[The following passage is from My Name Escapes Me, by Alec Guinness, 1996. It was written in the form of a diary during the actor’s final years. David Lean is mentioned, the famous director with whom Guinness had a difficult relationship. Lean directed him in many films, including the award winning The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. The vignette revolves around Leonard Cheshire, a much decorated WWII hero who flew with the RAF. After the war Cheshire turned to charity work, founding hospices and homes for wounded servicemen and others. He was twice honoured by Queen Elizabeth II. Jawaharlal Ghandi was India’s first leader, and a committed atheist and socialist.]
It must have been in the sixties that David Lean, who was friendly with [Leonard] Cheshire, told me of an odd incident he had witnessed in New Delhi. Nehru had invited him and Cheshire to tea at Government House. At the time, Cheshire was desperate to get hold of a poor piece of land in northern India on which to build one of his homes, but foreigners were forbidden to buy or own land. All his requests had been firmly dismissed. David said that during tea Cheshire was consumed with shyness and never spoke a word, although he was very aware he was in the presence of the one man in the world who could help him. When it was time for them to leave Nehru asked Cheshire how he was getting back to the hotel. Speaking for the first time he said he would take a bus or tram and then walk. Nehru ordered his own car, saw Cheshire into it (an almost unheard of courtesy) and stood waving until the car was out of sight. Then, with tears in his eyes, he turned to an aide and said, “That is the greatest man I have met since Gandhi. Give him the land I know he wants.” Things worked like that so often for Cheshire.
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