He was the son-in-law of India’s first Prime Minister, the husband of the country’s first woman Prime Minister, and the father of India’s youngest Prime Minister. While we remember Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, Feroze Gandhi lies forgotten and ignored in an obscure corner of the pages of history.
Surprisingly, it is a Swedish journalist who takes up the onus of bringing Feroze out of the shadows through a painstaking research that lasted 40 years. Forty years is a long time to research any topic. Was it all worth it, finally? “Oh, yes. It was not a pain at all. I loved working on the book,” says the 84-year-old journalist Bertil Falk.
Falk’s Feroze is a young rebel even before he married into the Nehru family. Falk says, “Feroze was a great freedom fighter as a teenager. He was jailed thrice during the 1930’s.” Unfortunately, later generations in India only remember Feroze as Mr Indira Gandhi. Many, as Falk notes in his book, have alleged that he would not even have been remembered at all had he not married into the Nehru family.
But Falk calls Feroze the founding father of the Nehru- Gandhi dynasty. What does he think would have been Feroze’s reaction to being called Mr Indira Gandhi? “You want me to speculate on that? I can’t imagine what his reaction would have been, but had he been alive, he would probably not been called Mr Indira Gandhi,” says the author.
The journalist in Falk makes it a point to explore all the angles of the subject—good, bad and ugly. He puts many rumours to rest: Feroze’s alleged Muslim origins, his closeness to Kamala Nehru, Indira’s relationship with him, Nehru’s attitude towards him, and some more. Does he feel he has done a service to the man? “Yes. I certainly think I’ve brought him out of the shadows,” he smiles.
Indira’s infamous Emergency and Sanjay Gandhi’s atrocities came long after Feroze’s death. Would the situation have been similar had he been alive? “An interesting question, but impossible to answer. Though I’m sure that everything would have been different then,” Falk muses.
And what would Feroze have said of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India today? “He would most probably not be happy with everything, but he would probably have appreciated other things,” smiles the writer.
The book portrays Feroze as a boisterous man, who would be the life of any gathering, and not averse to having some tricks up his sleeve! But, it ends with a disillusioned man. A man who seems to have lost his spirit. “He was an unhappy man when he died. Corruption in the party he faithfully served pained him,” Falk says.