(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…
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.
Here my aunt stands straight and bold, with her hands crossed, next to her elder sister (standing middle), Ramkrishna, whom she lovingly called Chamguru, as it was the name of the village she was married into. In the middle, seated is her eldest sister Seeban with her two daughters, Peetal and Dol. The little boy is their youngest brother Vimal. The awkward gentleman standing right most was their next door neighbour. Badi-mumma cannot recollect his name but says that Vimal had invited him to be photographed and he acceded. The photograph was taken outside their home by their bhatu (brother-in-law) Naru Toppo, Seeban’s husband. Naru was a local professional cameraman and a studio-master. His studio was located in one of the sectors set up by an Industrial corporation, HECL (Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited), not far from their hom
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.
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.