On the 20th June 1948 the outgoing Governor General of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife, Edwina, held a farewell reception at Government House. At the banquet, Jawaharlal Nehru made a speech in Edwina’s honour. Some may find it uncomfortable to read or remember. History is never clear cut or simple. But it is worth repeating an excerpt from it here: Nehru’s tribute to the woman who had been the “First Lady” of India for over a year and whom he had loved.
“The gods or some good fairy gave you beauty and high intelligence, and grace and charm and vitality-great gifts- and she who possesses them is a great lady wherever she goes. But unto those who have, even more shall be given: and they gave you something that was even rarer than those gifts- the human touch, the love of humanity, the urge to serve those who suffer and who are in distress. And this amazing mixture of qualities results in a radiant personality and a healer’s touch.
Wherever you have gone you have brought solace, and you have brought hope and encouragement. Is it surprising, therefore, that the people of India should love you and look up to you as one of themselves and should grieve that you are going? Hundreds of thousands have seen you personally in various camps and other places and in hospitals, and hundreds of thousands will be sorrowful at the news that you have gone.”