A Family of Freedom Fighters

A Family of Freedom Fighters
My husband, Bijoy Sharma, standing extreme right, with his family. Bamungaon, Assam. Circa 1942 

It is unusual to see Bijoy clothed in a North Indian Dhoti (loose drape pants) because most young boys his age wore half pants. Apparently he had begun to dress like an adult to display his commitment to the independence struggle; perhaps he felt that serious work required an adult attire. And he was not alone in his commitment - several leaders of the Independence movement had recruited large numbers of young boys to act as secret messengers to deliver letters in nearby towns and villages. Whenever the policemen came around on suspicion and to arrest Bijoy (they would come around often) his proud mother Pareshwari Devi would instruct Bijoy - “If you sign any police papers for an early release, do not come back to this house”.

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The Gifted Surgeon of Poona

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.

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The bureaucrat who became a cultural icon of the North East

In the mid nineties things became even more interesting for my father with a commission from the Election Commission. They wanted him to make a campaign video to create awareness about voting. His awareness campaign was such a big success that it was made into a commercial CD. And that led him to a second commission - a contract from Doordarshan, (India's first national and regional Channel) for a TV series. He spearheaded (writing, directing and acting) the sitcom Ki Kam U Bah Beshbha, with local and khasi characteristics (influenced by the sitcom Mind your Language as well as Elvis Presley's character across many of his skits.) that went on for 3-4 years. He revolutionised the concept of Khasi Televison in Meghalaya, that had never been done before. The entire series is now available on YouTube. My father had become a regional star and when he would drop my son off at school, everyone would ask him for autographs.

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On our last name ‘Telang’

(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 Balwant Kale, Pune Image and Narrative Points contributed by Sumedha Deshmukh, Pune The above photograph is of my parents, Rajaram and Annapurna Telang, taken in Urun-Islampur (Islampur for short, in Sangli District) Maharashtra, in 1956. The image below shows my older siblings, Ramesh and Snehlata, photographed in 1955 when they were two and five years old. My father Rajaram or Appaji, as we would call him, had learnt photography and would paint on his prints often. Appaji served as a bank employee throughout his life, and was a perfectionist when it came to his creative interests. My parents’ families were originally from a village in Hyderabad State (now in Telangana state) called Manthani, Peddapalli district, on the banks of river Godavari. It had a unique composition with the majority of the population of Brahmin caste and a minority trader community called Komati living together in complete harmony. Our last name at the time was Yellishetty, still used among our relatives.  With fewer options of employment in his village as well as deeply felt discrimination by a rather tyrannical attitude of the Nizam Shah, my grandfather along with his family migrated to Karad (originally known as "Karhatak or"Elephant Market”), Bombay Presidency (now Maharashtra state) via the Hyderabad-Nanded (Marathwad) route in 1915. Marathwad, was part of the then Hyderabad State and a nodal point between Marathi and Telugu culture. Fearing exclusion from the nearby village communities for being dark-skinned South Indians, even if from a village of Brahmins. My grandfather adopted the last…

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The Royal Jewellers of Hyderabad State

The Nizam, as we all know, was well known for his passion for jewels and gemstones. As the richest man in the world, his tryst with jewellery had led to creating the largest royal jewellery collection in the world. However, his government had no choice but to mortgage a large number of jewels from the royal collection and from noble families, to financing firms (such as my great great grandfather’s). The firms then sold the jewels at a high profit to other traders who sold them to European and American elites and aristocrats. Jewellery from the princely state of Hyderabad rose in demand and this is the point where my great grandfather recognised an opportunity and began honing the trade of precious gemstones, and craft of exquisite jewellery. Seth Nanuram, the fourth generation of my family migrants, went on to master the jewellery trade and integrated the long association of his financing firm with an additional role - to join the Royal Panel of Jewellers of Hyderabad. 

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