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.”..so 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.”