Family Matters

Nehru’s former employee offers an amusing, rambling account of his own life

01 November 2012
Jai was PA to Jawaharlal Nehru as well as Indira Gandhi

“ON PAPER WE WERE PERSONAL STAFF of the PM, but in principle reporting to both the PM and his daughter,” recounted Janak Raj Jai. “Nehru would often say to officials who came to meet him—Indu se bhi mil ke jana.”

Eighty-one-year-old Jai is a former personal assistant to the Nehru-Gandhi family, whose position allowed him to observe at close quarters how relationships with the family were created and destroyed. This August, law books publisher Universal brought out Jai’s autobiography Strokes on Law & Democracy in India. Over 586 pages of breezy, barely edited prose, with section  headings like “When Nehru Snubbed Me” and “The Story of Indira’s Chappals”, Jai tells the story of a life spent in close proximity to power.

Sitting in his modest quarters on Delhi’s Pandara Road, dressed in a pair of jeans and an olive green T-shirt, Jai recounted some stories for me, including of Indira Gandhi’s personal yoga guru, Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari. “[He] was the biggest embarrassment to the family,” Jai said.

leena reghunath  is a freelancer based in the US. She was formerly the editorial manager at The Caravan, and has written for the New Indian Express, TheHindu, the Times of India and the Hindustan Times. She has a law degree and a master’s in English literature. Reghunath also had a brief stint as a public prosecutor and civil lawyer. She received the Mumbai Press Club's RedInk award for her reporting in 2015 and 2018.

Keywords: history books Nehru Indian politics autobiography political dynasty