In the last month of her life, Indira Gandhi, my father, and the noted sculptor Sankho Chaudhuri had several interactions. One of the last executive actions of Indira Gandhi, on October 30, 1984, was to approve the appointment of Sankho Chaudhuri as the Chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi. While a veteran politician Ram Niwas Mirdha had won the most votes in an election for the post, he had the good sense and cultural sensibilities to suggest that one respected artist should succeed another as Chairman of the arts academy.
But a more interesting interaction that took place over the month centred on a translation of Tagore’s memorable song, Jodi tor dak shune keu na ashe, that contains the memorable phrase “Ekla Chalo”, which inspired Indira Gandhi. However, the translations of this poem did not seem to satisfy her exacting standards. My father had on several occasions said that Indira Gandhi worked tirelessly on her speeches, and would have made an excellent subeditor. He also maintained that her intellect and education were of the highest calibre, with leading writers and philosophers like Iris Murdoch and André Malraux seeking out her company. How particular she could be about words and their meaning can be seen here.
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