Birthday letters hold a special significance. Especially when written by a parent who articulates his heartfelt hopes for his young daughter.

This week, we bring you a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi on the occasion of her thirteenth birthday. Being in prison, the only present he could send his daughter were “of the mind and spirit…things that even the high walls of prison cannot stop.”

Although Nehru’s letters to a young Indira have been immortalised in the famous collection ‘Letters from a Father to his Daughter’,  this one holds a special significance because it reflects Nehru’s own ideals of honest, fearless living. As a closely watched public figure, this could not have been an easy ideal to live by. Despite that, he advises Indira to aspire to a life of courage and openness as she stands on the threshold of young adulthood.


My dear Indira,

It is no easy matter to decide what is right and what is not. One little test I shall ask you to apply whenever you are in doubt. Never do anything in secret or anything that you would wish to hide. For the desire to hide anything means that you are afraid, and fear is a bad thing and unworthy of you. Be brave, and all the rest follows.

You know that in our great Freedom Movement, under Bapuji’s leadership, there is no room for secrecy or hiding. We have nothing to hide. We are not afraid of what we do or what we say. We work in the sun and in the light. Even so in our private lives let us make friends with the sun and work in the light and do nothing secretly. And if you do so, my dear you will grow up a child of the light, unafraid and serene and unruffled, whatever may happen. 
With all my love and good wishes.

Your loving father,

Jawaharlal Nehru

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