Table of Contents
A Letter to Children By Jawaharlal Nehru Study Guide
About the Author
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was India’s first Prime Minister. Nehru was a wonderful writer in addition to being a great statesman. Even forty years after his death, his autobiography, Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History, and Letters from a Father to his Daughter are still widely read. His vision and leadership built modern India. He also had a significant impact on world politics by playing a key part in the formation of the non-aligned movement.
The letter above, dedicated to the children of India, was penned a few years after the country’s independence. He informs them that when he was their age, he disliked being preached to or listening to sermons delivered by elderly people. Now that he is an old man, he avoids doing things that he disliked when he was younger. Rather, he would like to share with youngsters his awe of the world’s beauty, including its flowers, birds, stars, and mountains. Adults erect walls based on religion, caste, colour, political party, nation, language, wealth and poverty. As a result, he is harshly critical of them. He teaches them what a wonderful person Gandhiji was and encourages them to help with the process of nation-building.
Summary of A Letter to Children
In this letter to the children of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, informs them that he enjoys being with them, chatting with them, and, most importantly, playing with them. This temporarily makes him forget that he is no longer young, that he has gotten rather elderly. But, as he settles down to write, he is aware of the age gap that exists between him and them.
He did not like listening to sermons and good counsel from the elderly, who have a propensity of pretending to be very smart at this age. Nehru, on the other hand, believes that few of them are wise. He has not been able to decide if he is intelligent or not, but when he listens to others, he believes he must be wise, brilliant, and important. Then he begins to mistrust his own intelligence. He understands that truly smart individuals do not brag about their knowledge and act arrogantly.
Nehru is at a loss for topics to write about. He would love to talk to the children about this lovely planet, about flowers, trees, birds, animals, stars, mountains, glaciers, and all the other beautiful things in the world if they were actually there. Adults ignore all of this beauty and squander their time in arguments or quarrels. Nehru expects that children would be more sensitive than adults and will be able to absorb the beauty of life through their senses. He encourages kids to make friends with flowers and birds, and with everything in nature since it is not difficult. He claims that the world is more pleasant than any fairy tale the children have read since it is the finest fairy tale and adventure storey ever written. All that is required is to keep one’s senses open.
Nehru bemoans the fact that adults erect boundaries of religion, caste, colour, party, nation, region, language, customs, and rich and poor between themselves and live in prisons of their own design. Fortunately for the rest of the world, youngsters do not perceive these diversions and continue to play and work together. When kids are old enough, their elders inform them about these obstacles. As a result, Nehru hopes that kids do not grow up too quickly.
Nehru informs the youngsters that in answer to their letter, he once gave an elephant to the children of Japan. The elephant became a symbol of friendship between Japanese and Indian children. There are children all around the world who go to school, work, play, argue, and then become friends again. He encourages Indian children to learn about other countries and then visit them as friends when they are older. They will be greeted by their buddies.
The author then informs the children about Mahatama Gandhi, who was a brilliant and smart guy. Bapuji, as he was lovingly known, did not flaunt his intelligence; instead, he was simple as a child and adored youngsters. Nehru concludes his message by urging the children to offer their small contribution to the challenge of developing this vast country. Only when everyone contributes, even if it is a small amount, will it add up and the country will achieve rapid growth.
Questions and Answers
Q.1. What, according to Nehru, is the difference between children and grown-ups?
Ans. According to Nehru, grown-ups have a habit of giving sermons and sound advice to the young. They look to be incredibly wise, despite the fact that not many people possess such wisdom. This irritates the kids.
But that is not all. Grown-ups organise themselves into compartments and groups. They split themselves along religion, caste, colour, party, nation, province, language, customs, and rich and poor lines. These dividers are prisons they have built for themselves. Fortunately, children are not aware of these dividing lines, according to Nehru. Children play and collaborate. They argue from time to time, but they always reconcile. When kids reach adulthood, it is the elders who teach them about boundaries. As a result, Nehru hopes that they will remain young for a long time.
Q.2 Why does Nehru emphasize the beauty of the world? What is his message?
Ans. Nehru tells children about how lovely our world is. He talks about the lovely things that surround us all the time, such as flowers, trees, birds, animals, stars, mountains, and glaciers. But grown-ups lose sight of all this beauty and become immersed in disputes that lead to quarrels. Or they sit at their desks, cut off from nature’s splendour, and pretend to be doing very important work. Nehru advises them to make friends with flowers, birds, and all other forms of nature. They should be able to identify the names of flowers based on their scent and birds based on their song. Nehru thinks that our love of nature and the purity of friendship will change our character. We will not quarrel, and we will not construct barriers between people, because nature does not take any shortcuts in displaying its beauty to anyone.
Q.3. What are the different kinds of barriers built up by grown-ups? Why does Nehru hope that children will take a long time in growing up?
Ans. Grown-ups divide themselves into compartments and groups based on religion, caste, colour, party, nation, province, language, customs, and rich and poor. They are imprisoned in their own homes, which they have built. But no one wants to live in a prison.
Nehru hopes that children would take their time growing up because they are unaware of the separating obstacles. They have fun and collaborate with one another. They argue from time to time, but they always reconcile. When they grow up, it is their elders who will teach them about these barriers. As a result, if the process of maturation can be postponed, the world will be a better place to live in.
Q.4. What did the children of Japan write to Nehru? How did he respond?
Ans. Japan’s children wrote to Nehru. They requested that he bring them an elephant. On behalf of India’s youngsters, Nehru responded by sending them a lovely elephant.
To them, the magnificent animal became a symbol of India. It was a link between them and the Indian children. The delight that the elephant would bring to the youngsters would remind them of India and the camaraderie that exists between the two countries.
Q.5. What does Nehru say about Mahatma Gandhi?
Ans. Nehru tells the children that Mahatma Gandhi was a magnificent man. People affectionately referred to him as Bapuji. Gandhiji was a wise guy, but he never flaunted it. In many ways, he was quite basic and childlike. And he adored children. Mahatma Gandhi taught us to confront the world with joy and laughter.