Ganga's real call was for the Nehrus

Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1929

Be it the Mighty Ganges, or any other holy place for the Hindus, the saying goes that one can reach and pray to them only when they call and allow, not by their own will. In fact, not only the Hindus, I have heard the same from Muslim friends going to Hajj as well as to Sufi Shrines- in fact both use the exact same phrase- Bulawa ayega tabhi ja payenge na- We could go only when the invite (from the Gods that may) comes!

And Ma Ganga has called the Nehrus for greatness. The crushing setback of his brother Nand Lal’s death at 42 leaving 25 years old Moti Lal sole breadwinner for the family was not to deter him. It was rather to motivate him to fight back even stronger. He was not letting the stability the family had found after almost 40 years- littered with deaths and disasters go waste. He did that too.

Legal Profession was almost the same then as is now, the last choice for many- cannot do anything else? Attempted civil services and failed? Get a law degree and start practicing. In fact, across India many do law also to save their hostels for appearing in civil services examinations while earning degrees- graduation, post grads, doctorate, law (also in reverse direction) in that order. People nowadays have another choice, of buying degree in education studies and becoming teachers in primary schools. One can remember here that Moti Lal himself had landed in law after flunking his university degree.

In being that, the law profession has developed a kind of drudgery never seen in perhaps any other. Enter any court premise and one would find scores of visibly unemployed and dejected lawyers loitering around. Bar rooms are often full with more gossip than even the press rooms covering international diplomacy. Lawyers without briefs is as big a problem

Moti Lal was not to have any of this, though. He was to fight and make his way to the top. And he was lucky to soon get a brief for which he was paid a mere Rs. 5. Anyone finding that ridiculous would better remember Dr. John Mathai, the legendary economist and first Finance Minister of India (Nehru had the real bad habit of making experts of the subject minister, not delivering masterstrokes like making a BA (or B. Com? Fail Education minister and handing over Reserve Bank of India to an M.A in History!) Legend has it that Mathai had gotten a bunch of bananas for his first brief in the Madras High Court!

Anyways, thanks to his knowledge, wit and uncharastic hard work Moti Lal rose through the ranks really quick. Soon he was making Rs 2,000 a month, a kingly, not even princely some in those days. By his forties, he was already earning in 5 figures- something matrimonial advertisements would boast with pride hundred years later in the 1980s! He admitted it himself as is evident by one letter he wrote to Jawharlal the studying in the Harrow..

"To my mind it is simple enough, I want money. I work for it and I get it. There are many people who want it perhaps more than I do, but they do not work and naturally enough do not get it."

Moti Lal’s fame and success, both came from the early victories he had in the civil cases mostly over property disputes within the family of the Zamindars- the most famous of them being the Lakhna Raj case. He also one many others- the Tamkohi Raj case at Gorakhpur, Amethi Raj (Sultanpur) case at Lucknow, the Dumraon case at Arrah in Bihar and the Kayastha Pathshala case. In the Dumraon case, the opposing lawyer, great Chit Ranjan Das was so impressed by Moti Lal that he confessed to Sir N. N. Sirkar that he would consider working under Nehru an honour!

What impresses me the most, though, is his sense of humour. Once a military officer being cross examined by him got furious and asked him

“You think I am fool?”
Motilal’s reply was
"Of course not. But perhaps I may be mistaken".

At another time, when addressed the jury asking them not to get confused, the Judge observed "Never mind the jury, the jury can look after itself".
Pat came the reply: "My Lord that may be so, but I want it to look after my client".

Motilal’s success at the Bar become even more prominent from the fact that he was the only one who had not got his degree in law from Britain, let alone the OxBridge! When Chief Justice Sir John Edge admitted only four advocates to the roll of advocates of the Allahabad High Court in 1896, he was one along with Pandit (later Sir) Sunderlal, Munshi Ram Prasad and Mr Jogendranath Choudhury. He also got permission to appear and plead at the bar of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Great Britain in 1809!

Some greatness, that is. For me, the epitome of his legal greatness came on November 16, 1915.

That morning, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, a convict on the death row woke up surprised as customary water for last bath not appearing. Baba Bhakna, the founder of the Ghadar Party was to know that Moti Lal Nehru had pulled him and 16 other Ghadarites from the gallows literally at the last moment.

When told about the trial, that they were arrested even before setting foot on the Indian soil- he had found his case. “This was a legal flaw. The lawyers’ deputation made representation before Viceroy’s Executive Council and Viceroy Lord Hardinge also, who later commuted the death sentence of 17, of whom I was one. Till today, the day of November 16, 1915 is etched deep in my mind, when my seven comrades embraced martyrdom gladly,” Motilal was to observe.

Baba Bhakna lived a long life to become the founder president of Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha in 1943.

Ironically, those who never argued for the revolutionaries then are after the Kisans (farmers) now. That, though, is a tale to tell another time.

This post is part of #BlogchatterA2Z

This post is also part of the global Blogging from A to Z 2021