Sunday, January 3, 2010

A coffee table book in aid of Bahadur Shah Zafar's descendants

NEW DELHI, Jan 4 (IANS): Sultana Begum, the great granddaughter of the last Mughal emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar, has found an unusual saviour - a coffee table book on the former prime ministers of India.

The book, 'The Prime Ministers of India - 1947-2009' has been compiled by journalist Shivnath Jha and his teacher wife Neena Jha to raise money for Sultana Begum's rehabilitation. Sultana Begum, a poor widow with four daughters, sells tea in a kiosk in Shibpur, a semi-urban township, 80 km southwest of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.

When I came across her in 2008, the 56-year-old woman who lives in a slum of gold panners - an impoverished community from Bihar which sifts waste water used by the goldsmiths to produce traces of the metal - looked like just another squatter, Jha told IANS.

Her 8 ft by 8 ft dwelling in the slums of Cowies Ghat belied the fact that her forefathers once ruled the subcontinent. She had nothing left. I decided to help her make a better life, Jha said.

The journalist and his wife, who had earlier helped raise funds for shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan and legendary Maratha freedom fighter Tantiya Tope's descendants Vinayak Rao Tope, hit upon the idea to profile the prime ministers of India with a group of like-minded friends and politicians.

I intend to raise Rs.500,000 for her and deposit it in a bank so that she has a steady income. A school in Kolkata has also agreed to give her a job and the owner of a pharmaceutical company will donate an apartment to Sultana Begum, Jha said.

Her youngest daughter will be married in March with the money raised by the benefactors.

The book chronicles regimes of Indian prime ministers, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, H.D. Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral and Manmohan Singh, through texts and photographs.

The text throws light on the personalities of the prime ministers, their achievements and political developments during their rule.

The photographs were shot by Vijender Tyagi and several other photographers.

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