Variously referred to as the oldest Indian Jewish woman and the Nehru family’s first “foreign bahu”, Fori Nehru died in Kasauli on Tuesday. She was 109. The Hungarian-Jewish centenarian was the wife of the late BK Nehru, a distinguished civil servant and cousin of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
According to an obituary published in The Hindu, Fori Nehru was one of the few, if not the only, members of the Nehru family to bring the excesses committed under the Emergency to the notice of Indira Gandhi. She was also deeply invested in bringing justice to victims of the Jewish holocaust. The correspondence between Martin Gilbert, Winston Churchill’s official biographer, and Fori Nehru formed the basis of a book exploring Jewish history in Letters to Auntie Fori.
A biography of Indira Gandhi by Pupul Jayakar has an interesting anecdote involving Fori Nehru and former US President Lyndon B Johnson.
“Ambassador BK Nehru hosted a dinner for the Vice-President of the US, in honour of the Indian prime minister. However, shortly before the dinner, President Johnson made an unscheduled call on the Prime Minister at the Indian Embassy. He kept on talking, guests started arriving. An embarrassed Fori Nehru asked the President, ‘Mr President, why don’t you stay for dinner?’ He said, ‘Yes, I will.’ That created a major crisis. Protocol demanded that the seating arrangements for dinner be changed and one person of the Indian delegation had to be dropped.”— "Indira Gandhi: A Biography", Pupul Jayakar
In 2011, Doordarshan (video above) visited Fori Nehru for a freewheeling conversation about her long life, in the course of which she had had a first-hand view of some of the greatest events in Indian history.
In the 43-minute long video, Nehru recounted her memories of what took place behind the scenes in the lives of India’s first political family. She spoke about her friendship with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and her reactions to the latter’s assassination.