Jaipur Diary – 1947, A Love Story
The great historical romance.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It was pulp romance meeting the Partition. History was sexed up at the session in Mughal Tent, in which TV host Karan Thapar chatted with Alex von Tunzelmann, the author of Indian Summer. The book was a page-turner that tells three stories: of a marriage (Edwina Mountbatten and her husband ‘Dickie’), of a relationship (Edwina and Jawaharlal Nehru) and the story of events just before and after the Indian partition. Punctuated with laughs and claps – the audience included historian William Dalrymple and Delhi socialite Bina Ramani sitting on the floor – the session graduated from the titillating to the cerebral.
Mr Thapar’s first question: “Were Edwina and Nehru in love?”
Ms Tunzelmann: “Undoubtedly.”
Mr Thapar: “Were they lovers?”
A collective gasp from the audience.
Ms Tunzelmann: “Does it matter?”
Mr Thapar: “It doesn’t but it’s desperately interesting.”
Ms Tunzelmann: “It’s a 64 million rupee question. People know the answer. We know both had an intimate relationship. There have been photographs where you can see both touching each other. It was true love, whatever that is.”
The session did talk of other significant people of the partition (Jinnah, Dickie, Gandhi) but the juicy part was focused on the dynamics between Edwina and Nehru. “For the last 11 years of her life, Edwina wrote countless letters to Nehru. And Nehru would often write to Edwina at two in the morning,” Ms Tunzelmann said to an audience that wanted more gossip. She obliged, saying, “They both found each other late in life; they both had other relationships but the one that had with each was the most special. They found this one seemed the most special.”
On being asked if the film that was planned on her book would ever be made, Ms Tunzelmann said, “The film can be revived though I’m not sure it would be made in India or not.”
As it turned out, Edwina and other dead women of the past alone were not besotted with Nehru. “He wrote so brilliantly,” Ms Tunzelmann said. “He was my political hero. It is impossible to be a woman and not love Nehru.”
In the audience
Ms Tunzelmann too is in love with Nehru