Showing posts from 2016

An Amazing Literary Collaboration

Anna Liberata De Souza the Calicut Ayah and Mary Frere the memsahib
Sometimes you come across the most amazing persons in dark and musty historic alleys. They are coated in layers of dust and grime added on by the many years which have passed by and the many people who have handled them. Getting the original persona out of this jacket is therefore enormous fun, if you are so inclined. And Anna D’Souza made me do just that, just like she got academicians Leela Prasad at Duke and Kirin Narayan at Wisconsin interested. I am as you will also understand, borrowing from the intense efforts of Leela and Kirin in uncovering the story of a remarkable Ayah – Anna D’Souza, though my work unlike theirs will stick to Anna and not to her tales. Her tales are something you should read yourself, and a helpful link is provided at the tail end of this biopic.
Indian folk tales meandered along into world literature, and that started eons ago. You will find linkages between Greek tales and our epics, you …

The Italian prisoners of war at Bangalore

And the yellow tail from down under
Ironically, the story of the Italians arriving in Bangalore starts with the explosive success of a Bangalore invention called the Bangalore Torpedo, only that it was during the WW II attacks in Libya, the jewel of Mussolini’s crown. The unexpected Allied successes at the African western deserts of Libya and Egypt resulted in the capture of many thousands of Italian POW’s. Many were sent to work in Britain and South Africa. Officers who did not have to work according to the Geneva Convention (remember the dialog between Saito and Nicholson in ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’?) were the first to be sent to Indian Camp at Yol. The many tens of thousands of soldiers who followed were interned at various camps at Bangalore, Bhopal, Ramgarh and Dehra Dun. Some 22,000 of the so called group 1 landed up in Bangalore (Jalahalli, Jakkur and Hebbal). I will attempt to do a short study on this group and go on to trace the story of one prisoner who decided to do somet…

The Curious Case of Ramchandr Baladzhi

Prince Ramachandra Balaji in Russia
One of the first organized rumblings against the British EIC’s tyranny in India was the much written about Sepoy mutiny in 1857. The British had previously retaliated against early stirrings by hanging Mangal Pandey, but as the unrest spread to Agra, Allahabad, Ambala and Merrut, some British soldiers were lynched at Delhi while Bahadur Shah, proclaimed as India’s emperor, looked on. After the British arrested Bahadur Shah, things took a turn for the worse and the siege of Kanpur and the flight of the British resulted in the death of a few British with Nana Saheb being held responsible for the events that occurred.
For the uninitiated, Nana Govind Dhondu Pant, a.k.a Nana Sahib was the adopted son of the deposed Maratha Baji Rao II, exiled at Bithoor near Kanpur by the British. Recalling from my article on Manu, Nana Sahib's childhood associates included Tatya Tope, Azimullah Khan and Manu who later became famous as Rani Lakshmibai. 
Nana Sahib w…

Ravi Varma and Ramaswamy Naicker - The rivalry

The Painter, his teacher, a rival and a muse
Though I know little about painting, I can certainly say that I like studying the women lovingly brought to life on canvas by Ravi Varma and his younger brother. There are some who would wonder why I brought up his brother’s name in the same breath. Well, they did work in tandem with the younger Raja Varma finishing up with many of the portraits of the elder Ravi, during their heydays. He was no mean painter himself, and is a person whose persona I will bring to light on these pages someday. Ravi Varma himself has been written about in so many books, but there is unfortunately quite a bit of conflicting and incorrect information in some of his early biographies, which were perhaps a little too effusive. Nevertheless, he was a genius and also in many ways just an ordinary person, deeply religious, meticulous in his work, quick to take offense and in later days a mite tired after the onset of diabetic symptoms, for which sadly there were no i…