Mussolini Return


The bond that kept me in Lausanne and Europe was broken and there was no need for me to remain there any longer. Indeed, something else within me was also broken, the realization of which only came gradually to me, for those days were black days for me and my mind did not function properly. Indira and I went to Montreux to spend a few quiet days together.

During our stay at Montreux I had a visit from the Italian Consul at Lausanne, who came over especially to convey to me Signor Mussolini’s deep sympathy at my loss. I was a little surprised, for I had not met Signor Mussolini or had any other contacts with him. I asked the Consul to convey my gratitude to him.

Some weeks earlier a friend in Rome had written to me to say that Signor Mussolini would like to meet me. There was no question of my going to Rome then, and I said so. Later, when I was thinking of returning to India by air, that message was repeated and there was a touch of eagerness and insistence about it. I wanted to avoid this interview and yet I had no desire to be discourteous. Normally I might have got over my distaste for meeting him, for I was curious also to know what kind of man the Duce was. But the Abyssinian campaign was being carried on then and my meeting him would inevitably have led to all manner of inferences, and would be used for fascist propaganda. No denial from me would go far. I knew of several recent instances when Indian students and others visiting Italy had been utilized, against their wishes and sometimes even without their knowledge, for fascist propaganda. And then there had been the bogus interview with Mr. Gandhi which the Giornale d’Italia had published in 1931.

I conveyed my regrets, therefore, to my friend, and later wrote again and telephoned to him to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding. All this was before Kamala’s death. After her death I sent another message pointing out that, even apart from other reasons, I was in no mood then for an interview with anyone.

All this insistence on my part became necessary, as I was passing through Rome by the K.L.M. and would have to spend an evening and night there. I could not avoid this passing visit and brief stay.

After a few days at Montreux I proceeded to Geneva and Marseilles, where I boarded the K.L.M. air liner for the East. On arrival in Rome in the late afternoon, I was met by a high official who handed me a letter from the Chef de Cabinet of Signor Mussolini. The Duce, it stated, would be glad to meet me and he had fixed six o’clock that evening for the interview. I was surprised and reminded him of my previous messages. But he insisted that it had now all been fixed up and the arrangement could not be upset. Indeed if the interview did not take place there was every likelihood of his being dismissed from his office. I was assured that nothing would appear in the press, and that I need only see the Duce, for a few minutes. All that he wanted to do was to shake hands with me and to convey personally his condolences at my wife’s death. So we argued for a full hour with all courtesy on both sides but with increasing strain; it was a most exhausting hour for me and probably more so for the other party. The time fixed for the interview was at last upon us and I had my way. A telephone message was sent to the Duce’s palace that I could not come.

That evening I sent a letter to Signor Mussolini expressing my regret that I could not take advantage of his kind invitation to me to see him and thanking him for his message of sympathy.

I continued my journey. At Cairo there were some old friends to meet me, and then further east, over the deserts of Western Asia. Various incidents, and the arrangements necessary for my journey, had so far kept my mind occupied. But after leaving Cairo and flying, hour after hour, over this desolate desert area, a terrible loneliness gripped me and I felt empty and purposeless. I was going back alone to my home, which was no longer’ home for me, and there by my side was a basket and that basket contained an urn. That was all that remained of Kamala, and all our bright dreams were also dead and turned to ashes. She is no more, Kamala is no more, my mind kept on repeating.

I thought of my autobiography, that record of my life, which I had discussed with her as she lay in Bhowali Sanatorium. And, as I was writing it, sometimes I would take a chapter or two and read it out to her. She had only seen or heard a part of it: she would never see the rest; nor would we write any more chapters together in the book of life.

When I reached Baghdad I sent a cable to my publishers in London, who were bringing out my autobiography, giving them the dedication for the book: ‘To Kamala, who is no more.’

Karachi came, and crowds and many familiar faces. And then Allahabad, where we carried the precious urn to the swift-flowing Ganges and poured the ashes into the bosom of that noble river. How many of our forebears she had carried thus to the sea, how many of those who follow us will take that last journey in the embrace of her water.

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The Discovery Of India – Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

Bharat Ek Khoj – Doordarshan

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