The man who led India’s first climb expedition on Mount Everest

The man who led India’s first climb expedition on Mount Everest
Padmshree winner Brig. Gyan Singh (right) with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Tenzing Norgay (left). at HMI, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. With a model in full mountaineering gear for an Everest climb. Darjeeling, West Bengal. 1961

Padmshree winner Brig. Gyan Singh (right) with Jawaharlal Nehru and Tenzing Norgay (left), with a model in mountaineering gear for an Everest climb. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Darjeeling, West Bengal. 1961 Image and Narrative contributed by Soni Dave, New Delhi Born on April 12, 1918 in the Mainpuri Dist. of Uttar Pradesh, Brigadier Gyan Singh, whom I fondly call Gyan Uncle, was a man of many many accomplishments and huge influence. He was commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in June 1940. In 1947 he set up the Army Ski Training School in Gulmarg, Kashmir, which is now the High Altitude Warfare School. In 1959 he became the second principal of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling established in 1954. He took over from Major N.D. Jayal who was the principal from 1954 to 1958. And the best part, in 1960, he led the first Indian attempt to the Mount Everest. Unfortunately, the expedition was short of the summit by 200 meters when they were forced to return due to very bad weather. He was also awarded the Padma Shri in 1961. And then was the first principal of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering set up in 1965 to honour the great desire of Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, who was an ardent mountain lover. In 1979 he founded the National Adventure Foundation and set up a chain of adventure clubs throughout India. He was also awarded the IMF gold medal in 1993 for his outstanding contribution in the field of mountaineering. 'Lure of Everest', 'Peak to Peak', are some of the books he wrote. The above is information readily available on the Internet. But I have a few personal words on the man I…

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The six triple degree holding sisters of Agra

The six triple degree holding sisters of Agra
My mother Shalini (middle,bottom) and her six sisters Kusum, Madhavi, Suman, Aruna & Nalini. Agra, Uttar Pradesh. 1961-1971

My mother Shalini (middle,bottom) and her six sisters Kusum, Madhavi, Suman, Aruna & Nalini. Agra, Uttar Pradesh. 1961-1971 Image and Narrative contribution by Anusha Yadav, Mumbai This is a collective image of my mother and her sisters, photographed holding their degrees with pride, between 1961-1971, as it was the custom at the time for women to be photographed to prove that they were educated. Some of these images were also then used as matrimonial pictures. All the sisters (Left to right) Kusum, Madhavi, Suman, Aruna, Shalini and Nalini were born between 1935 - 1946 and brought up in Raja Mandi, Agra in Uttar Pradesh. There were also four brothers, the eldest of which is Rajendra Yadav, one of the foremost Hindi writers of the country. My grandfather Mishri Lal, was a very well respected Doctor, with a signature white horse which he rode when out on rounds, and my grandmother, Tara, his second wife hailed from Maharashtra with a royal lineage. My eldest aunt Kusum (left most), passed away in 1967 under mysterious circumstances, some say it was suicide and some that it was food poisoning, and my youngest aunt Nalini, found courage to elope from home to marry, her neighbor in old Delhi, the love of her life at the time, a Punjabi gentleman. A move which was considered extremely scandalous for an highly respected intellectual but a conservative Yadav family. The rest led quieter lives, doing what was prescribed at the time for 'good' Indian women to do. Quite amazingly all sisters were highly educated, triple degree holders, in Bachelors, Masters and Commercial Diplomas in Science, History, Economics, Dance, Arts, Painting and Teaching and each one was…

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The All India Heavyweight Wrestling and Weightlifting champion

The All India Heavyweight Wrestling and Weightlifting champion
My paternal grandfather, Manjerikandy Ramchandran, Cannanore, Kerala. 1927

My paternal grandfather, Manjerikandy Ramchandran, Cannanore, Kerala. 1927 Image and Narrative contributed by Sheetal Sudhir, Mumbai This picture of my grandfather Manjerikandy Ramchandran was taken when he was 16, just before he set sail for Dar-es-salaam for the first time. He came back to India 5 years later and won the All India Heavyweight Wrestling and Weightlifting championship beating several champions including the Sri Lankan heavyweight wrestling champion in 1937. His son Sudhir Ramchandran is my father who was born in British Tanganyika and retains his British Citizenship until this day. My grandfather was also responsible for building gymnasiums in Cannanore (Kannur) and in Tanzania. There are several tales of how he used to be called to handle African robbers, who existed in plenty those days. His happiest life was in Dar-es-salaam. After he retired in 1968, he moved back to Cannanore, India to build a house but passed away the same year of cancer. My dad believes that I have adopted his no-nonsense approach to life and loyalty to friends.

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The Beach Parties of Tanzania

The Beach Parties of Tanzania
My parents at the Beach Disco in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania, East Africa. December 1973

My parents at the Beach Disco in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania, East Africa. December 1973 Image and Narrative contributed by Sheetal Sudhir, Mumbai "These were the happiest days" say my mom, Sandhya (nee Parina) and dad, Sudhir Ramachandran, a photographer. This picture was taken at a beach disco in Dar-es-salaam called Bahari Beach Hotel. These were times of the early 70s floral hippy patterns and elephant pants combined with an Elvis spillover from the late 60s. My dad recalls that they had just finished an engrossing session of 'soul' dancing and were moving to the beach to relax and then a friend clicked this picture, with dad's very first Hasselblad camera and a large Metz flash! My mom, a Gujarati Muslim and my dad, a Malyali, got married in Tanzania and then moved to Bangalore, India in 1975. I was born in 1976. Lately, they have been visiting Dar-es-salaam more often to see my maternal grandmother, and my uncles & aunts. In my father's own words, whenever he sees this photograph, he is in "His fav town with his fav girl...and those were the days!!"

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In midst of apartheid

In midst of apartheid
My second cousins, Dalpat Kapitan and members of his family at the international airport. Durban, South Africa. Circa 1960

My second cousins, Dalpat Kapitan and family at the international airport. Durban, South Africa. Circa 1960 Image and Narrative contributed by Minal Hajratwala, Bengaluru This image was photographed when my second cousin, Dalpat Kapitan and  his family were at the airport, en route to a family vacation in India. This was also at the height of “petty apartheid” in South Africa, when all public places were being segregated. Kapitan and his family owned a restaurant in Durban, South Africa, and his father and my Great great uncle, G.C. Kapitan is credited with inventing the fava-bean version of the "bunny chow." The bunny chow, a loaf of bread filled with curry, is considered by some to be South Africa's national dish. For more images of my family, please click here

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