very traditional and a devout Hindu. The family moved to a lavish English style mansion called Anand Bhawan in 1900.
On 8th February, 1916 Indira’s parents got married. Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru was 26 and her mother, Kamala Nehru was 17 at that time.
In the following year, on 19th November, 1917 Kamala gave birth. The Scotsman who delivered the baby announced, “It’s a bonnie lassie, sir”. And thus, Indira Gandhi was born to the Nehrus in the midst of a society fragmented by competing visions of India. She was named after her great grandmother, Indrani, as desired by her grandfather.
Indira’s birth was not a celebration in the beginning. Swarup Rani preferred a grandson to a granddaughter (She had lost two sons of her own soon after their birth).
While a few family members were disappointed with the birth of a girl child, her proud father noticed the unique concurrence of one of the greatest historical events with her birth. In his letter to her on her thirteenth birthday, he pointed out the beginning of the Russian Revolution in the month of her birth.
For Nehru, she was born into a world of ‘storm and trouble’ and would grow up in the midst of another revolution. Her grandfather even declared that she had the potential of being “better than a thousand sons”.
#Snippet 1: While Munshi Mubarak Ali (Munshiji was heading a staff of around 50 servants at Anand Bhawan) was fighting a losing battle with an incurable disease, he was determined to see Indira before he died. When Indira was brought to him, Munshiji took for granted that he was seeing Jawaharlal’s son, and he showered on the tiny girl the prayers and blessings customarily reserved for the male heir of a dear friend. No one pointed out his mistaken assumption, for fear of causing him disappointment.