Memories of Panditji

Raja Ramanathan
Raja Ramanathan

Raja Ramanathan was born in Independent India, in Calcutta. He has spent the last sixty years or so growing up in different parts of the world, Singapore, England, India, the Middle East, and, in the last twenty years, Canada.

Much before I was born in 1950, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was my father’s political hero. Once when, as a child, I referred to him as Nehru, Dad corrected me, and said that I should refer to him respectfully as Panditji.

That has stayed with me. I think a lot of my father’s reverence for Panditji came from the fact my father had a close association with Dr. Annie Besant, and one of Panditji’s early tutors, Ferdinand Brooks, was a Theosophist.

I do not know if all my family members had the same regard for Panditji. However, my mother has often related this story to me, perhaps more because it shines the light on her eldest child.

Panditji was an extremely good-looking man. Sometime in 1946, when my family lived in Calcutta, Panditji was visiting Calcutta. We had a Bihari cook at home, whose one ambition in life was to see Panditji. So, he took the day off and travelled by tram to wherever Panditji was speaking in Calcutta. It is difficult to capture in words how much of a hero Panditji was in his heyday. The crowds he could gather were uber phenomenal ... and people would wait hours to hear him speak.

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