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A teenager couple’s fight for freedom

A teenager couple’s fight for freedom
My Grandmother Chameli Devi Jain and Grandfather Phool Chand Jain, shortly after their marriage. Delhi. Circa 1923

My Grandmother Chameli Devi Jain and Grandfather Phool Chand Jain, shortly after their marriage. Delhi. Circa 1923 Image and Narrative contributed by Sreenivasan Jain, Journalist, New Delhi Some text is paraphrased from the Book - Civil Disobedience : Two Freedom Struggles, One Life, memoirs of my father LC Jain, noted economist and Gandhian. This image was photographed in Delhi, shortly after my paternal grandparents Chameli and Phool Chand, got married. She was 14 and he was 16. It was unusual for couples in our family to be photographed, especially holding hands, which turned out to be an indication of the unconventional direction their lives would take. They were Gandhians and freedom fighters. The only visible reminder of her brush with the radical politics of the freedom movement was the milky cornea in her right eye, the result of an infection picked up in Lahore Jail where she had spent 4 months in 1932. Otherwise, she was Ammaji: gentle, almost luminous in her white saris, regular with her samaik (Jain prayer), someone who would take great pleasure, on our Sunday visits, to feed us dal chawal (rice and lentils) mixed with her own hands. My grandmother grew up in a village called Bahadarpur in Alwar, about four hours south of Delhi, in a deeply conservative Jain family. The family was locally influential; they were traders in cotton turbans, woven by local Muslim weavers and sold in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. They also were moneylenders. As with much of rural Rajasthan, the women were in purdah. Within two years of their marriage, their first child, my father, was born. Ammaji moved with my grandfather into the family home in the teeming bylanes of Dariba in Chandni Chowk. But he had developed a growing interest…

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