Prime Minister Rajiv Ratna Gandhi was forty-one when his stately form set foot once again on the opulent lawns of his alma mater to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. He was decked up in an elegant old boys’ navy blue blazer and tie with the school badge affixed on the breast pocket. A minor fuss had ensued regarding the sartorial decision: Agriculture Minister Buta Singh had decided to act the part of fashion designer and supply the blazer but Rajiv Gandhi had rebuffed him. The PMO had telephoned the school’s headmaster two days before the function requesting him to send the attire tailored to Rajiv Gandhi’s measurements by the afternoon flight.
It was the definitive anniversary cum reunion. One of the Doscos had won the ultimate trophy: the Prime Minister’s throne. “Dosco,” the short form for “Doon School Boys,” was both the proud moniker and status symbol that denoted the worst (or best) of colonial British class consciousness imported and planted on Indian soil. The Prime Dosco[i], Rajiv Gandhi on that day “stayed for more than 13 hours, a remarkable amount of time for a prime minister who is said to work routinely until 2 a.m. He was dressed like a young IBM executive in his old school blazer and tie.”
Prime Minister Rajiv Ratna Gandhi hailed from the Class of ’62, Doon School, Dehradun. And his fellow Doscos never had it so good before then or since his dramatic collapse in the 1989 elections. His reckless, illegitimate and dictatorial holiday in Lakshadweep in 1988, which had recently dominated the headlines, will resemble a mere footnote if a comprehensive volume is written about his Prime Ministership.
There is an invisible, private, straight superhighway that connects Lutyens Delhi to Doon School, Dehradun, which for nearly eight decades served as India’s premier and exclusive incubator for the sons of the deracinated ruling class. Post-independence, and especially during Indira Gandhi’s regime, “ruling class” quickly translated into perpetually hungry courtiers of the Nehru dynasty.
But it was only during Rajiv Gandhi’s Prime Ministership that the Doon School court was really established. And operated from Lutyens Delhi.
There is a key difference between the courts of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. In the former case, it was an imperial musical chair that she sustained through skullduggery and by breeding insecurity and encouraging infighting among her courtiers. In the latter, it was largely a settled Durbar which began falling apart in just three years. That’s the story for another day.
Since its establishment in 1935 by a deracinated Bengali lawyer named Satish Ranajan Das, the total number of students Doon School has produced so far is a paltry 5,000. And they have held the entire nation in their chokehold in almost all spheres of human activity for over half a century: politics, diplomacy, bureaucracy, business, art, literature, media/journalism, and academia. And are the prime contributors to perpetuating a sickening post-colonial colonialism that suppressed Indians much less skilfully than the British. A measure of their stranglehold on power is available in former Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s words: “If I had anything to do with this place, I’d close it down.” Doscos (sic) for the longest time—to an extent, even today—were India’s own version of the top one percent of the one percent.
Here is an anecdote[ii] about another notorious Doon School alumnus: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s younger brother, Sanjay Gandhi.
…it was a dosco — Sanjay Gandhi — who made such a mess…with his forced sterilization camps that the memory still makes the government nervous…Sanjay’s hardline approach can be seen as another example of a dosco not understanding the sociology of his own country, but the old boys prefer to look on Sanjay as an aberration, a bad egg even at school.
As the story has it, Sanjay once set up a stand that sold cold drinks to boys coming off the playing fields. Even among the fledgling capitalists, this was looked down upon. Why try to make money off your fellow doscos? Another boy was more in step when he set up a free drink stand near Sanjay’s. Sanjay was so enraged that he slashed the boy’s tennis racquet. It does not surprise the dosco at all that Sanjay never managed to graduate.
Since the Nehru dynasty began its irreversible crash towards extinction late in 2013, there has been a slew of books and other material from former durbaris exposing the murky deeds of the Doon School-Lutyens Delhi club of incest and inbreeding. For three simple reasons: the Durbar’s udders have near-permanently dried up, there is no fear of reprisal because the dynasty won’t return, and old scores have to be settled, vengeance for former humiliations have to be wreaked. The hallmark of a perfect former courtier is to throw stones at a terminally-wounded dog. Among others, former Durbari, Tavleen Singh’s Durbar provides these murky details of the Nehru dynasty in a bitchy, ungrateful tenor. Here’s a small sample:
During the Emergency, my social life seemed to become an endless series of dinner parties… Vicky Bharat Ram lived in Shanti Niketan and I found myself invited to his house quite a lot. At his dinner parties there were nearly always the same people. One of them was Romi Chopra, who remains a devotee of the Gandhi family to this day… When Rajiv and Sonia were not present he would talk to me about politics, but his political views were limited to the unashamed, unstinting, unquestioning worship of Mrs Gandhi. In his eyes she could do no wrong and the Nehru-Gandhi family had a divine right to rule India forever and ever… Drifting in and out of this inner circle of friends would be…friends of Rajiv from Doon School. It was a closed circle of people who lived an upper middle class Indian existence. Nobody spoke Hindi well but that did not matter. What mattered was if you spoke the sort of English you may have learned in a public school in Dehra Dun.
A partial list of the top alumni will be sufficient evidence in itself to show how the Doon School goon squad divided India into personal fiefdoms according to their ability, influence and manipulative skills. Just to be sure, the list excludes members of the Nehru clan.
The Doon School, Dehradun
According to Singh, Aiyar insulted Singh’s then party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and remarked: “Oh that bloody Mulayam – he looks just like me. It could be because my father visited Uttar Pradesh at some point. Why don’t you check with Mulayam’s mother?”
When you came to us last, Madam, in 2004, you spoke quite prophetically of the choice India had–an aggressive, exclusive nationalism or a pluralistic, inclusive one… Madam, you once said power in itself has never attracted you, nor has position been your goal. In fact, you once told your son that power is poison…destiny…placed you in the unique position of defending the party which your family has given its life to… You, the Accidental Inheritor, have become the Grand Old Party’s Prime Protector… she has been supreme leader. Mother courage. The ultimate negotiator.
[it is a] matter of life and death… “at all cost the service lane between houses 1 to 8, Palam Marg (Olaf Palme Marg), must not be further reduced in width but retained at its present width.”
Guess whose support he drummed up for this illegitimate request? The selfsame Aroon Purie.
Other famous and familiar alumni of Doon School include Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Khosla, Vijay Prashad, Vikram Chandra (of NDTV notoriety), Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, B.G. Verghese, Prem Shankar Jha (former information advisor to Prime Minister V.P. Singh) and Swaminathan Aiyar (brother of “neech” Mani Shankar Aiyar).
It is a fact of history that most of these entitled courtiers and privileged petticoats were invariably prefixed with such adjectives as “eminent,” “iconic,” “legendary,” “suave,” “brilliant,” “stylish,” and “intellectual” in public discourse by what used to be known as the mainstream English media before the worn-out mask tore.
What is also common to and singularly unites this Doon School Goon Squad is their uniform hatred of Narendra Modi. For another fundamental reason. It lies[iii] here:
To be at the reunion was…to be reminded of how disconnected from the masses Rajiv Gandhi and his friends really are. More important, the Doon school raises the question of who should run India, and whether it is healthy that a minuscule elite exerts such influence on a democracy… The Doon school has never been known for its academic rigor… as members of an aristocracy, but it must be an aristocracy of service inspired by ideas of unselfishness… one old boy recalls that scholarship students were looked down on as “dehati,” or uncouth… The mode of instruction at Doon and the first language of most of its students is English. Hindi…is a required 40-minute class each day, but the boys have always referred to it as “lingo,” a British public school term for a foreign language.
It’s clear that Doon School remains the
aristocratic triumph of Macaulay. And another profound tragedy of “independent”
India whose new ruling class came not from a traditional Gurukula or a
similar educational system but from the secluded lawns of the clone of a racist
British club that privileged class over nation building.
[i] Where India’s Elite Were Boys Together: Elisabeth Bumiller: The Washington Post, 24 November 1985