Did you know that former prime minister Mrs Indira Gandhi could sign her name in Bengali? Or for that matter she and her father Jawaharlal Nehru used to take merry go round joy rides at Santiniketan mingling with people freely? Visva Bharati is coming out with a pictorial book containing rare photographs of its three chancellors – Pandit Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi – and several lesser known anecdotes of the trio on the occasion of the 150th anniversary celebrations of Rabindra Nath Tagore.
The book would document the relations between the country’s most prominent political family with the tallest cultural icon of West Bengal and the country.
The book titled Three Chancellors takes a look at the three former Prime Minister of India – Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi – through the Visva-Bharati prism.
“To Visva-Bharati they were chancellors first and Prime Ministers next. It is quite remarkable how three generations of the most important political family of this country has been emotionally attached with its most important cultural family,” said Nilanjan Bandyopadhyay, special officer, Rabindra Bhavana.
The research for the book led to the unearthing of a confidential letter by Nehru where he instructed the vice chancellor K C Chaudhuri to take stringent action against some fellows suspected to be involved in acts of hooliganism in the University in 1959.
Setting his busy schedule aside Nehru wrote to a personal letter to the vice chancellor giving him a free hand to deal with hooligan elements in the campus.
The contents will be ready by the end of next month, said Visva-Bharati sources. Rabindra Bhavana would be approaching the current Chancellor and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to write a foreword.
The 10 inch X 14 inch book will have more than 100 pictures, convocation addresses of the three, letters that they wrote to VB authorities, comments they made in the guest book, anecdotes, newspaper clippings and miscellaneous memorabilia.
Nehru’s three-page telegram to Tagore’s son Rathindranath after the poet’s demise will also be featured in the book.
Between 1920 and 1963, Nehru visited Shantiniketan as many as 15 times, of which five visits took place when Tagore was alive.
Indira Gandhi was a student of Tagore. Her father also looked up to the poet with great reverence – an emotion quite evident in the attendant picture.
Indira had mentioned in an interview Visva-Bharati had given her much needed serenity and solace that the 16-year old girl, suffering the constant buzz of a political family, was seeking.
In 1984 Rajiv Gandhi, then the chancellor of VB received the Deshikottama award posthumously on behalf of his mother, a former chancellor, from the hands of the vice chancellor Nemai Sadhan Bose. The citation that Rajiv Gandhi took bore his own signature that, as a rule, carries the signature of the Chancellor.