Lord Louis and Edwina Mountbattenís youngest daughter, was 18
in the autumn of 1947, which means she had a ringside view of
the events leading up to and beyond Independence. She was also a
witness to the relationship between her mother
and Nehru, which she describes as being "in
love", but without having any sexual contact, in
a chat with Shyam Bhatia
uppermost in the minds of the Mountbatten family, and Pamela
Mountbatten has made sure of this by naming her daughter after
the country that her father claimed to have freed from colonial
Lord Louis "Dickie"
Mountbatten was the last British Viceroy and first
Governor-General of independent India when he and his wife
Edwina became and remained close friends of Pandit Jawaharlal
Nehru and other leading members of the Indian Cabinet.
daughter, Pamela, spent 18 formative months in India and had a
ringside view of the events leading up to and beyond
Independence. She also had first hand experience of meeting and
talking to many of Independent Indiaís founding fathers,
including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhai Patel,
C. Rajgopalachari and others.
Nehru with Pamela Mountbatten
Nehru with Edwina and Louis Mountbatten
After returning to
post-war England, Pamela met and married the famous British
designer David Hicks with whom she had three children. India
Hicks is one of those three children and she, too, has a soft
corner for the country after which she was christened. In fact,
she is the one who encouraged her mother to enshrine some of her
thoughts and memories in a recently published book, India
Stacks of black
and white photographs, filed in Pamelaís private study, also
help to keep the connection alive. One much-treasured picture
depicts Nehru in black shorts practising yoga by standing on
his head. Pamela remembers him telling her that this was when he
liked to plan his Cabinet changes because he could be sure of a
Pamela, who is
pushing 81 now, distinctly remembers everything as if it
happened yesterday. What struck me most was her understanding of
those tragic days and the admiration she retains for Jawaharlal
Nehruís courage and sagacity. Most of all, she recalls his
ability to explain in a simple and understandable way the most
difficult problems the country faced.
Nehru mamu for some months, but then reverted to the
commonly used title of Panditji because she thought it sounded
less presumptuous. But her mother called him Jawahar from
day one. And he, in turn, called her Edwina.
When we lunched
together at her mini stately home in the heart of Oxfordshire, I
asked how she would describe the relationship between the two.
She took no time in saying that they were "in love",
but without having any sexual contact. Seeing me surprised she
explained, " This deep emotional affection that obviously
was love is so difficult for people to understand that you can
have love without having a grand sexual affair, which I donít
believe they did have."
added, "I strongly believe that they were essentially two
lonely people. His wife was dead, his sister was posted abroad,
his daughter was either looking after her husband or was away
with the womenís movement. I think he was very alone and my
mother was a very introvert character herself. Suddenly, they
found they were two, who would communicate with each other.
actually described it to me as a brief encounter. I donít know
if youíve ever seen the film Brief Encounter? In the
film, two people are wildly attracted to each other who know it
is going to be impossible. After we left India they saw each
other once a year ó twice a year perhaps ó but the
relationship remained as intense."
Independence, the mother and daughter were regular visitors
to India. They stayed at the Prime Ministerís house in Teen
Murti, New Delhi, as government guests and sometimes went on
tour with him. When Nehru visited the UK, he was a welcome
guest at the Mountbatten family estate, Broadlands, in
"I met him, I
suppose, at the peak of his life", Pamela explains. "I
was lucky. Oh yes, the temper was certainly very much there and
you, certainly, didnít interrupt; you were likely to get your
head bitten off. But with me I always found ó like he was with
all young people ó that he loved young people. He felt an
immediate attraction to them, which was, of course, immediately
reciprocated. He was never boring, he never pontificated, he
never talked you down. He was particularly wonderful because he
was so knowledgeable about everything."
my motherís lifetime, but after her death, my father asked me
to go through the correspondence between Panditji and my
mother," Pamela says. "Actually, he (my father) asked
me to read their letters. Obviously, there was that slight,
slight, slight worry about it, but ever so slight. When I read
them, I was able to assure him. They both needed each other, but
there was nothing that he should be embarrassed about.
was such an honourable man and I think, to have seduced my
mother in my fatherís house, would have been dishonourable. If
my father had not been around, and my father was the least
jealous person, I think, it would have been embarrassing for him
if that happened."
Pamela says she
never had the least doubt that India would emerge one day as a
major power. She
attributes her optimism to the "quality of your"
leadership. Indiaís potential was so obvious and the calibre
of Indiaís leaders at that time was impressive." Pamela
was also so keen to keep up with her Indian friends and contacts
that at one stage she volunteered to work as a secretary for
Indiaís first High Commissioner to the UK, Krishna Menon.
Both Pamela and
her mother had harsh words for Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder
of Pakistan. Lady Edwina Mountbatten has been quoted on
record as characterising Jinnah as a megalomaniac. For her part,
Pamela remembers him as icy cold and "a severe man, a
very severe man" and, she adds, it was impossible to like
him or have affection for him. "You could admire the
figure, very immaculately turned out in western dress, but
thatís it. A fine looking man, rather hawk faced, but a fine
looking man. But there was a freezing barrier all around
This freezing or
icy barrier extended to her father, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the
last British Viceroy of undivided India. "My father tried
to offer advice to all the leaders," says Pamela.
The Congress Party leaders were interested and then after
a short while went half way to meet him.
he (Lord Mountbatten) felt there was this complete barrier. If
my father offered help, it was refused. Mr Jinnah, the Qaid-e-Azam,
he knew exactly what he was going to do. He was going to take
all the jobs for himself wasnít he? The religious head, the
Pakistan head, it was going to be a one-man show ó for which
he had given his life.
"What we didnít
know was that he was suffering from cancer and his death was
totally unexpected for us."