Though she is remembered as a tough, no-nonsense politician, a relatively lesser known trait of Indira Gandhi – the naturalist in her – came to the fore at the launch of a book on the late prime minister today. The book “Indira Gandhi – A life in Nature”, was launched by Congress president Sonia Gandhi at the Indira Gandhi Memorial in the presence of former ministers, bureaucrats and environmentalists who worked closely with her to frame some of country’s landmarks wildlife and environment laws. Renowned mountaineer Capt Manmohan Singh Kohli recalled how Gandhi once told him “please call me as a daughter of the mountains”. Former Union minister Jairam Ramesh, who has authored the book published by Simon & Schuster, presented the first copy of the book to the Congress President, besides to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former minister Karan Singh and Priyanka Gandhi. In her brief speech, Sonia recalled how her mother-in-law would spend hours in Delhi’s famous Nehru Park while it was being landscaped in the early 1960s to plan clusters of trees and flowers to be planted there. “I remember when the Nehru Park was being landscaped, every Sunday, Mrs Gandhi with her best friend Padmaja Naidu would go there and spend time there. “She used to go there and sit there for at least two hours in the late 1960s and deliberate on which cluster of trees would be planted and where and which flowers should be there to ensure that there is continuity of flowering there,” she said at the launch. “I am sure this will be very well received and will be a great success,” she said, adding that it will kindle love for nature especially the young.
Ramesh also highlighted how the former prime minister brought the Project Lion first and then ‘Project Tiger’ for conservation of the big cats. Karan Singh recalled how Indira Gandhi first made lion the national animal and four years later got it changed to the Tiger. Ramesh said the book would be made available in a number of languages including Hindi, Malayali, Kannada and some others. The book brings out some of the unpublished works sourced through archives and personal sources material that highlighted the unexplored aspect of Indira Gandhi’s life — her love for nature. The book showcases how Indira Gandhi led India to the path of conservation and made it a priority of economic development. Ramesh weaves personal, political and environmental history to narrate the compelling story of Indira Gandhi, the naturalist who used her instincts and beliefs to draft landmark policies and laws on wildlife and forests and shape institutions that have endured. The 488-page book was launched to mark the birth centennial year of the former Prime Minister.