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Published in the 16-30 Nov 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Remembering Indira Gandhi

I came to Allahabad, the place where Indira Gandhi was born, after my marriage. And twenty years back the afternoon on 31st October in my L shape backyard was warm and sunny as the bright sun rays filled every little space out there. My husband had gone to Lucknow for a business meeting and my father-in-law had gone to his room after lunch. The servant had gone home and there was no one else in the house. There was not a sound in the stillness of the afternoon. The town was preparing for winter and my woollen garments also were out of the trunk and spread out in the sun to get rid of the year long nepthaline smell. The telephone rang as I was about to keep the last bowl of vegetable in the fridge after clearing the table. On the other end of the line was my husband's uncle who stayed next door. It was very strange to get a call from him at that hour. I was about to ask him if everything was all right but he said before that, in a voice that even on this day is hair raising as it rings frightfully in my ears, that he had just heard the news of Mrs. Indira Gandhi's assassination. It was unbelievable and he asked me if I had heard anything as if he wanted to confirm his doubts. But the shocking tragedy was true and as minutes turned to hours we worried about my husband who was away from home. Both my father-in-law and his brother sat through the afternoon deliberating on what would happen next. The event was very sad indeed but I wondered why the two old men had become so worried and thoughtful.

However looking at the things as they stand today I think those wise men were so devastated because they could see the future of India without Indira. She was an exemplary woman who personified sophistication and courage and worked hard to bring India to a respectable position in the world. She knew where the likes of George Fernandes, Advani or Vajpeyee belonged and kept them at their proper places. Of course she was human and made mistakes. She was also a mother and got carried away. But perhaps we don't forgive leaders and they are not supposed to know any emotion. So how many of our so-called leaders who want to be remembered as able statesmen can boast of the virtues that were part of Mrs. Indira Gandhi's charismatic personality and should they not be made to stand the same trial that each one of them recommends for that great soul even after she is no more in this world? I take this opportunity to pay my heartfelt homage to her.

Zohra Javed, Allahabad

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