Do you remember the famous author Sarah Joseph’s novel Budhini? The novel tells the story of a tribal girl whose life changed after India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, became known as ‘Nehru’s wife’. Budhini Meijan, the main character of that novel, is now forgotten. They passed away at their residence near Panchet in Jharkhand on Friday night. He was 85 years old.
It was Budhini who was invited by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to inaugurate the Panchet Dam on the Damodar River with him on 6 December 1959. This is why their ‘destiny’ is different. Nehru came to inaugurate the Panchet Dam on 6th December 1959. Budhini, then 15 years old, was among those who came to see Nehru on the inauguration day.
It was Budhini who got the opportunity to garland Nehru when he arrived at the inauguration of the dam. Nehru put this necklace back on Budhini’s neck. But both of them did not think that Budhini’s life would be different with that. It was Nehru and Budhini who jointly performed the switch on ceremony and dedicated the dam to the nation. After the ceremony Nehru returned to Delhi and Budhini to her village Carbona.
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But this incident of ‘Mala yidal’ changed Budhini’s life. The Santhal tribal sect imposed a ban on this girl. They also ruled that Budhini became Nehru’s wife by garlanding her. Budhini was known as Nehru’s wife after this incident. The tribal chiefs also ruled that since the Prime Minister did not belong to the Santhal community, Budhini could not stay in their community. Budhini was told to leave the village. Budhini, who was deported, was given shelter by Sudhir Dutta, a native of Panchet. Sudhir Dutt and Budhini later had a daughter.
In 1962, Budhini was dismissed from his job at DVC (Damodar Valley Corporation). Later they lived by doing small jobs. After many years, Budhini reached Delhi and met Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister and grandson of Nehru. Budhini came to DVC with a request to give her a job again. He accepted it and directed the officials to re-employ Budhini in the DVC. Budhini re-entered DVC and ended his service here in 2005. DVC officials said that Budhini died of cardiac arrest at a hospital in Panchet. The funeral was on Sunday.
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