A boyhood of poverty. In later life wealth, luzury and pomp as that princes could not match. And then in later life, a great leader of India's fight for freedom. Motilal went to prison too. His son was Jawaharlal Nehru.
There are few in this country who have not heard of Jawaharlal Nehru. Motilal was his father and Swaroop Rani his mother. Vijayalakshmi Pandit who was India's High Commissioner in England andambassador in America and Mrs. Krishna Huthisingh the famous writer were the two daughters of Motilal. And Jawaharlal's daughter is Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India.
Thus every one in the Nehru family attained fames.
Childhood In Hardship
Motilal was born on 6th May 1861. The great poet, Rabindranath Tagore, also was born on the same day. Motilal was not fortunate enough even to see his father. His father was Gangadhar and his mother was Jeevarani. In 1857 during India's first struggle for freedom Gangadhar was a Police officer in New Delhi. He escaped from Delhi with great difficulty and came to Agra. Early in 1861 he passed away. A few months later Motilal was born. His elder brother Nandalal who was then a junior lawyer in Allahabad brought him up.
As a boy Motilal learnt Arabic and Persian languages. After joining a College in Allahabad he attained proficiency in English too. He was more interested in sports than in studies. He was very hand- some and lively. Every one liked him. Thinking that he had not done well in the first paper, he did not take the rest of the B. A. examination. And he never got his B. A. degree.
The Wealthy Lawyer
Motilal had not a scrap of property. Nor did he get his B. A. degree. What was he to do next? Deciding upon the legal profession he entered for the examination in law. He studied hard and got the first place. In 1883 he started practice as a lawyer in Cawnpore, working as a junior in the office of Preethinath,a senior advocate and a family friend of the Nehru.
Later, because of his sincerity, diligence and intelligence, Motilal became an outstanding lawyer. Added to these qualities was his magnetic personality. Very soon he made a name as a very able lawyer. Clients came in search of him. Offering- fabulous fees they entreated him to take up their cases. A case relating to a lady called Rani Kishori used to fetch him twenty-five thousand rupees a month. The case dragged on for thirty years. When it was concluded he received a lakh and fifty two thousand rupees in a lumpsum. -No other lawyer in the world would have so ably handled this very tough case," said Sir Grimwood Mears, the judge. This case testifies to the abilities and the efficiency of Motilal. When he was an old man of 62, he was earning two thousand rupees a day by way of fees.
Motilal was barely twenty when he was married. His wife bore him a baby. But both the mother and the baby died. Sometime later Motilal married again. His second wife Swaroop Rani was from a Kashmiri family. She was very sweet looking. Life in Motilal's house was very happy and gay.
Their first born, a son did not live long. The second one, a son again, was born on November 14,1889. This son was Jawaharlal Nehru. Vijayalakshmi was born in 1900, and Krishna in 1907.
In The Lap Of Glory
Motilal was a very generous man. Petty thoughts or mean acts were miles away from him. As money poured in through one door, it flowed out, like the Ganges in full spate, through another. As his income rose his style of living also changed. He bought a big bungalow on the outskirts of Allahabad. It was named Anand Bhavan. He added to its grandeur with an indoor swimming pool and lovely gardens. The swimming pool was brightly lit with coloured electric lights. People used to come in large numbers just to see this splendid sight. All the children learnt swimming. Select furniture to furnish Anand Bhavan and a variety of Dresden china and Venetian glassware were brought from London and Pads. A motor car also was brought. It was the first car in the district. Motilal himself used to drive it. The family had scores of servants of all communities.
Motilal was very fond of horses. He invariably bought and took home every good horse he saw. There were five or six Arab horses, and coaches in the house. Children rode on horse back even before they started walking. There were several hunting dogs at home. Hunting in the nearby hilly woods on horseback, with a gun on the shoulders, to avoid boredom at home was common. The house was a veritable free feeding centre. There were three kitchens. There used to be a dinner party every evening. Friends and big officers both Indian and English including even the Lieutenant Governor were the guests. Hindus, Muslims and Christians all mixed freely. They were served according to their religious customs. Motilal was not a vegetarian. Foreign drinks were poured in abundance. People considered an invitation to these parties as a signal honor. Every party providing not only excellent food but also sparkling conversation. Motilal would charm the guests with his lively table talk and jokes.
The Western Influence
Motilal had made six trips to Europe; he had taken his family too. Once he went to Russia with his family. After every visit to Europe he came back more westernized. He brought from England a governess by name Hoover to teach English to his children. She lived with the children in the same house. Motilal encouraged every one in the family to speak in English. Three rooms were set aside for Motilal's clothes of different styles and fashions. Whenever he visited London or Paris he would bring new suits, hats and shoes. Reputed tailors used to make his suits.
In spite of his aping the western ways of life se much, he never bowed to western people. He always maintained his self- respect and conducted himself as one equal to them. They also treated him with great respect.
His Daughter's Birthday Party
Once he went to Germany with his wife and his daughter Vijayalakshmi. 'Nanny' was his affectionate name for his daughter. She was then five years old. They were put up in a hotel in Bedems, a small town. He wanted to celebrate his daughter's birthday grandly. He hosted a tea party in the hotel for ali the children of the town. The children called Nanny an Indian Princess and shook hands with her and played and danced with her. The whole town was there to see the gala celebrations. The hotel premises were crowded. The hotelkeeper and the guests showered flowers on Nanny. She walked about with the dignity of a princess. It was all very exciting. Motilal was beside himself with joy.
Swaroop Rani, the wife of Motilal did not like western ways much. She observed Hindu customs. She never failed to celebrate a Hindu festival. Motilal also used to take part in these religious celebrations.
The British Emperor's Guests Of Honour
The coronation of King George V was celebrated with great pomp in New Delhi in 1911. Kings and princes, titleholders, high officers and dignitaries were invited to the royal court. To accommodate the guests a new township sprung up over an area of 25 squire miles near Delhi. All modem amenities were provided. The Emperor invited Motilal and his family.
With his wife and two daughters Motilal traveled in a special train to Delhi. His tent was next to that of the Lieutenant governor who had been asked to look after Motilal.
Motilal had been told what clothes he should wear for the royal court. Jawaharlal was studying in England then. He got the clothes; socks, gloves, shoes and hat specially made in London and sent them to his father. A renowned specialist had made each article.
Motilal's was a dynamic personality. His power and his anger were those of a volcano. Once at a dinner party in his house one of the attendee's wiped a plate with the sleeve of his shirt. Motilal noticed it. He got terribly angry. He rushed to the man and started pummeling the poor fellow. Wiping a plate with his shirt s1leeve instead of a towel was his entire fault. It was only after servant apologizedprofusely that Motilal cooled down.
The Darling Son
Jawaharlal was the only son of his parents. Naturally both father and mother doted on him. Motilal wanted his son to be a great man. He feared that his son might get spoilt if he mixed with other boys. So his children were educated at home. An English governess was engaged to teach English and a Muslim mould to teach Arabic and Persian. The children were experts in horse riding, swimming and riding bicycles.
Motilal feared that too much pampering might spoil his son.
Once it happened that Motilal had left two pens on his writing table. 'How could father need two pen?" thought the innocent Jawaharlal and put one into his pocket. "Who took my pen?" Motilal started inquiring. He was furious. Jawahar was afraid to tell the truth. He ran to his mother and hid himself behind her. Motilal pulled him out and whipped him; welts rose on the boy's back. The father felt miserable at what he had done. He himself applied healing ointments to the welts.
The Son In England
It was customary for aristocrats in England to send their children to the Harrow Public School. Motilal also decided to put his son in that school. Jawaharlal was then fifteen.
Motilal went to England with his family and got his son admitted to Harrow Public School.
After completing his studies in this school Jawahar joined Cambridge University. He passed in the second class. Then he studied in a law college and got a degree. The father thought that his son should study for the Indian Civil Service (I.C.S.) Examination. But for this Jawaharlal would have to stay in England for another two years. But the parents could not bear to be separated from their son so long.Moreover Indian students were treated unfairly at this Examination, because of color prejudice. For these reasons Motilal asked his son to return to India.
Thousands of rupees had been spent on the son's education. Jawahar used to spend all the money sent to him. Once he lent some money to an Indian student who was in trouble. It was never paid back. So he was hard up for money. He wrote to his father asking for more money. The father got angry. He wrote back, "How did you spend so much money sent to you? Send me detailed accounts for six months. "The son also lost his temper. "Do you expect me to write down how much I spent on buses or trains, on books, and snacks? Should I account for every pie? I can't do it. If you have trust in me, send me money, otherwise, don't. I shall work as a porter even and earn my maintenance and complete my education," so he wrote back curtly.
Motilal felt unhappy for having wounded his son's feelings with his letter. He spent a sleepless night. Finally he wrote to his son, "it is not that I want to leave you enormous property. Is it money or love, you shall never have to suffer for want of either. You alone are the most invaluable treasure for me in this world. What you may earn laboring hard throughout a year, I can earn in a day. For whom should I earn so much? Don't you worry? I shall send as much money as you want." And he sent the money. The son was dear as his own life.
While studying in Cambridge Jawahar wrote to his father asking for a car. Motilal could easily afford it. But he had been reading in newspapers about car accidents. So he wrote back, I can get you a car. But I will be ever in anxiety haunted by the thought that you might meet with an accident. So do not think of a car now."
In The World Of Politics
When Jawahar was studying in England father and son used to write long letters to each other. They wrote not only about matters relating to their home and family but also about the affairs of the nation. Motilal would often send newspaper cuttings about important events. He was not interested in politics. But the son had a keen interest in it. While the son was radical demanding quick changes, the father was a moderate preferring slow and steady progress.
Gradually Motilal also was dragged into politics. When Gokhale visited Allahabad in 1907 he was the guest of Motilal. When he gave a public lecture Motilal presided over it. When it was decided to convene a meeting of the moderates. Motilal had to take the chair Motilal criticized the Government in his speech. But his son in England felt that the criticism was very mild.
Lala Lajpat Roy, popularly known as the Lion of Punjab, was a great patriot. He was arrested and sent to Mandalay by the British Government in 1907. This enraged both the father and the son. "Could we ever co-operate with such a government?" said the son. There was a good deal about Indian politics in the letters between the father and the son. The difference of opinion between the 18 - year-old son and the 48-year-old father were becoming sharp. Once about an article written by his father Jawaharlal wrote in his letter to him, had I not known you so very well, I would have thought this article had been written by a very loyal subject of the king."
"Boys should be boys" replied the father.
In 1910 Motilal contested the election to the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces and won. From the very first day he attended the Assembly session, he started questioning the decisions and policies of the government. "How many Police reporters sent by the Government to political meetings know short hand?" Questions of this sort would often embarrass the government. Motilal would fearlessly criticize the government in his speeches.
Some people started a journal called 'The Leader' to keep the public properly informed of all that was happening in the country. Madan Mohan Malaviya was its editor. The first Chairman of the Board of Directors was Motilal.
In July 1912 Jawarhalal returned to India.
A Home Of Joy
After returning from England, Jawaharlal started his legal practice as junior to his father. On 8th February 1916, Jawaharlal married Kamala, the daughter of Jawaharmal Kaul. The celebrations were spread over ten days and there was great pomp and splendor. After their return to Allahabad there were banquets for several days.
Difference of Opinion Between Father and Son
Jawaharlal returned from abroad; he brought with him a political storm too. Father and son used to exchange views. The son was fiery. The father was moderate in his approach. Jawaharlal's stand was radical. No country should be a slave to another; there should be no slavery anywhere in the world; all countries should live in freedom -this was Jawahar stand. India should have freedom in internal matters, but should remain within the British Empire, argued Motilal. There were frequent debates between the two.
Sometimes the debate would be quite hot and sometimes mild. The father feared that his son might support violence. The mother Swaroop Rani was afraid that the angry father might expel the son. Naturally Kamala was worried. The children were scared. The happy atmosphere of Anad Bhavan had been true to its name, but for some time it was disturbed.
Then Came Gandhji
Gandhiji returned to India from South Africa in1915. Because of his brave-fight against the unjust treatment of the coloured people by the whites and their Government in South Africa, Gandhiji was already known as a great leader. Motilal and Jawaharlal came to know him. This new friendship changed the course of the Nehru family.
In 1919 Gandhiji became the national leader of the fight for freedom. He gave definite shapes and direction to the agitation against the unjust Rowlatt Act imposed by the British Government. Jawahar liked very much the idea of courting imprisonment by participating in the national movement. But his father's reactions were different. Could any one get rid of the Government by merely launching Satyagraha and going to jail? He doubted it very much.
Besides, Motilal was worried about one thing. If his son also took part in the Satyagraha (nonviolent noncooperation), and went to prison, he would have to eat the unhealthy food served there, and sleep on the hard floor. Should the son, who was brought up in such utmost comfort as even princes envied, suffer this?
Motilal tried sleeping on the bear and hard floor to experience what it was like. After this he was even more worded to think of his son's lot in the prison.
He knew that his son was eager tobecome a follower of the Mahatma. So he decided to go straight to Gandhiji and express his distress. Though they're political views differed, there had developed a sweet friendship between them. Motilal was older by eight years. "Please advise my son properly. Do not allow him to join Satyagraha. I cannot live if I am separated from him. It is after many years that my son and daughterin-law have come home," appealed Motilal to the Mahatma.
Gandhiji knew Motilal's great love and attachment to his son. He told Jawaharlal, "Look here, Jawahar, you know how much your father and mother love you. Do not do anything that may make them unhappy. You have returned to India just now. You better study the conditions here very Well. Don't be in a hurry. There is ample time to serve the nation. Wait a little and go slow."
Jawahar heeded the words of the Mahatma, and did not immediately jump in to the fight.
The Atrocities of The British Government
The historic Jallianwala Bagh tragedy took place on 13th April 1919. A public meeting had been called there that evening. Government issued orders prohibiting it. Still people gathered. General Dyer of the British army learnt this news. He wanted to teach the people whom he considered as law breakers a good lesson. He went to the spot with armed soldiers. The meeting place was a small open area surrounded by a wall. Thousands of people had gathered there. All on a sudden the General gave orders to fire at the mob. Bullets were showered. People could not even run away because of the high wall.
The dead bodies piled up. After this, marshal law was imposed. People were subjected to tortures in addition to humiliation.
Motilal's Eyes were Opened
The government appointed a commission to enquire into this incident. The Congress boycotted this commission. It appointed its own Inquiry Committee. Mahatma Gandh! Motilal Nehru, Chittranjan Das and some others were among its members. This committee conducted the inquiry and gave a two - volume report, which was published. The monstrous act of the government was severely condemned. After this great tragic incident, Motilal lost all faith in the Government.
The same year the All India Congress Session was held in Amritsar. Motilal was elected President of this session. He condemned outright the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the policies of the government. He was not allowed to argue in the court in defence of two persons. They were innocent but yet they were sentenced to death. Motilal's faith in the Government was shattered to pieces.
The Calcutta Congress Session passed a resolution to launch a non co-operation movement. People were advised to boycott courts, government schools and legislative assemblies. The lawyers were to give up their profession and never co-operate with the Government. The Congress appealed to all people to wear Khadi and to encourage native products. Foreign things were to be boycotted.
Goodbye to Luxury
Motilal's monthly income as an advocate amounted to thousands of rupees. The clients who were very rich used to wait anxiously for Motilal to accept their cases. They were happy if he agreed to take up their case. In spite of all this Motilal gave up his practice in accordance with the resolution of the Congress. He quit the Legislative Assembly and stoppedsending his daughters to school. The entire expensive western clothes? Vessels, crockery and the furniture were removed from the house. Some of the things were sold. Some of the things were given as gifts. Some others were burnt. All the members of the family began wearing Khadi clothes. The horses were sold. The number of servants was reduced. A life of luxury and pleasure gave place to a simple and austere life. But Motilal said it was no lowering of their status but in fact, an elevation. So enormous was Motilal's wealth that even prices could not equal him. But now, he found in a life of sacrifice and simplicity, such happiness, as he had never experienced before. A strong will and determination, patriotism and great love for and attachment to his son - these sustained him in the new way of life.
Jawaharlal began taking more and more interest in politics. He traveled in third class compartments in trains. His father could not bear even this.
The expenses were cut down; but yet money was needed to maintain the family. But its bank balance was waning. There was no income as Motilal had given up his practice. He had to borrow money. Seeing this a rich man known to Motilal came forward to give financial help. Motilal's pride and sense of self-respect would not allow him to accept such help. Could a tiger feed on grass?
One client offered a fee of one lakh and entreated Motilal to take up his case. Going to a court of law was against the principle of non-cooperation. Motilal's little daughter was then sifting by his side. He asked her, "What do you say, my dear, shall I take this money?"
"No, daddy, don't," said the little o And that was a command.
Jawaharlal was not earning. He was then the Secretary of the Congress. He could have got a salary. Even Gandhiji told him to take it. But Motilal did not consent.
To The Prison
At this time the Prince of Wales was coming to India. The government had planned a grand welcome to him. The Congress declared a boycott of all the functions in connection with his visit. Both the father and the son carried on a campaign in favor of the boycott. It was a great success. The government was furious that of all people Motilal who had been once invited by the British Government as an honoured guest should take such a stand. Several charges were leveled against both the father and the son. They were kept under house arrest. When they neither yielded nor sought a compromise the government finally arrested them. The officer who came to serve the arrest warrant grew nervous and began stammering. The trial was just a farce. Neither of them took any interest in it.
During the trial Motilal was fondling his granddaughter Indira in his arms. Both the father and the son were sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and ordered to pay a fine of a hundred rupees each. Carpets and other articles worth thousands of rupees were taken away from Anand Bhavan because Motilal and Jawaharlal were sent to Lucknow jail.
Motilal had once been arguing that India should enjoy dominion status within the British Empire. The same British Government had taken away his personal freedom. When Motilal had to attend the Emperor's court in Delhi, he had got his clothes and footwear from England, now the same man went to jail with his son as a freedom fighter.
Released From The Jail
Thousands of Satyagrahis followed their leader to jail. Gandhiji had fixed a date for starting the No Tax Disobedience Movement. But the violent turn at Chauri Chaura in Uttar Pradesh came as a big set back. A mob of excited peasants set fire to the Police station and 22 men were burnt in it. Gandhiji was deeply pained at this incident.
He thought that people had not learnt to give up violence, and did not understand the nature of nonviolence. So he decided to suspend the civil resistance movement.
Motilal and Chittranjan Das who came to know of this in jail were upset. Still Motilal knew that India badly needed Gandhi's guidance. After being released from the jail, he came out and supported Gandhi's stand.
The Congress appointed a special commission to find out how successful the non co-operation movement had been. Motilal was made its Chairman. He traveled all over India to collectinformation. His findings were that India was not yet ready for a nonviolent movement. But this report was not accepted by all. So there was a rift in the congress.
The Leader Of The Opposition
There was no party, which could play the role of a powerful opposition in the Legislative Assembly. So it was easy for the government to get even unpopular laws passed. This should not be allowed, thought Motilal, C.R. Das and some others; they should enter the Legislative Assembly as elected members to oppose the government. This led to the formation of the Swaraj Party.
Motilal first became the Secretary and later the President of this party. He became the Leader of the Opposition in the Central Legislative Assembly. Government had to experience many defeats at the hands of the leader. But the Viceroy had the power to approve the bills, which were rejected by the Assembly. So the bills became laws. Therefore the opposition did not gain anything by winning. Launching the non co-operation movement once again became inevitable.
Son In The Jail
During this time a strange incident happened. Nabha was a small state. It had a bad ruler. So the people of the state rose against him. Jawaharlal with two friends, Gidwani and Santhanam, went there to study the political movement. Ail the three were arrested. Jawahar and Santhanam were handcuffed together. A policeman leading them as if they were a pair of dogs held a long chain attached to the handcuff. They were tried and sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment.
Motilal got this information. He was then running temperature. With great difficulty he reached Nabha. But he could not get permission to see his son. He telegraphed to the Viceroy. He saw his son in a dirty dark room. He felt miserable. The Government of India released all the three. Jawahar's health was affected. For a change of climate both father and son went to Europe and Russia.
Son Succeeds Father as President
The All India Congress Session was held in Calcutta in 1928. Motilal was the President. The -next year the conference was in Lahore. Jawaharlal was elected President. Motilal felt extremely happy that his son had become President at such a young age. He showered flowers on his son in the procession. At this session the Congress declared that the goal of the country was Complete Independence. It gave a call for a non-co-operation movement. The crown of leadership, transferred from the father, adorned the son's head. What a blessing!
"Don't Release Me"
Again Motilal tendered resignation and walked out of the Legislative Assembly.
Mahatma Gandhistarted his famous Dandi March or Salt Satyagraha.
This march on foot to Dandi stunned the whole world. During this march Motilal and Jawaharlal met Gandhiji on his way to a village called jambusara. They had decided to donate their house Anand Bhavan to the Congress. They had built a small cottage for themselves on the same premises. Thereafter Anand Bhavan became the property of the Congress, and was named Swaraj Bhavan.
Government arrested the supreme leader of the movement, Mahatma Gandhi. After this Motilal, Jawaharlal and other leaders were also arrested. Both the father and the son were sent to the Naini Jail. Motilal's health was seriously upset. Jawaharlal was nursing him. His condition did not improve. On the other hand, it got worse. A number of people from all over the country sent telegrams to the Viceroy requesting him to order the release of Motilal. But from the jail Motilal sent a telegram to the Viceroy saying, "Please do not release me on any account." It was to avoid any mis- understanding.
The Light Goes Out
The Government was afraid that it would get a bad name if such a great leader were to die in jail. So it released Motilal. He came to Allahabad. He was able to spend just a few minutes with Jawahar and Kamala only. The Police arrested Jawaharlal and sent him to Naini JaiI. Motilal went to see his son in Naini. On seeing his father in such bad health, his body emaciated and weak and face swollen - Jawahar was alarmed.
At about this time, the daughter Krishna, the daughter-in-law Kamala and the son-in-law Ranajit were all arrested and brought to the same jail. The entire family found itself in jail. Motilal felt very happy, on the one hand, to see all the members of his family join the army in the War of Independence. On the other hand, he was much worried about their suffering in the prison. Motilal's illness grew worse. The doctors felt that he might not live long. Government released Gandhiji, Jawaharlal's and all members of the Nehru family. Jawaharlal was released on 11 Th October, so that he could be by the side of his father who was seriously ill. But on October 18th he was arrested again and sent to jail. Motilal lay waiting in his bed expecting his son and daughter-in-law to return from a public meeting. The daughter in-law came home alone and broke the news of Jawahar's arrest at the entrance to Anand Bhavan.
Motilal was taken in a car to Lucknow for treatment. The strain of the journey made him more ill. But he did not lose courage. He was thinking only of his country. He was in his usual self-cracking jokes. He called his children to his bedside and blessed them.
He clearly knew that his end was nearing. He called Mahatma Gandhi to his bedside and said, "I am not fortunate enough to see India free and to die at the lotus feet of a free Mother India. But I have no doubt you will have that good fortune. I have done my duty. I have rendered my bit of service to the country, I am happy about it."
On the 6th of February 1931 Motilal breathed his last. He was then seventy.
The War Trumpets Sound In Old Age
The National Congress declared on 31 St. December 1929 that India should aim at complete Independence. The flag of freedom was hoisted. Everybody clearly knew that the path of Mahatma Gandhi led to prison, to suffering and to poverty. Motilal was then sixty-nine. Many of his friends advised him not to jump into the fire of the freedom struggle. Motilal wrote to a friend as follows: "Believe me, I know quite well what will happen to me and my family if we join Gandhiji and plunge into the freedom struggle. I know that in this old age, with all my responsibilities and physical weakness, I am taking a big risk so daringly. Why then, do I do it? There is only one reason. It is my strong conviction that the time has come for determined efforts and the greatest sacrifice. I hear the war trumpets of my country, and I am responding to that call."