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Madam PM lived here

This is the former residence of India’s first woman Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. It was here that she was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984.

entertainment Updated: Mar 15, 2010 00:53 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

This is the former residence of India’s first woman Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. It was here that she was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984.

Besides showing the bedroom, the dining room and the library of a woman politician once described as “the only man in her cabinet”, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum is also a window into the world of the famed Lutyens bungalows. Built during the final years of the British empire, there’re 800 such residences spread over 550 hectares in New Delhi.

Responsible for giving the city much of its colonial-era charm, most of these elegant white houses have been taken over by politicians and bureaucrats and so, they are barred to visitors. But this museum gives a peek into this charmed world of single-storeyed mansions.

Marked by wide, open verandahs that keep inner rooms shielded from Delhi’s searing summer sun, the bungalow has high ceilings that allow warm air to escape through ventilators. Creepers climb the walls, potted plants deck the doorways and large, wooded gardens ward off claustrophobia. It is with a reason that such bungalows are called the heart and lungs of Delhi.

After Mrs Gandhi’s assassination, her son Rajiv became the Prime Minister. The family lived here for a few months before leaving for a nearby bungalow at 7, Race Course Road for security reasons. The house was then thrown open to visitors. While most rooms were left unchanged, some were emptied to make way for newspaper clippings, framed pictures and relics of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. The decor in the book-lined rooms is simple, yet tasteful.

However, one glass case displays the shreds of a kurta that Rajiv Gandhi was wearing when he was assassinated by a suicide bomber in 1991. The sight is disturbing.

Where Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum, 1, Safdarjung Road