A Family of Freedom Fighters

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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 Gujarati family in Madras

This fading, tattered photograph carries in it the story of my Gujarati lineage’s courage and survival instincts - and how they came to call a south Indian city, Madras (now Chennai) their home - an antithesis to their familiar north Indian environment. This photograph taken by a professional photographer in 1952, is indeed the oldest family photograph we possess. While it is a rich a source of family memory, time has been harsh to it.

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