A Family of Freedom Fighters

A Family of Freedom Fighters
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 Gifted Surgeon of Poona

Born in 1932 in Chikodi village, Belgaum on the current Maharashtra-Karnataka border region, Annasaheb was born in a multilingual environment. My great grandfather Gurunath, was a zamindar (large estate owners) and owned lands in the fertile zone on the banks of River Krishna, where production of cash-crop tobacco was extremely lucrative. The Shahade family was prosperous and socially influential. Gurunath was an ardent supporter of Mahatma Gandhi and agreed to give up his assets to the farmers at the insistence of Congress activists. At the time of Quit India Movement, he whole-heartedly participated in the protests. Unfortunately, he was incarcerated in Poona (now Pune) and then died a tragic death.

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The bureaucrat who became a cultural icon of the North East

In the mid nineties things became even more interesting for my father with a commission from the Election Commission. They wanted him to make a campaign video to create awareness about voting. His awareness campaign was such a big success that it was made into a commercial CD. And that led him to a second commission - a contract from Doordarshan, (India's first national and regional Channel) for a TV series. He spearheaded (writing, directing and acting) the sitcom Ki Kam U Bah Beshbha, with local and khasi characteristics (influenced by the sitcom Mind your Language as well as Elvis Presley's character across many of his skits.) that went on for 3-4 years. He revolutionised the concept of Khasi Televison in Meghalaya, that had never been done before. The entire series is now available on YouTube. My father had become a regional star and when he would drop my son off at school, everyone would ask him for autographs.

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The Royal Jewellers of Hyderabad State

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. 

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A supernatural legacy

A supernatural legacy
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On one such general visit to Imphal (Princely state Manipur’s capital), during the 1930s, he was informed that the queen of Manipur was quite sick, and the King - Maharaja Churachand’s staff were looking for a healer. My grandfather was roped in, only to find himself cornered with a conundrum : if his queen healed, the Maharaja would reward my grandfather; if she did not, he would be beheaded.

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