The Da Vinci of Assam

In the 1950s, the Assam Government cracked down on Communists, and my father became a 'Most Wanted Man' with a bounty of Rs. 10,000 Rupees on his head, dead or alive. My father kept moving from state to country lines under the radar across the region, Myanmar, Bhutan, Tibet and present day Bangladesh, hiding himself among the people, while also earning their trust and faith.

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The curious life of my great-grandfather Balwant

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.

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The Noble Women of Hathwa Raj

Unfortunately within six months, the fever took Jogendranath’s life, leaving his young 12 ½ year old wife a widow. Given her age, it was decided that Pushpomoyee would return to her parent’s home in Calcutta, where she might be happier. Binodini and Devendranath would enquire about Pushpomoyee often, and within an year they began to hear of unpleasant rumours surrounding the treatment of their daughter in law, at her own maternal home. So when a serendipitous opportunity for some state related work in Calcutta arrived, Binodini and Devendranath at once left, and stayed at the Hathwa house on 28, Shakespeare Sarani (now Theatre Road). Binodini then dropped in, unannounced, at the Bose household on Gray Street and witnessed what she had feared.

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My grandmother’s private past

My grandmother’s private past
My great great grandmother Ethel and grandmother Joan. Calcutta. (now Kolkata). Circa 1945

This is a picture of my maternal grandmother Joan Thompson (right) with her maternal grandmother Ethel Minnie McNair (left). It was taken in Calcutta (now Kolkata) around 1945. My grandmother Joan was born in Ranchi in 1930, illegitimately. Not much is known about the events surrounding her parentage though photographs in our family archives show her father Frank Thompson and mother Kathleen Chaplin, both in each other's company and with friends, as young people. Ethel, my great-great grandmother in the picture, was married to a British reverend Joseph Chaplin and had three daughters and a son including Kathleen and they lived in Calcutta. She was a matron at La Martinere and I remember my grandmother Joan saying that Ethel worked with midwifery too, since we also have photographs of her working with babies. Joan described Ethel as being born in Srivilliputtur, Tamil Nadu and as half-caste which could mean she was Anglo Indian (Eurasian), but could also mean that she was instead of mixed Indian ethnicity who had adopted Christianity. I have been told that Kathleen always wore gloves and make-up to conceal her heritage.

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