When we returned to the National Museum in Delhi – think a 70’s version of the Bristish Museum – we expected to find a fascinating collection of art and exhibits. What we didn’t expect was to find a boxed set of the Leader of India.
Whilst hunting through the corners of the museum gift shop we came across a pile of brightly patterned rectangular boxes – each about 30cm long – and tied with a red ribbon. Inside were ten small, painted, clay figures with each box following a theme; soldiers, peasants, musicians etc. At the back was one box labelled ‘Leader of India’. Intrigued, we opened it to discover… ten leaders of India!
At least we assumed they were leaders of India as each 7cm figure is more a caricature of a leader which, coupled with our only introductory level knowledge of Indian history, made it difficult to identify them as there were no other labels or key. One was clearly Jawaharlal Nehru, another Indira Gandhi and the figure with round glasses and a stick must be Mohandas K Gandhi but the others? Is the one in a turban supposed to be the current Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh? What about the uniformed figure – is it that guy who’s always in the background in photographs of the independence movement? And the one in a lunghi with a very prominent wristwatch?
Fortunately, that evening we took the box around to a friend’s to see if she could identify them. After a period of silence – followed by hysterical laughter – we had an answer as Ritu could identify them all. Caricatures they maybe but each had just sufficient clues to place the figure in India’s recent history. And a very eclectic selection they turned out to be. Yes we were right about Nehru, Indira and Gandhi but no, it wasn’t Dr. Singh.
We shall be making more posts revealing who the other ‘leader of India’ are, with some background information about each of them, but will be interested to see if anyone else can identify them before we post the details.
— words and pictures by Paul