My grandmother was only four years old when her family first left for Dacca from Sylhet but when the family continued to feel threatened, they decided to go on to Calcutta (now Kolkata). For the safety of their family, my great grandparents sacrificed all their assets and properties they had in Sylhet and Dacca. My grandmother would often say that she never thought Bangladesh was strong enough to offer them the secure life they sought. A mugging incident reinforced the impression when she was visiting Dacca with her young son (my father) and they were robbed in broad daylight right outside the airport. My grandmother was deeply upset with the incident and from then on could not find anything worthy of being nostalgic about her “roots”.
Born in 1932 in Chikodi village, Belgaum on the current Maharashtra-Karnataka border region, Annasaheb was born in a multilingual environment. My great grandfather Gurunath, was a zamindar (large estate owners) and owned lands in the fertile zone on the banks of River Krishna, where production of cash-crop tobacco was extremely lucrative. The Shahade family was prosperous and socially influential. Gurunath was an ardent supporter of Mahatma Gandhi and agreed to give up his assets to the farmers at the insistence of Congress activists. At the time of Quit India Movement, he whole-heartedly participated in the protests. Unfortunately, he was incarcerated in Poona (now Pune) and then died a tragic death.
(Top Image) My parents, Rajaram and Annapurna Telang. 1956 (Bottom image - Hand painted Photograph) My siblings, Ramesh and Snehlata. 1955. Islampur, Sangli District, Maharashtra. IMP Research Intern : Priyanka…
A few years before this photograph seems to have been taken, my great grandfather was due another promotion – to a Sub-Divisional Magistrate, but he was denied the opportunity on grounds of belonging to the Bania community, (generally a moneylenders or merchants community) the community to which the nationalist Lala Lajpat Rai belonged. Lala Lajpat Rai’s protests against the colonial British government had spread like wildfire in the early 20th century across Northern India, and led to a rise in anti-colonial sentiments within the community. Fearing disobedience, many Banias in the colonial administration were rejected for promotions. My great grandfather Nanak then retired to Kanpur with his family.
Maya’s childhood was spent in luxury. Initially she studied in Ahmednagar, and then moved to Pune to complete her matriculation exam from Ahilya Devi Holkar school and then BA in Marathi from S.P.College. Her friend circle was vibrant with friends and classmates such as the famous actor, Jairam Kulkarni. Life at home was also orthodox and comfortable, with some modern surprises – when her father bought a car and no one knew how to drive it, she was asked to learn driving.
In September of 1945, two months before they left for Nyasaland (now Malawi), East Africa, my parents Mangal and Madhav Thorat got this photograph taken in a photo studio in Poona (now Pune) by a photographer named Patwardhan. As the photograph may reflect, my parents liked to dress up well. What it also holds is a story of their unusual pasts, and future together.
Although he never practiced it professionally, my father was a talented photographer and was introduced to the craft by his childhood friend Balkrishna Kulkarni whose father owned a photo studio. My father would closely observe lighting techniques, the developing process of glass plates, making prints etc. Even after rolls of film became the norm, my father continued to make glass plates. Though he also learnt the process of developing film rolls from Laxman Gaikwad, a neighbour who lived with them in Kirloskarwadi and was a company photographer for the Kirloskar company and its manufacturing units.
In Poona, his linguistic proficiency got him the job of a Marathi typist at the newspaper office of Dnyan Prakash (a formerly popular newspaper) and he learnt to type in Marathi and English fluently. It was rare for government jobs to be advertised in newspapers; social contacts were the only means to receive information about employment opportunities but while typing out some material, my father chanced upon an advertisement for the recruitment of a police sub-inspector that promised a better earning. My father, blessed with a good physique, imposing personality and height, sent in his application and it was accepted.
In Karachi, the Marathe family lived in the prominent locality of Bandar road (now Muhammad Ali Jinnah Road). The Maharashtrian community with approximately 50,000 people enjoyed tremendous social currency and power and they demonstrated the vibrant culture of the community in Karachi, where people from all religions and ethnicities celebrated their diversities, and lived in harmony. Appasaheb’s daughter, my grand-aunt Vimal, was born in Karachi and she still remembers that they owned a convertible car and that Karachi is where she experienced the finest days of her life. Both of Appasaheb’s children, Vimal and my grandfather Suresh attended a Marathi medium school in Karachi called Narayan Jagannath High School.
According to family knowledge, My great grand-parents, Balwant and Laxmibai’s relationship was considerably strained. Four years after their marriage, he married again, for the second time, to a lady named Kamalabai, because he thought that Laxmibai was not beautiful enough and that the marriage was arranged against his wishes. Consequently, Laxmibai’s life was riddled with difficulties and illness, compounded with eight pregnancies of which only three children survived. While Kamalabai would accompany Balwant in his travels to Calcutta (now Kolkata), Bombay (now Mumbai), and Delhi, and she attended to her husband throughout his life, Laxmibai had to stay home, and look after their kids. Ironically, the conspicuous absence of Balwant’s second wife, Kamalabai in family group photographs could be for the fact that she was unable to bear children. Both women suffered discrimination in different forms. Having said that, Kamalabai looked after her step-children as her own, even after he passed away.