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When Nehru said No to Queen Elizabeth’s request for calf bait

Elizabeth Nehru

Queen Elizabeth II during her India visit in 1961 made a request for use of calf as a bait during a tiger hunt but it was politely turned down by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

A letter from Nehru in this regard to the then President Rajendra Prasad rejecting permission for sacrifice of any animal as a bait during the Queen’s hunting expedition in Jaipur forms part of nuggets of information in a new book.

Villagers mistakenly thinking US first lady Pat Nixon, wife of President Richard Nixon, as coming from Moon, and displeasure of Chinese premier Zhou Enlai over the choice of food served during his visit are among other anecdotes that find mention in the book.

The book “Abode under the Dome”, which covers 52 visits of 32 Heads of State, Governments and leaders and their stay in Rashtrapati Bhavan, is authored by Thomas Mathew, an IAS officer of 1983 batch from Kerala. Mathew has a PhD in International Relations.

The book, which is to be released by President Pranab Mukherjee here tomorrow, contains pictures of handwritten notes by Queen Elizabeth II thanking her hosts for the hospitality extended to her during her stay in India.

The period covered in the book is between 1947 and 1967 and it also contains de-classified internal communication regarding visits of foreign leaders in the light of President Mukherjee showing keenness in faithful recording of history.

One such communication is between Nehru and the then President Rajendra Prasad during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1961.

The Queen was on her visit to Jaipur for a hunting expedition and had planned to use a calf as a bait for hunting a tiger.

However, Nehru had intervened and dashed off a letter to Prasad, saying no animal will be allowed to be sacrificed in the hunting expedition.

An internal communication of Ministry of External Affairs talks about President Nixon’s trip to India in 1969 and makes a reference to Pat Nixon’s visit to Chattarpur village in the outskirts of the Capital.

Pat Nixon was introduced to the villagers by officials of External Affairs Ministry as a person coming from a country which has conquered Moon which led the villagers to think she has come from moon. She was presented with a basket full of eggs. US astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot in Moon in 1969.

Another incident mentioned in the book is about the visit of Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1960, two years before the India-China hostilities.

Enlai was served with traditional Indian food during his stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

However, after he left, Ministry of External Affairs received a communication from Chinese Foreign Ministry saying that the next time he visited India, he should be served herbs and lobsters.

This is the second book of Mathew. Last year, he had compiled pictures of 111 avian species which had descended on the sprawling Estate within a span of one year.

Posted as Additional Secretary of the President, the book ‘The Winged Wonders of Rashtrapati Bhawan’ was made possible only due to inspiration by the President’s love for nature.