Lal Bahadur Shastri’s sense of humour


Prime VIP
The very name of Lal Bahadur Shastri evokes the image of a serious person. But Shastri was endowed with a great sense of humour. In early 1949, a Commonwealth cricket match was organised at Kanpur. Shastri, who was the then home minister of Uttar Pradesh, had come to watch the match. Students created ruckus and the police had to intervene, agitating the students further. Shastri came forward to pacify them but they were unrelenting in their demand that in the remaining days of the series, no ‘red turban’ should be visible on the ground (policemen were in red turbans). Shastri gave them his assurance.

The next day when the match began, the students got furious to see the policemen. They complained to Shastri that he had gone back on his promise. Smilingly, Shastri told them that he had fully honoured his word as their sole demand was that no red turban should be on the ground. That day, on Shastri’s orders, the policemen were wearing khaki turbans. The students realised that he had played a prank on them and had saved the situation from taking an ugly turn.

In 1964, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Naik, was very critical of the policies of Prime Minister Shastri for the dearth of food grains in his state. In the same year, the Bombay Municipal Corporation held a reception for Shastri at Kamla Nehru Park. It was a splendid party with dry fruits, sandwiches, coffee, etc. Addressing the people there, Shastri said: “Today one thing has become absolutely clear that there is no problem of eatables in Maharashtra. I have never seen and relished such tasty items in any state.” Naik was all smiles.

Once Shastri attended an inter-university students’ meet. There he entertained the students by telling them various anecdotes. He was almost reduced to tears of laughter when he narrated how once Nehru asked him to accompany him to a function in churidar-pyjama. When he reached home after the function, he found it difficult to take it off!

Addressing Congress workers, Shastri told them that after becoming the Prime Minister he had requested his staff not to buy things to decorate his residence. The old available commodities should be used for the renovation of his residence. But even then, the new flashy carpets were laid out and he wondered how to tread on such soft rugs. This reveals his simplicity as well.

Many times, he himself became the butt of humour. He could laugh at himself. When Pakistan attacked India, Shastri declared in a press conference: “Ayub Saheb would not have attacked India if I had not been short in stature.”

The irrigation and power minister of Uttar Pradesh was also short. Once when he came to welcome Shastri at the airport, Shastri remarked: “Very nice. At least you are my size!”

-- Sanjeev Suri

Lal Bahadur Shastri

Born: October 2, 1904, Mughalsarai
Died: January 11, 1966, Tashkent, Uzbekistan[/img]