Hidden histories Metroplus

The PM and the pinprick

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru being garlanded by children at the Meenambakkam airport on his arrival for the silver jubilee celebration of the Madras Flying Club on October 5, 1955 PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES   | Photo Credit: K_N_CHARI

In all the news coverage on 60 years of the Integral Coach Factory’s commencement of production, another equally significant anniversary has, luckily for me, been given the go by. As has been reported widely, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, did the honours at ICF on October 2, 1955. Three days later, on the 5th, he laid the foundation stone for the Music Academy’s proposed auditorium. In those days, PMs evidently spent a few days in cities they toured and not just a few hours.

The foundation stone, a handsomely inscribed slab of granite, is on the southern face of the auditorium’s outer wall. The silver trowel that Nehru used to fix the stone in place is one of the precious artefacts of the Music Academy. The institution has plenty of photographs of the event, all of which show that it was a gala affair. In attendance were several celebrities. M.S. Subbulakshmi, whose birth centenary is being observed this year, gave a concert on the occasion. In his speech, T.T. Krishnamachari, then Union Minister and one of the prime movers behind the new building, referred to the money collected till then for the project – Rs 1.6 lakhs and thanked all “our friends and the lady who has by her innumerable benefit concerts helped many an educational and cultural cause in this country.” Nehru, in his speech, recalled that he had referred to Subbulakshmi on an earlier occasion as a queen of songs, while he was merely a Prime Minister.

What was never referred to in public, but spoken of for long in hushed whispers in the corridors of the Music Academy, was a small incident that took place during the inauguration. It was then popular, and still is somewhat a prevalent practice, to pin floral badges made of silk on the organisers of any event and the important guests in attendance. The ceremony at the Academy was no different, and the task of pinning the guests was entrusted to various volunteers. The honour of affixing the badge on the PM fell on a middling income tax lawyer. In his enthusiasm, the man did it with such force that the safety pin at the rear of the badge pierced not only the Prime Ministerial jacket but also his chest.

The imagination boggles at what would have ensued if the same had been done to any of our present-day VIPs. Z category guards would have hauled off the offender for interrogation and a long trial. The ‘foreign hand’ would have been suspected. Nehru was, however, all grace and brushed the matter aside. After the function, he and his entourage crossed Cathedral Road on foot to TTK’s residence for dinner. The pinprick was forgotten, but not before K. Srinivasan of The Hindu, then vice-president of the Academy, had in a subsequent meeting of the executive committee railed against the ‘unbecoming behaviour of certain people’. This was duly documented and survives in the Academy archives.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 1:29:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/hidden-histories-the-pm-and-the-pinprick/article7743080.ece

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