Sir C.P. Srivastava

Sir C.P. and the ‘Diminutive Colossus’

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi is known around the world as the inspirational force behind Sahaja Yoga. Alongside her fame as a spiritual leader is a parallel story: the extraordinary career of her husband, Sir Chandrika Prasad Srivastava.

Those who have been fortunate enough to spend time with Shri Mataji in person will also be familiar with the tall, dignified and softly spoken figure of ‘Sir C.P.’, as he is affectionately known.

Sir CP displays his Knighthood alongside Shri Mataji, with daughters Kalpana and SadhanaSir C.P. was a leading statesman, having served four successive terms as the Secretary General of the UN International Maritime Organization, during which time he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Sir C.P. and Shri Mataji were married when he was a relatively anonymous young officer in the Indian Civil Service, and he has often remarked that his meteoric professional success was largely due to following the advice and intuition of his wife. 

Shortly after their marriage he was given the enviable choice of either joining the elite Indian Administrative Service or going into the equally – if not more – prestigious diplomatic corps. His friends encouraged him to become a diplomat, as it could then be only a matter of time before he would be given an ambassadorship.

But Mrs. Srivastava unhesitatingly said, “No, let's remain within the country. Let's serve our country here.” Nobody could have predicted what happened next, when through a series of unforeseen encounters Sir C.P. came to be appointed as Personal Secretary to no less than the Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri.

In retrospect, this was a serendipitous event because Mr. Shastri was in many ways the very personification of the Sahaj philosophy that Shri Mataji embodied, and which she would later share with the world. After his retirement from public service, Sir C.P., again acting on the encouragement of his wife, wrote Lal Bahadur Shastri: a Life of Truth in Politics,  in which he describes Mr. Shastri as having many of the qualities of the Hindu deity, Shri Rama: humility and deep respect for all men, combined with a great sense of honour and duty.

Sir C.P. writes that Shastri “was truly wedded to dharma, to righteousness, to truth, to morals. There was no posture in him. There was no dichotomy. There wasn't a Mr. Shastri inside, different from a Mr. Shastri outside. He was absolutely one: one inside, one outside, beautiful inside, beautiful outside.”

Mr. Shastri, with his very slight figure, his diminutive appearance and humble manner, led many people to assume that he could easily be dominated.

Shortly after Shastri became Prime Minister, Pakistan invaded Kashmir. Shastri’s response was that “I'm a peaceful man, but I'm a man of honour. It is my duty as Prime Minister to defend the country.”

As Sir C.P. put it, “This man of peace stood up like a colossus.”
Sir C.P. with Naval Officers standing before the statue of Lal Bahadur Shastri
Lal Bahadur Shastri was absolutely one: one inside, one outside, beautiful inside, beautiful outside.
Sir C.P. Srivastava, December 1994
In this respect, Mr. Shastri was carrying the torch Mahatma Gandhi had first ignited. He went on to say, “The unique thing about (India) is that we have Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and people of all other religions…but we do not bring all this into politics. This is the difference between India and Pakistan. Whereas Pakistan proclaims herself to be an Islamic State and uses religion as a political factor, we Indians have the freedom to follow whatever religion we may choose, and worship in any way we please. So far as politics is concerned, each of us is as much an Indian as the other.”

Shri Mataji and Sir CP at the World Maritime University in Malmo SwedenDuring ensuing peace talks, Shastri won all of the opposing parties round to his point of view, and together they forged a lasting peace with Pakistan. Shastri passed away unexpectedly during the same peace talks, ostensibly due to a heart attack. Sir C.P. was at his side when he died. He later wrote that he enjoyed “no greater privilege than to have had the opportunity of serving Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri.” [1]

Inspired by the great figure of Lal Bahadur Shastri, and with the active help and support of his wife, Sir C.P. embarked upon his own illustrious career – first as a senior officer in the Indian Administrative Service, then as Chairman of the Indian Shipping Corporation, and ultimately as the longest-serving Secretary General in the history of the UN International Maritime Organization. The IMO is the only UN body based in London, and it was during the sixteen years that Sir C.P. was serving there that Shri Mataji first made it her mission to introduce Sahaja Yoga meditation to the world.

1. ^ C. P. Srivastava, 'Lal Bahadur Shastri: A Life of Truth in Politics' New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995