The Rediff Special /Satish Gujral
'If you hurt him, Inder would not hold it against you'
Satish Gujral, the celebrated painter-sculptor, on what his brother is really like. Exclusive to Rediff On The NeT.
His personality is more like our father Avtar Narain Gujral, while I'm
more like my mother. We have virtually everything in common -- music, arts
and, most of all, Urdu poetry. The only thing where we differ is in
temperament. I am impatient while he is very cool and doesn't lose
his temper. I can't suffer fools gladly but he being more of a public man can
listen to every one. That, I
guess, explains why he chose politics and I chose the arts.
My likes and dislikes are stronger than his. He is more pragmatic and
forgiving. Maybe because a creative person has to have strong emotions. If
you hurt him today, Inder would not hold it against you, perhaps I
His being in politics was mainly due to our family tradition, both from the
paternal and maternal side. We grew up in Jhelum city between Pindi and
Lahore when the freedom movement was at its peak. Our family had for
generations lived in that area. Our father, a lawyer, had an immense
influence on our lives. We often met Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan
Mohan Malaviya, even Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. Our
cousin Onkar Narain Gujral narrowly escaped the gallows when he was arrested
along with Bhagat Singh.
In our family, going to prison was like going for a summer vacation . Inder,
six years my senior, went to prison for the first time when he was only 10. He
had led a small agitation during the Non-Cooperation movement to the local
police station. He was released a day later, but was to repeat this journey
several times. Later while in college in Lahore where I joined
the famous Mayo College of Arts, he had become the secretary general
of the All India Students Federation, a Communist bastion during those days.
Little wonder that then both of us had strong Left leanings.
In those days it was common that the fathers followed Gandhi and
the children followed Marx.
While at Lahore his influence became stronger. Whatever I am today it is
because of Inder's influence and his constant belief in my ability. It is
was not easy for a physically handicapped person to overcome his shortcomings
during those days. I became stone deaf after an accident when
I was only eight and was bed-ridden for the next six years. It was Inder
along with my father who persuaded me to chose Arts. He said,
you can bring about social change through social expressions
in your paintings. In fact, I was the only painter to have painted
the ravages of Partition apart from the writers who wrote about it.
Inder's interest in Urdu poetry also developed while he was at Lahore. He
became close to Faiz Ahmed Faiz, then his teacher at Lahore College. I too
was thoroughly influenced by him. Till this day the Faiz Association in
India, founded by Inder, celebrates Faiz Day every year.
Last night, after the President asked him to be the next prime minister of the country,
we generally got talking about our Lahore days and my visit to
Lahore a decade back. I had developed a heart problem and was admitted to a
nursing home in that country. It was ironic because the nursing home was built on the same place
where an open trial court was held in 1942, which sent Inder to
When I say Inder takes after our father I mean in principles. My father was
elected to the Pakistan assembly after Partition but his membership was
shifted to the Indian Parliament after riots broke out. Our family was
helping the riot-affected families. He gave up his law practice because
of Gandhiji's call that lawyers lied for their clients. He was to later
resign from Parliament to take up social welfare and start a Nari Niketan at Jalandhar.
Inder, meanwhile, had to shift from Karachi where he was running an import-export
business to Delhi. By that time he was still a Communist at heart.
But things changed after he came back from a trip from London where his old
friends told him about the conditions under Stalin. He became disillusioned
so much so that he tried to influence me too. Initially, I wasn't but later
relented after my trip to Mexico. No one was more pleased than Inder.
He decided to join the Congress and worked with Sucheta Kriplani in 1952. He
was elected the vice-president of the New Delhi Municipal Council in
How he became close to Indira Gandhi is another interesting story. After I
came back from Mexico and held my first show, Indira Gandhi came to see it
and was mighty impressed. The show was taken to Teen Murti Bhavan for Nehru who
commissioned a portrait of himself and Indira. It was while I was painting him
that Inder accompanied me and found a lot of common things to talk
with Indira. The friendship grew and Indira offered him a vacant
Rajya Sabha seat.
In 1962, after Nehru's death it was Inder, Dinesh Singh
and Uma Shankar Dikshit, Shiela Dikshit's father-in-law, who washed Nehru's body for cremation.
Later, he convinced Indira to declare her candidature for the prime minister's post
after Lal Bahadur Shastri's death. Inder, in fact, drafted the announcement for
They grew apart during the Emergency when Inder openly disagreed with the
imposition and had frequent altercations with Sanjay Gandhi. To cool
tempers she sent him as ambassador to Russia. This proved to be a
blessing in disguise as Inder's reputation as an ace diplomat grew from
there. He had more time to read and understand international politics.
Many people have criticised Inder for abandoning Indira and the Congress.
But the fact is Inder was never anything but a Congressman at heart.
His ideals are not based on day to day politics but on principles and values
of the Gandhi and the Nehruvian era. Even when he accepted Morarji Desai's
request to continue after Indira's exit in 1977. In fact, he refused Chandra
Shekhar's offer to become the foreign minister after the Vishwanath Pratap Singh government
fell because he strongly felt he could not abandon V P Singh.
This is why I feel because of his convictions and his ideals
he will make one of the most successful and able prime ministers we have had.
It is not the duration of his office that matters, but how well he handles his duties without
compromising his principles. We had long arguments and
discussions for one whole week before he convinced himself
to accept the prime minister's office, if only to prove the challenge thrown
As told to Amrapali Singh
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