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Indira Priyadarshini was born on November 19, 1917, she was the only child of Jawaharal Nehru and his wife Kamala in the city of Allahabad in Northern India. The second part of her name Priyadarshini, means"dear to behold." In the Indian tradition, theirs was a joint family, headed by Indira?s grandfather, Motilal Nehru, a man with a powerful personality and an enormous passion for life. Allahabad was an upper class town, and Motilal, a self-made man, was one of the most successful barristers in his time. With success came wealth, and the Nehru family lived in a sprawling whitewashed villa, surrounded by lawns, tennis courts, and a swimming pool, and attended by numerous servants. Being the only child in this huge household, Indira was pampered and was the center of her grandfather?s attention. Then, when Indira was barely three, the Indian freedom movement entered the Nehru house, changing Indira?s life and the course of Indian history (Currimbhoy 25-26).
Jawaharal Nehru had come into contact with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who became the leader of India?s freedom struggle. Both Jawaharal and Motilal were drawn to Gandhi. They believed in Gandhi?s nonviolent noncooperation. The family also supported Gandhi?s policy of promoting domestic cottage industries by boycotting all foreign goods(Jayakar 67-68).
Motilal?s involvement with the Congress made his home the hub of the freedom movement. It became the place where earnest, khadi-clad men came and went at all hours of the day and night; it became a place that rang with drafts, declarations, and debates. Indira absorbed the tension and excitement of those days and became a quiet, serious child, fired by a sense of mission she did not quite understand(Currimbhoy 31).
Even the games Indira played had to do with politics. Her dolls were divided into freedom fighters. who formed picket lines, and British soldiers, who clubbed them on the head and ragged them to off to jail. Her aunt remembers her out on the porch, eyes burning, arms dramatically outstretched, playing Joan Of Arc leading her people to freedom. By the time she was twelve, Indira was making a strong and real effort to be involved in the struggle. She formed the Monkey Brigade, this was a group of children who acted as messengers for the elders(Sahgal 94).
Indira discovered soon, however, that the family?s commitment to the freedom movement meant more than just fun and games. For the Nehrus, who were permanently in the forefront of the movement, the twenty-five long years of civil disobedience and jail sentences meant a suspension of family life(Malhotra 53).
Indira?s completion of school, just after her sixteenth birthday, was greeted by a telegram from her father informing her that he was once again going to jail, and, even more disturbing, that her mother, who as suspected of having tuberculosis, had taken a turn for the worse. After spending a very long time taking care of her mother, Indira was sent to Shantiniketan, an unconventional, informal university in Bengal.
Her stay at the university, which she considered the best times of her life, lasted only a year. In May 1935, with her father still in jail, Indira was sent back to Switzerland to her sick mother. There was no cure for Tuberculosis back then, but Nehru sent his wife to Europe in hopes that the clean mountain air would help her to recover from the disease. On February 28, 1936, Indira?s mother died. Her mother was only thirty-six, and Indira was devastated(Sahgal 106).
When Indira was in England, she was often seen with another young foreign student, Feroze Gandhi. Feroze had been a frequent visitor to the Nehru household. After Kamala?s death, Indira had found herself drawn towards Feroze. Indira?s family, however, did not welcome the news that Indira planned to marry Feroze. Jawaharal Nehru, in fact strongly opposed the match, in spite of the fact that Indira and Feroze had been friends for many years. He was not considered a suitable mate for Indira(Currimbhoy 62).
Feroze Gandhi had the same surname as Mohandas Gandhi, however, he came from a very different social and religious background. Unlike Mohandas, who was Hindu, Feroze was a Parsi, a member of one of the smallest and most cohesive religious sects in India. Orthodox Hindus were so outraged that Indira had chosen to marry a Parsi that Jawaharal, and even Gandhi, were forced to come to Indira?s defense publicly.
A few months after the
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