Mussoorie always had a special place in the hearts of the Nehru family as it reminded them a lot of Kashmir, their beloved home. The Nehru family, right from the early years, had a very close connection with the Doon valley and Mussoorie and anyone who has read the autobiography of the late Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is familiar with this fact. On October 13, eighty eight long years ago, Nehruji arrived in the Queen of Hills with his wife.
Nehruji spent time in Mussoorie with his parents, his wife and daughter and in Doon valley in jail on several occasions and later, as the Prime Minister, he visited both cities with his daughter, Indira, many times. In fact, just a day before he passed away, he was in the Doon valley.
A special visit to Mussoorie which Nehruji recalls, in his autobiography, is this one-made in 1930-in the month of October. The weather was at its best and just like many visitors like to be in Mussoorie in autumn even now, October was always a beautiful month for a visit to Musoorie. On October 13, Nehruji, with his wife Kamala reached Mussoorie to spend three days with Motilal Nehru, who was then recouping in the hill town. Writes Nehru ji, “He was looking just a little better, and I was happy to think that he had turned the corner and was getting well; it was good to be back in the family. I remember those quiet and delightful three days well. Indira, my daughter, was there; and my three little nieces, my sister’s daughters …And these three days were the last I was to have with my father before his fatal illness came to snatch him away from me”.
He was expecting his re-arrest soon. “Kamala and I were going down from Mussoorie on the 17th October to be in time for the Peasant Conference at Allahabad on the 19th. At Dehra Dun, an order under Section 144 Criminal Procedure Code was served on me almost as I was leaving.” By the evening of 19th October, Nehru ji was arrested again and carried off from Allahabad to Naini Prison. The last days he spent with his father were left behind in Mussoorie.
Motilal Nehru, while in Mussoorie, often walked down The Mall and Camel’s Back Road during his days spent here. The relationship between the Nehru family and Mussoorie began with Motilal Nehru’s visits to the hill station, mainly for recuperating from illness. His wife, Swaroop Rani and their daughter Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, all had a great attachment to this hill station and visited it all through their lives. Vijay Lakshmi Pandit stayed in Landour for some time and was a frequent visitor to the famous “A.Prakash & Co” in Sisters Bazar. Several generations of the Nehru family have patronised this amazing store which stands unassumingly in a tranquil corner of the popular hill station.
Ten years earlier, in the summer of 1920, Nehruji had brought his ailing mother and wife to the famous Hotel Savoy of Mussoorie, along with little Indira. He had not entered active politics till then but an incident in Mussoorie catalysed his entry into the sphere. Staying at the Savoy was an Afghan delegation which was in India for political talks with the British Government. Pandit Nehru did not know about the Afghans till after he arrived there. The Government, afraid that he might contact them and influence them asked him to sign an undertaking that he would not get in touch with the delegation. Nehru refused to do that. Though he was not interested in meeting the Afghans, he believed that nobody had the right to prevent him from meeting them. He was ordered by the authorities to leave Mussoorie within 24 hours.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his wife spent many a summer in Mussoorie. Mrs Wanchoo, Indira’s maternal aunt, lived for years in a house located on Gandhi Chowk (Library crossing ). .
Personal and political matters brought Indiraji again and again to these hills and she had many good friends here like Sitaji, the princess of Kapurthala. Indira Gandhi was extremely fond of staying at “Ekant”, the guest house of the Haryana Government. She also lived many a time at the Wanchoo’s place.
Radha Bhavan and Savoy Hotel were also Indiraji’s favourite places to stay at while in Mussoorie.
"Kamla Castle "and "Craig Top" were two of the other resorts which the family stayed at often. Every October brings back memories of the days spent in the autumn by this distinguished family in the hills of Mussoorie.