“India is a land of contrasts, of some very rich and many very poor people, of modernism and medievalism…India is not a poor country. She is abundantly supplied with everything that makes a country rich, yet her people are very poor.”
One night in Delhi has passed and I am feeling like I am missing something extremely important. Whenever I close my eyes and concentrate on the city’s energy, I can’t avoid connecting with a certain elegance present in its austerity, discipline and asceticism.
But soul searching deeply – in images whose origins I don’t exactly understand – I see myself transported into a depth of emotions related to what is the classical example of the elitist lifestyle experience during the colonial history of British India and the country’s nationalistic abandon of it.
The British Colonial tradition is evident in the architecture, government, sports, and Victorian values still alive and well in the golf and gymkhana clubs in the metropolitan cities of India. Many Indians who feel ” British” are in a time warp, and assume the values and customs of the Raj – which in England today are considered very strange. Nevertheless it is important to understand that, despite its traditionalism, India’s instincts are liberal and socialist.
If Gandhi was the father of the nation founded at midnight on August 14,1947 (hence the title of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children), the natural first prime minister was his close associate, the brilliant Jawaharlal Nehru.
I was strongly advised by a friend that lives in the city to visit the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, close to the Oberoi Hotel where I am staying. This time my driver’s name is Kaylan Singh Rana. Without question he takes me through a Delhi without traffic, straight to a house called Teen Murti Bhavan, where Jawaharlal Nehru lived and died while he was India’s First Prime minister.
Upon his death the house was converted into a national memorial, comprising a museum and a library for research scholars. It’s a beautiful sunny day. Kaylan the driver drops me at the majestic entrance gate of a sumptuous example of classic British Colonial architecture.
Originally the residence of the commander-in-chief of British Forces in India – and located directly south of Rashtrapati Bhavan – the house was designed by Robert Tor Russel, the architect of Connaught Place and the Eastern and Western Courts on Janpath.
Its design follows the established Lutyens Style classicism with a chic teak paneled interior and vaulted reception rooms. The tones of the upholstered armchairs and couches in those rooms are in lavish and faded pastels which give a sort of fresh lightness to the sobriety of the historical atmosphere.
I look around, walking on the white marbled floor in my high-heeled leather sandals, trying not to make noise and interfere with the platonic gazes of Nehru’s family portraits, represented in a vast collection of old photographs in aged Sepia. His mother ‘s presence and posture was impressive, so were the rest of his relatives and environment.
Nehru’s bedroom and study, still exactly as he left them, are an austere center in a grand house. Visitors are not allowed in the rooms which are protected by thick, old glass wall divisions. I consider myself lucky as I am taking advantage of the physical glass impediment to create through the lens of my camera an atmosphere of travel through time, into a dusty atmosphere where Nehru’s imposing presence is as though he still sits at his desk while the rest of the visitors and I intrude silently – like watching a movie – into the realm of his deepest present thoughts and meditative wanders.
Especially interesting are the bookshelves containing Nehru’s large private collection: an eclectic mix of English classics, Left Book Club editions and treaties on the Cold War. This home has a special place in Modern Indian history as it once housed not just the incumbent prime minister, but future ones as well: his daughter Indira Ghandi, and grandson Raijv. Both mother and son were ultimately assassinated.
The extensive grounds are home for the planetarium and the square, three arched Kushak Mahal, a 14th-century hunting lodge built by the Tughlaq sultan, Feroze Shah. On the roundabout, in front of the house,is the memorial known as Ten Murti ( Three Statues) dedicated to the men of the Indian Regiments who died in World War!. It was from this landmark that the house derived its name.
My heart is at peace. I conciliated with what inside of me needed to be touched. The energy of one of the greatest leaders and ” lifestyle Gurus” in a way. Through letters to his grandchildren signed Papu
Nehru thought about his own legacy and way of living a simple healthy life, surrounded with beauty, grace and more that everything great dignity in values. His books, his boxes, his frames, his art and sculptures, his summer outfit, his library, his concept about being a Yogui and a swimmer, his life as an egalitarian man reminded me about my own boxes, my Yogui practice, the books the frames and the personal values I struggled throughout my life to keep sacred and spread throughout my friends, family and clients.
When the British asked God to save the Queen…They probably had forgotten to metion about what they used to call their ‘crown jewel’ . Today that jewel has it’s own expression of simplicity and ath the same time exuberance. And because that is expression is made of love, kindness, spirit and grace I say in my turn… God, who is Brazilian, of course, please, save India too.
Nehru Memorial Museum and Library: Teen Murti Marg E 43 Tel + 9111 23015191
Source: Eyewitness Travel Delhi- Agra -Jaipur