April 25, 2017 06:03 PM
Rahul Gandhi with Shobha Nehru (File Photo)

Shimla (Vijyender Sharma)

Chief Minister Shri Virbhadra Singh has expressed deep sorrow and grief over death of Smt. Shobha Nehru,  a close relative of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru and wife of former diplomat, former Governor and former Chairman of Tribune Trust late  Shri B.K. Nehru. Smt. Shobha Nehru passed away today at her residence at Kasauli in Solan district. She was 109 years old. Chief Minister prayed for peace for the departed soul and strength to the bereaved family members to bear the irreparable loss. She was the Aunt of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.She was married to India`s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru`s cousin B K Nehru, an Indian diplomat who nearly succeeded Dag Hammarskjold as United Nations Secretary General.Rahul Gandhi regularly headed to the picturesque hill station of Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh to meet his aunt.

Shobha with Braj Kumar Nehru (File photo)
 She was also known as Fori Nehri and living in Kasauli. He was born on  December 5, 1908, at Budapest, Budapest, Hungary  and married to  Braj Kumar Nehru , cousin of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru.  Fori is always at ease in the company of diverse people. As Indian ambassador’s wife in Washington, she was friends with the Kennedys, Johnsons, Kissingers and the powerful American Jewish lobby…In her 109 years, she has seen both the World Wars, the Holocaust, the Independence, the Partition, the Mahatma, the Nehru-Gandhis and everything that shaped modern India. 

Fori’s fascinating life journey has been captured in a nice article written by Kallol Bhattacherjee in The Week magazine. As luck would have it, Fori escaped the horrors of Nazi era as she moved to India to marry into the famous Nehru family in the 1930s. “Fori had already experienced the Holocaust as it had affected her family in Europe. Yad Vashem, the museum in Jerusalem to commemorate the slaughter of Jewish people by the Nazis, has the names of her family members. Her mother, Regina, escaped from the Nazis and lived with her in India in the late 1930s.   

 “Fori’s parents had a family business of toys and furniture. In 1928, when she was 20, the notorious ‘numerus clausus’ of Hungary did not allow her to continue her education in Budapest. This meant the university would not admit any more Jewish students on that particular year once the quota for them was over. Her parents sent her to France and then to England for further education.“In England, in 1930, Fori took note of B.K. Nehru, a fellow student. A romance began…In 1934, Fori boarded Lloyd Triestino SS Victoria for India…India, however, was full of culture shocks… 

“In 1935, Fori married B.K. Nehru and became Shobha Nehru, though she continued to be called Fori… Soon Fori met a ‘great soul’ at Ananda Bhavan. Mohandas Gandhi was a great pillar of support to the Nehrus and a regular visitor to Anand Bhavan. ‘People melted on seeing the Mahatma,’ Fori says. Gandhi inspired her to learn more about India’s rich handicrafts sector. She looked for a larger opportunity to practise the Mahatma’s principles that did not come to her as a prominent ICS officer’s wife. Fori’s collection of Gandhi memorabilia is spectacular. 

“After (India’s) Independence, Fori shouldered many tough responsibilities. On the day Gandhi was assassinated, (India’s first prime minister) Jawaharlal Nehru asked her to escort foreign dignitaries to the place where the Mahatma’s body lay. She was a member of the Emergency Committee to handle Partition victims. Her task included making arrangements for Muslims leaving northern India in trains to Pakistan. One day came the news that all passengers on a train she had sent a day earlier had been slaughtered. Shaken, she did not send another train for the next seven days,

“The Partition (in 1947) brought many women from western Punjab to Delhi. Most of them were gifted with embroidery and knitting skills. Jawaharlal Nehru thought their energies should be channelled into creating the new India. Fori and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay started working on it. They set up a refugee women’s welfare organisation in an evacuee property in Delhi.  

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