Sunday, February 25, 2018
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jawaharlal nehru

It was during the 1952 or 1957 general election that an interesting incident took place in Rewa where Pandit Nehru had gone campaigning for Congress. Lunch had to be arranged for the Prime Minister. In and around Rewa there was presumably no catering house of the standard or reputation that would have been befitting for a guest of the stature of Jawaharlal Nehru.

So Barnetts Hotel , Allahabad, which undertook outdoor catering then, were booked to serve lunch to the Prime Minister’s party. As already mentioned, my father was the managing proprietor of Barnetts Hotel and he had entrusted my sister with the charge of catering. A whole lot of staff went there to cater for the Prime Minister’s party. This is what my sister told us on return. While the lunch was on, a member of Pandit Nehru’s security, someone who was dressed in police uniform, approached the staff and told them, ‘You see, we are not sure of the quality of the food being served. We understand that Pandit Nehru is highly annoyed with the food served’. The hint was clear. He wanted to be flattered and requested that matters should be sorted out and that he could himself taste the food and testify to its being good. But the Barnetts staff didn’t bother about his remarks at all. My sister had overheard the burly man in uniform speak menacingly to the manager. Incidentally we knew very well Mr Upadhyaya, who was Panditji’s personal secretary. He was seated by the side of Pandit Nehru who was eating quietly, lost in his thoughts while eating.  My sister went up to Upadhyayaji , much to the nervousness of the security people. He looked at her and said, ‘Kya hai beti..’ She told him, ‘Uncle, please ask Panditji how the food is’. She stood there when Upadhyaji asked the Prime Minister, ‘Panditji khana kaisa hai?’ Panditji looked up at him and said, ‘Khana bahut laziz hai’.
That was enough for my sister to rush back  to the managerial camp where that security personnel was hovering around. She told him point blank: ‘You were criticising the quality of the food being served? Pandit Nehru has praised it. Come, I will take you to him. You are using his name to threaten us?’  For the security chap this came as a thunderbolt. He didn’t know which side to look. My sister then said, ‘Come sit down here on the table and enjoy the meal which we have just served to the Prime Minister’ The man blushed. But how could he refuse the offer! This shows that even in those days  the security staff was not above board. Another striking feature was the trust that Nehru had in one and all. There was no indication that his food had been tasted before it was served to him to ensure that it was not risky to consume it.

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