The oldest living member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Shobha Nehru, fondly known as ‘Fori’ has passed away at the age of 108 at her Kasauli residence. Wife of late Indian diplomat Braj Kumar Nehru and Hungarian Jewish by birth, she married into the Nehru family in 1935.
Unlike the Nehrus who are an active part of the political imagination in India, Fori shied away from politics. However, she always took a stance on issues important to her, chief among them being human rights causes.
During the 1975 Emergency, Fori criticised the compulsory sterilisation campaign, when no one else had the gumption to confront Indira Gandhi. Earlier, during the Partition, Fori set up an employment scheme for refugees, which later came to be known as the Cottage Industries Emporium.
Having narrowly escaped the Holocaust in her youth, Fori has often spoken about her deep sense of guilt about being safe when her friends and family were not. Despite her foreign roots, Fori seamlessly blended into Indian life, even adopting the sari as her usual attire.
Fori’s life and Jewish background have been documented by historian Martin Gilbert in his 2002 book Letters to Auntie Fori: The 5,000-Year History of the Jewish People and Their Faith.
On 29 May 2011, a 102-year-old Fori Nehru had a candid conversation with the Doordarshan’s Komal GB Singh about her life as part of the Nehru-Gandhi family. In the video, she is seen talking about her bittersweet relationship with Indira Gandhi, and the Nehru-Gandhi family’s role in shaping Indian political history.
(Sources cited: New York Times)