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What did Jawaharlal Nehru do for us?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-05-2014 Salil Tripathi

The interior of an IIT students’ hostel. A large room with bottles of beer scattered on the ground, along with an empty pizza carton. A large photograph of an Indian rocket taking off from Sriharikota is on the wall. Harihar and Krishnan are seated on the floor at one end of the room, their backs to the wall. Jyoti sits cross-legged, listening to her iPod. Aditya is on the bed, typing his application to Harvard on his laptop. There is some knocking on the door. Five students—three girls and two boys—wearing saffron bandanas, enter.

Harihar: We get students from NID to design the logo. The background should be saffron. It should have NaMo’s face.

Jyoti: But he should be smiling. He looks too serious.

Harihar: Maybe we can put a flower in his bandhgala coat. Lotus. Lotus maybe.

Jyoti: Lotus is too big. A rose will be fine.

Harihar: Orange. Are there orange roses?

Aditya: (Looking away from his screen) We can photo-shop it.

Krishnan: But what are our plans after we hack the website? What exactly are our demands?

Harihar: We demand a change in the Nehru Centre’s name. We demand that it should be called the Kalam Centre.

Raju: We should give them an ultimatum. Two weeks otherwise we will hack more websites.

Jyoti: And if they don’t?

Raju: We are going abroad anyway (laughs). We bring down their servers too and change everyone’s passwords.

Mukesh: But isn’t that irresponsible?

Harihar: We have to show them we are not to be trifled with.

Paresh: They’ve bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had, not just from us, from our fathers and from our fathers’ fathers.

Purnima: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Paresh: Yes.

Krishnan: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

Paresh: All right, Krish. Don’t labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Purnima: Well, there is the IIM.

Paresh: Oh yeah, they built the IIMs. That’s true.

Purnima: And the NID.

Paresh: Yes, there is the NID. I’ll grant you that the IIMs and the NID are two things that Nehru has done.

Mukesh: And the space programme. You know, Vikram Sarabhai set up the first space committee in Nehru’s time

Paresh: (sharply) Well, yes, obviously the space programme... it goes without saying. But apart from the IIMs, NID, space programme….

Alka: Well, there’s electricity and irrigation. He got those dams built—Bhakhra Nangal and all that stuff.

Purnima: And didn’t he set up IITs?

Harihar: (Irritated) Yes, but apart from IIMs, IITs, NID, space programme, and dams, what did Nehru do? Nothing.

Mukesh: Well, the fertilizer plants and steel plants.

Suresh: And he also created the Life Insurance Corporation.

Mukesh: And the Unit Trust of India. It was India’s first mutual fund.

Harihar: Yes, yes, but apart from IITs, IIMs, NID, UTI, LIC, steel plants, fertilizer plants, space programmes, dams, and electricity, did Nehru ever do anything real for India?

Paresh: Well, he set up Lalit Kala Akademi and promotes art, you know.

Harihar: Art. Huh. As if India needed government support for art.

Purnima: Well, he also set up Vividh Bharati so that Indians didn’t have to listen to Radio Ceylon for Hindi film songs.

Harihar: Yes... all right, fair enough...

Raju: And it was in Nehru’s time that we won our first test match in cricket.

Paresh: Oh yes! True!

Mukesh: Damn. You realize if these IITs weren’t set up, we couldn’t have become world-class engineers and there would be no fundu jobs at Google and Microsoft.

Paresh: Well, he also promoted Amul and dairy cooperatives.

Harihar: I thought Narendra Modi did it. Amul is in Gujarat.

Paresh: Yes, but it was started at independence and Nehru promoted it.

Harihar: Still he was useless. You people are reading too much crap on the Internet. Apart from NID, IITs, IIMs, UTI, LIC, space programme, Amul milk, irrigation, power, dams—I mean, what did Nehru really ever do for India?

Mukesh: Art, Paresh said art.

Purnima: And listen to this. I didn’t know. The prototype of Vijayanta tank which won us the 1965 war with Pakistan….

Harihar: What about it?

Mukesh: It was developed in Nehru’s time. And it destroyed Pakistan’s Patton tanks.

Harihar: Bah, as if Nehru designed those tanks personally.

Mukesh: Well, after that war India was able to forget the humiliation of 1962 when India lost the China war.

Harihar: See? See? He lost the China war.

Suresh: But who says he was perfect? But think of all that he did….

Harihar: I know, I know, but it is still nothing. Nehru was a loser—NID, IITs, IIMs, UTI, LIC, irrigation, power, dams, Lalit Kala Akademis, space programme, Amul milk – I mean, he ruled for 16 years, and is this all he did? Apart from all that what did Nehru ever do anything for us?

Purnima: He spoke about peace and friendly relations with other countries and we were the first in the whole world to impose sanctions on South Africa because of the apartheid and we opposed Britain and France taking over Suez and supported anti-colonial struggles.

Harihar: But you don’t get it—what did that ever do anything for us?

Mukesh: I suppose we could say we were independent and held our head high.

Harihar: (Now very angry, he’s not having a good meeting at all) What!? Oh... (scornfully) Peace? Love?? Peace and love, yes... shut up!

Aditya: There, my application is done. Next stop: AMERICA!

Others go to him and give him a high-five. They leave.

Harihar: Come on, guys, at least one of you tell me—what did Nehru ever do anything for us?

Visit for Monty Python’s What did the Romans do for us?

Also Read | Mint Lounge’s special issue, ‘Nehru’s India’.

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