July 17, 2007

Edwina-Nehru’s Love Was ‘Platonic’ Asserts Pamela Mountbatten


Kaveetaa Kaul


Perhaps one of the rarest accounts of a vicariously described relationship is that of Pamela Mountbatten’s depiction of her mother Edwina, wife of Lord Mountbatten the last Viceroy of India and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehrus ‘love affair’ in her book India Remembered: A Personal Account of the Mountbattens During the Transfer of Power. A daughter looking back at her mothers life with candid honesty and mature ponderings does astonish one, followed by a sense of admiration at the candor of her approach.

What is ‘platonic love’?”The term amor platonicus was coined as early as the 15th Century by the Florentine scholar Marsilio Ficino as a synonym for “amor socraticus”. Both expressions signify a love focused on the beauty of a person’s character and intelligence rather than on their physical charms.”

In light of the said connotation of the term the Edwina Nehru ‘affair’ if one refers to it so, intrigues and enchants you with details as elucidated in the links provided.

Love oftentimes is considered quixotic, if not unabashedly uncaring of consequences. However the relationship as described by Pamela between Edwina and Pandit Nehru seemed to have settled into a recumbent zone of ease despite there being three in the relationship. While this led to tragedy for Lady Diana, as personally verbalised by her in an exclusive interview, where she said simply ( reproduced from memory..excuse inaccuracies) ” there were three of us in this relationship and it was uncomfortable”.

Arrant surnames, careers at nadir can create situations which lead to loneliness. At one such juncture Edwina Mountbatten and Pandit Nehru found perfect soulmates in each other. Nehru was a widower and Indira Gandhi his daughter was married and at the time living with her husband. India in the throes of the Independence struggle, with Nehru almost at the helm of affairs must have been excuse for turbulence in the mind then finding solace in a relationship which ‘supposedly’ crossed levels of the physical and transcended into something greater.

“I mean a very deep love, the kind of love that the knights of old…esoteric love really, nowadays everybody assumes that it has to be a carnal love, but you can just have as deep and emotional love with two like souls in a way, people who really grow to understand each other, and be able to listen to each other and to complement each other and find solace in each other.” described Pamela.

There could have been all reason to look askance at this relationship and doubt the assertions of ‘platonic Love’ made with such fervour by Pamela, but for once, doubt does not creep in. Admittedly personal ideas of romanticism, propound the possibility of a love ligatured with pristine sentiments.

Despite the paradoxical assertions by Pamela to the effect that

“My mother had already had lovers. My father was inured to it. It broke his heart the first time, but it was somehow different with Nehru.”

What is even more astounding is the stance of Lord Mountbatten who Pamela reveals confided thus to friends

She (Edwina) and Jawaharlal are so sweet together, they really dote on each other in the nicest way and Pammy (Mountbatten’s daughter) and I are doing everything we can to be tactful and help. – Lord Mountbatten

Breaking out from the shackled, conservative mindset must have been quite a task. To me Lord Mountbattens love for his wife bespoke of ‘true love’ where he had accepted her from the deepest core of his heart with all her fads and foibles. How many of us can boast of that? Unconditional Love where the actions of the other are viewed from his/her perspective devoid of personal prejudices or egotistical standpoint is meant to be a facet of conjugal love. .present only in stories and legends and rare examples of the kind.

The easiest stance would be one which denounces, condemns, reprobates without bothering to sensitise compassionately into the matrix of relationships.

Pamelas analysis further strengthened by her presence at the time these events took place, helped her in providing for posterity a tale which seems improbable but the authenticity cannot be denied.

My mother was so happy with Jawaharlal, she knew that she was helping him at a time when it’s lonely at the pinnacle of power, it really is, and if she could help, and my father knew that it helped her, because a woman can after a long marriage feel frustrated and perhaps neglected if somebody’s working terribly hard. And so if a new affection comes into her life, a new admiration, she blossoms and she is happy.

That Lord Mountbatten had perfectly understood the relationship and the tenor of its purpose was clear. Edwina died in her sleep at age 58, in 1960. What more proof as to the equation the threesome shared than the fact that Edwina bequeathed the letters from Nehru in her will to her husband. He knew there would be nothing in them to disturb him.

The image above is telltale! Open, carefree, childlike, jejune almost playful unaffected camaraderie. An equation..nurturing positivity, potently enriching!

In a world where the term ‘platonic’ is perhaps considered alien, from outer space, derived from Pluto, this revelation by a daughter about her mothers deep love for man who was not her father is indeed poignant. This is not meant to convey that we need follow suit. Such relationships happen perchance. Imho, in a milieu of distrust and the purely physical plane that we seem to be entrenched in presently, success of such an outing is zilch. One of the two is bound to misconstrue. Some examples are best left as stories.

Who can say it better than Shakespeare when describing a love meant to happen..
When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.”

P.S. Video of the recent interview


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  1. I can’t comment on their personal life …but looking at the photograph one thing is clear ‘Nehru was smittten by Edwina’…

    Comment by Nitin — July 17, 2007 @ 4:07 pm | Reply

  2. Yes smitten.but so open, candid refreshingly childlike..nothing to hide.. in the presence of Lord Mountbatten and in complete knowledge of his stature as a leader, yet so unassuming!! Frankly, I’m quite smitten 🙂

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — July 17, 2007 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  3. nice!

    Comment by radical — July 17, 2007 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

  4. Congrats on the blog of the day award!

    Comment by Sandy — July 17, 2007 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

  5. I remember my father speaking to us about this ..what should I call it..affair…At the time it was common knowledge I suppose, but not in a bad way. In fact there were quite a few who had named their kids ‘Pamela’. I know atleast 2 pamela the family must have been quite an influence ..since he was the last Viceroy and there were no serious recriminations against him in India.
    And of course well written, as usual and congrats for the blog award.

    Comment by dilip — July 17, 2007 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  6. Heartfelt, mature and well put across. Pamela should be thanking you for promoting her book free of cost.LOL

    Comment by Krishnan — July 18, 2007 @ 1:03 am | Reply

  7. Clearly a love which was like more of affection and genuinely enjoying each others company. I cant stand people who make every man woman relationship to be just one thing.. reduce it just one angle..sexual.I have plenty of relatives of the kind. I bet once they saw this story my cousins would go ‘ and women can never be friends’. She was right when she said today for everyone everything is just ‘carnal’.Sickos all of them

    Comment by Neha — July 18, 2007 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

  8. @ Thanks radical.

    @ Sandy.. thanks ..thats sweet!Visited your blog..loved it .

    @ Dilip..yeah you are right. Pamela Yash Chopras wife..too. Actually Pamela aunty.. we are sorta related.

    @ Krishnan..Warm comment..thanks.

    @ neha.. Right..Few can view things without distorting them to their twisted logic. Cynicism is a fad these days.. sigh..People would believe wrong easily but to get them to believe in goodness is a formidable task.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — July 19, 2007 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  9. First time into your blog and I must say – I am smitten by the mushy-ness of the post. Whether the much talked about ‘affair’ had an element of platonicity or not only those Frozen Three could have testified, but yes there are relationships where the Desire is subdued by Need. And I guess, this was one of them.

    Comment by Kalyan Banerjee — July 23, 2007 @ 3:19 pm | Reply

  10. Hi Kalyan,

    ‘Smitten’ seems to be the flavour overpowering this post.

    Nitin suspected Nehru to be smitten .. I confessed being smitten by Nehru and you spoke of being so with the ‘mushy-ness of the post’.

    Love does imbibe us with a warm feeling inside…welcome !

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — July 24, 2007 @ 12:44 pm | Reply

  11. Nobody can till date interpret the meaning of the word love and platonic love Both do exist ,to me both are simple , true relation ship between two human irrespective of the gender ,who understand each other and are always there for each other through thick and thin.Platonic is a friend ship requiring no give and take . In this relation ,sexual derises are dormant so very few can realise the depth .I do . Edvina’s daughter understood her mother thus did not condemn her mother, instead she glorified the dead past by reviving and acknowledging it.I admire the girl who respected her mother’s sentiments and did not feel ashamed to admit. To a lay man it could be infedility but I wouldnt agree. It requires ,a sleeping dead consience ,for a woman ,who is somebody’s wife to go to bed , be her lover even , whom she loves so dearly . The fulfillment of this act could be in her dreams ,which is her exclusive birth right.Edvina could also be doing . It is for us to presume .Remember the heart is in the eyes .Thou must look there

    Comment by kausar.feroz — August 26, 2007 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  12. well said Kausar. It does require sensibilities of a sensitive variety to be able to comprehend their relationship and in fact to concede to the presence of a phenomenon like ‘platonic love’. For those who are enmeshed in worldly, physicalities and involved in the outer manifestations of relationships this theory will sound outlandish and highly improbable. But for those of us who do yet believe in love which can transcend the accepted connotation, can admire not just the two but also Edwinas daughter who paid homage to their love by according it a respect and recognition it deserved.

    Comment by kaveetaakaul — August 27, 2007 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

  13. The mundane feeling is that there can’t be a relationship between a man & a woman beyond sexual relationship. The feelings of mother towards her son, that of father towards his daughter, etc., are the hard realities of emotional relationship everyone experiencing. Presence of a phenomenon like ‘platonic love’ can’t be a mystery.

    Comment by Shivarudrappa — July 23, 2008 @ 2:48 pm | Reply

  14. thanks

    Comment by katy — August 20, 2008 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

  15. I believe that this love between Nehru and Edwina was extremely deep. If it was indeed sexual, that is something that should remain a private affair and will forever be unknown. From every picture, they were pictured together you can always see this love from their expressions. It is something, one should not deny.

    I trust and firmly believe, this is one of the greatest love affairs in history.

    Comment by tiffany — November 16, 2008 @ 11:55 am | Reply

  16. Personal but very Interesting story.

    Comment by Praveen Kumar — September 1, 2011 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  17. nice, sweet and touchy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by sheetu — December 28, 2014 @ 11:41 pm | Reply

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