When Fidel Castro insisted on calling me Indira

A former member of the South Commission led by the late Julius Nyerere recalls her visit to Cuba in 1987.

In the passing of Fidel Castro, the world has lost perhaps one of the last warriors of the anti-colonial, anti-economic domination struggles.

I had the privilege of spending one week in Cuba in 1987, as a member of the South Commission led by the late Julius Nyerere. Fidel, as we all got used to calling him, like many other leaders from the former colonies, had enormous regard for Nyerere. So he literally laid out the red carpet for us. Nyerere – as indeed many of the leaders who fought against colonialism, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and those who founded the Non Aligned Movement – had similar regard for Fidel.

Many of the leaders of that era, especially those who fought against colonialism, whether it was Fidel, or Yasser Arafat, had extraordinary love for India and particularly for Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi. I became a beneficiary of that love. Since I was the only Indian in the delegation and wore a sari, I would get special treatment from Fidel, who would insist on calling me Indira and embrace me, hold my hands while he walked around the various buildings and spaces that he wanted to show us.

Fidel not only would tell us about all the achievements of Cuba but often accompanied us on our tours. He hosted dinners and also spent a great deal of time with us during the various cultural shows that he held for us.

We were shown Cuba’s extraordinary health services , hospitals , and institutes of medical research. He accompanied us and explained how former colonies could import the latest medical equipment from Cuba, and boycott the West that then had a monopoly in the area. The socialist touch was tangible and visible – patients in hospital rooms would range from cleaners to bureaucrats, all treated at par and given the same facility.

The thought that there was this one great leader who, whatever his faults, could not only resist control and threats by another country but actually managed to push them out and established autonomy seemed like an inspiration.

At the Commission we were searching for a political economy framework, for rebuilding the former colonies. We were looking for something affirmative, so that we could cut the dependence on the North, which was still there, despite independence. We had visited many sites and many other countries as part of our quest. As we were leaving Cuba, Nyerere turned to us and said, “There, we have our model for the South,” much to the dismay of some of the other members of the Commission who were less inclined to the Left.

I mourn the loss of the last of the unstoppable leaders of the former colonies, and with him the loss of the spirit to fight the overpowering presence of the neo-colonialism

Devaki jain was a member of the erstwhile South Commission.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Children's Day is not for children alone

It’s also a time for adults to revisit their childhood.

Most adults look at childhood wistfully, as a time when the biggest worry was a scraped knee, every adult was a source of chocolate and every fight lasted only till the next playtime. Since time immemorial, children seem to have nailed the art of being joyful, and adults can learn a thing or two about stress-free living from them. Now it’s that time of the year again when children are celebrated for...simply being children, and let it serve as a timely reminder for adults to board that imaginary time machine and revisit their childhood. If you’re unable to unbuckle yourself from your adult seat, here is some inspiration.

Start small, by doodling at the back page of your to-do diary as a throwback to that ancient school tradition. If you’re more confident, you could even start your own comic strip featuring people in your lives. You can caricaturise them or attribute them animal personalities for the sake of humour. Stuck in a boring meeting? Draw your boss with mouse ears or your coffee with radioactive powers. Just make sure you give your colleagues aliases.

Pull a prank, those not resulting in revenue losses of course. Prank calls, creeping up behind someone…pull them out from your memory and watch as everyone has a good laugh. Dress up a little quirky for work. It’s time you tried those colourful ties, or tastefully mismatched socks. Dress as your favourite cartoon characters someday – it’s as easy as choosing a ponytail-style, drawing a scar on your forehead or converting a bath towel into a cape. Even dinner can be full of childish fun. No, you don’t have to eat spinach if you don’t like it. Use the available cutlery and bust out your favourite tunes. Spoons and forks are good enough for any beat and for the rest, count on your voice to belt out any pitch. Better yet, stream the classic cartoons of your childhood instead of binge watching drama or news; they seem even funnier as an adult. If you prefer reading before bedtime, do a reread of your favourite childhood book(s). You’ll be surprised by their timeless wisdom.

A regular day has scope for childhood indulgences in every nook and cranny. While walking down a lane, challenge your friend to a non-stop game of hopscotch till the end of the tiled footpath. If you’re of a petite frame, insist on a ride in the trolley as you about picking items in the supermarket. Challenge your fellow gym goers and trainers to a hula hoop routine, and beat ‘em to it!

Children have an incredible ability to be completely immersed in the moment during play, and acting like one benefits adults too. Just count the moments of precious laughter you will have added to your day in the process. So, take time to indulge yourself and celebrate life with child-like abandon, as the video below shows.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.