Off the coast of mainland India, a rare Indian tribe became our friends

Off the coast of mainland India, a rare Indian tribe became our friends
My sister and I with children from the Ongee tribe. Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar. Circa 1960

My sister and I with children from the Onge tribe. Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar. Circa 1960 Image and Narrative contributed by Late. Anand Halve, Mumbai India is more varied and diverse than reflected in the languages on Indian currency notes or in the number of states and Union Territories on our map. This is a piece about a group of ‘Indians’ that will probably vanish before most Indians ever even hear of them. The Ongee or Onge tribe, are one of the indigenous Andamanese tribes. A negrito tribe of the Andaman Islands. Petite and superficially 'African' in appearance, dark skinned and peppercorn hair, they are still genetically different from most modern African people. Until the late 1940s, the Onges were the only permanent occupants of Little Andaman, the southernmost island in the Andaman group of 324 islands. The Non-Onges began to settle on Little Andaman in large numbers in the early 1950s. Among the earliest visitors - in the early 1960s - was a seven year-old boy (me) and his six year-old sister Jyoti. My father, Bhaskar Halve was posted as the Deputy Commissioner of the administration of the Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar. His job took him to study various islands in the Andaman & Nicobar group, and we were only too happy to tag along. The Onges are a traditionally nomadic hunting and gathering tribe. I recall stories told to us by the sailors who visited the islands where the Onges lived. The Onges were masters of the bow - I recall watching an Onge spear a fish through the refracted sea-water with his arrow. I recall stories of a strange plant whose leaves…

Continue Reading

Post independence, they travelled to several countries looking for a better life

Post independence, they travelled to several countries looking for a better life
My paternal grandparents, Shehr Bano & Syed Ali Naqvi. Bihar. 1947

My paternal grandparents, Shehr Bano & Syed Ali Naqvi. Bihar. 1947 Image and Narrative contributed by Zinnia Naqvi, Toronto, Canada This is an image of my paternal grandparents. My grandfather, or Dada as we called him, Syed Ali Naqvi was born in Khujwa, a village located in the Siwan District, Province of Bihar, India, on May 13, 1916. He was the sixth child of his parents. His father passed away when he was about eight years old and his upbringing and education became the responsibility of his mother and his eldest brother. Dada was educated at the well known TK Ghose School, in Patna. The school has since seen alumni like the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, and the first chief minister of Bengal, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. Later, Dada attended at the Patna College.In 1942 he married Shehr Bano Naqvi, my grandmother. She was born in Khujwa too, on January 25, 1925. She was the last of seven children of her parents. Her father was a prominent police officer of the Siwan District. Dadi never attended school but was educated by private tutors at home. After their marriage, Dada started working for the Government of Bihar. At the time of partition in 1947, he was working in the town of Midnapur, West Bengal. On August 14, 1947, when Pakistan was born, he and his family had to migrate to Dhaka (now Bangladesh) which was declared East Pakistan at the time. In Dhaka, Dada started his own transportation business. They lived in the Lakhi Bazar neighbourhood of Dhaka and bought a big house abandoned by a Hindu family who had left for India. On May 9, 1949, my…

Continue Reading

The mythical Uncle Bunnu.

The mythical Uncle Bunnu.
The Cordeiro Siblings. Alec, May and Beatrice. Karachi (now Pakistan). Circa 1910

The Cordeiro Siblings. Alec, May and Beatrice. Karachi (now Pakistan). Circa 1910 Image and Narrative contributed by Naresh Fernandes, Author, Bombay The picture, photographed sometime around 1910, is the childhood image of my grand-uncle Alec Cordeiro, fondly called Bunnu. Next to him is my Grand-aunt May and my Grandmother Beatrice. It isn’t clear when and how exactly my ancestors got to Karachi, but it seems that they’d been there for four generations. Like most Goans, they left looking for work: the Portuguese didn’t establish any industry in Goa, so hundreds and thousands had to seek work in other places. There were sharp discussions in the family about whether our ancestor Santan Vaz had made his money running a liquor distributorship or a booze joint. My paternal great-grandfather, Xavier Cordeiro, was a postmaster general in Karachi. His son-in-law, my grandfather, Alfred Fernandes, moved to Karachi from Burma during World War II. He’d been working for the Burma Railways and had to leave when the Japanese invaded in 1941. So he and his wife, my grandmother, Beatrice (standing right), decided to return to their family’s home in Karachi. In only a few years, the entire family pulled up their roots from the city in which they’d lived for four generations to take their chances in India, a few months before Partition in 1947. Though my father was only nine when the family left Karachi, his elder siblings had more vivid memories : trips between Bombay and Karachi were made on ferries named the Saraswati and the Sabarmati (“they were like little tubs, we all got seasick”) ; relatives having leisurely evenings at the Karachi Goan Association (KGA), “gin and lime was the favourite drink”, and the enterprising…

Continue Reading

This was his last photograph

This was his last photograph
My father's brother, Nagarathnam with his colleagues. Burma, 1938

My father's brother, Nagarathnam with his colleagues. Burma, 1938 Image and Narrative contributed by Meera Janakiraman, Bengaluru This image was photographed on October 26, 1938, in Burma. The person in the center is my father's elder brother, Nagarathnam, with his colleagues from Burma. My father T.J Raman and Nagarathnam’s parents (my grandparents) were originally from Thiruvallikeni, (now Triplicane) State of Madras. Their family business involved exporting Burmese Teak. Teak during war was “as important an ammunition of war as steel”, especially used in the construction of Warships. The family moved to Burma (formerly Myanmar) during World War I as it made better business sense. Nagarathnam, fondly called Nagu, got married when he was 23 years old and had two sons. Leaving his family in with good care in Madras, he returned to Burma and first worked as a representative of the Prudential Life Insurance Company before he joined the Burma Railways as a clerk. He was on his way to Mandalay, the royal capital of Burma, on a business visit by train when this photograph was taken. It is believed that during the travel he chocked on a piece of guava. Late at night, he was rushed to the Mayyo Hospital where he was declared dead due to heart failure. He died at the age of 30, the very next day after this photograph was taken. A telegram announcing his death was sent to his family in Madras via Calcutta.

Continue Reading

Indulging fantasy avatars at a photo studio

Indulging fantasy avatars at a photo studio
My mother, Mohini Goklani, Pune, Maharashtra. Circa 1950

My mother, Mohini Goklani, Pune, Maharashtra. Circa 1950 Image and Narrative contributed by Sunita Kripalani, Goa In 1947, after partition, when my grandfather Nanikram Goklani and his wife Khemi migrated to India, along with their extended family from Karachi, Pakistan, they settled in Pune, Maharashtra with their 9 children. My mother Mohini, second of seven sisters, was just 16 at that time. Grandpa got a job in the Income Tax department and although times were tough, my grandfather made sure all the children received excellent education. My mother and her older sister Sheela went to Nowrosjee Wadia College and my grandfather managed to procure admission for some of the younger children in reputed schools such as Sardar Dastur Hoshang Boys’ High School, and St. Helena’s School for Girls. The children studied well, they were voracious readers, and led a simple life. During the 1950s, the sisters were well versed in household skills, especially the art of stitching and embroidery. They fashioned their own clothes, copying designs from magazines and the displays in the shop windows of Main Street. At home however, they maintained decorum and modesty, but ever so often, Duru, my mother’s younger sister, would coax her to go with her to a photo studio on Main Street called The Art Gallery to get their photographs taken. Duru would pack all kinds of stuff for both of them: ties and beads, scarves and skirts, hats and belts, not to forget some make-up, and the two of them would mount their bicycles and head for the studio where they indulged their fantasies, using studio props and their own accessories. In the picture my mother is wearing “Awara pants”, a style made…

Continue Reading
Close Menu