The political legacy of the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, has always been of much interest, more so in recent years. As historian Ramachandra Guha puts it, “It is safe to say that no modern politician had anywhere near as difficult a job as Jawharlal Nehru”, given that he took over the country at a time when it was yet to find its feet as a nation.
In the popular mind, Nehru was closely identified with every philosophy of the new nation-state, such as democracy, non-alignment, secularism, socialism and the like.
Despite the many ways in which Nehru’s political life has been dissected, much about his personality, personal relationships, interests, likes and dislikes remains unknown. He was, for instance, extremely fond of kite flying, and was well-known for it in Harrow and Cambridge in England, where he completed his education. Similarly, very little is known about the fact that Nehru was reluctant to study law and became a lawyer only on his father’s insistence.
Here are some lesser-known facts about Nehru:
Nehru was nicknamed Joe Nehru by his classmates at Trinity College, Cambridge. They found it difficult to pronounce his name.
As a student in Harrow and in Cambridge, Nehru was distinguished for the sport of ‘kite flying’. He made kite flying popular by getting high quality kites from India.
Nehru studied law on his father’s insistence. He had fancied the idea of studying Economics at London School of Economics. He blamed his father for forcing him to become a ‘mere lawyer’.
Nehru’s famous speech following Gandhi’s death, saying ‘the light has gone out of our lives’, was made without any preparation. It is often cited as one of the greatest speeches in history.
Nehru was extremely fond of animals and kept a large variety of them inside his house, including Pandas.
Nehru had innovated the dress style of the jacket, sherwani and cap, which went on to become popular almost as the national dress code. It became an inspiration for Ghana’s president Kwame Nkrumah, Indonesian president Suharto and even to Chinese leaders like Mao Zhedong to sport their own ‘national dress’.
His sister Nan, better known as Vijaylaxmi Pandit, was his closest confidante. He would communicate with her more freely than with his mother or wife.