Friday, January 1, 2010

Prime Ministers of India


A 448-page hard bond (12” x 12” size) pictorial coffee-table book, first of its kind, is dedicated to Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, world’s second and India’s first PM late Smt. Indira Gandhi, India’s youngest and dynamic PM late Sri Rajiv Gandhi who laid their lives for the sovereignty and integrity of the country and victims of terrorists attack in India in the post-independence era, more importantly in Mumbai
Why This Book?
The first time that I came to know about Sultana Begum and met her in real pitiable conditions in Howrah was in January 2007. I was on an official visit to West Bengal to report the violent protests against the setting up of a car manufacturing unit in Nandigram, about 80 km southwest of Kolkata in Purba Medinipur district of West Bengal. At least 14 villagers had been gunned down by the state police there in the first week of January 2007.

After covering the tragedy, as I moved to Kolkata, I came across Sultana Begum – the 56 year old woman – who could easily pass off as just another slum dweller who runs a tea-stall to earn a living. Yet, she was not just another person.

Sultana Begum is the great great granddaughter (from Howrah line) of the last Mughal emperor and the hero of the 1857 mutiny – Bahadur Shah Zafar. Her 8ft X 8ft dwelling in the slums of Cowies Ghat at Foreshao Road (Shibpur) shockingly belied the fact that her family once ruled Indian sub-continent for over three centuries from the rampart of the Red Fort, and that Taj Mahal was erected as a mausoleum for one of her great great aunts, the astonishing beauty - Mumtaz Mahal.

Today there was absolutely nothing in the room in the name of her household goods. She had lost her husband Mirza Bedar Bakht in 1980. He was the son of Jamshid Bakht and grandson of Jawan Bakht. He had died in penury. After his death, the West Bengal government provided an accommodation for the family. It was near the Red Light District. Little wonder therefore that soon thereafter the local goons forcibly occupied the house by throwing a hapless Sultana Begum and her children out of the house.

Her misery brought tears to my eyes. Coming back to Delhi, I discussed her condition with my wife Neena, a teacher in St. Thomas School, Indirapuram and 12-year-old son Aakash and decided to visit her again to chalk out a rehabilitation plan for her. It was at this point that we decided to compile and edit a pictorial coffee-table book on the makers of India’s destiny, the Prime Ministers, to provide her a dignified life and perform marriage of her 33-year-old daughter Madhu from the proceeds of Prime Ministers of India:Bharat Bhaagya Vidhaata-1947-2009.

Only this could have been a way to express our humble tribute to Bahadur Shah Zafar – the last great Moghul and a prominent architect of India’s destiny and promote secular philosophy of Shehnai maestro Bharat Ratna late Ustad Bismillah Khan.

Bahadur Shah Zafar, was born in 1775 at Delhi and placed on the throne in 1837. He was last in the lineage of Mughal emperors. During Zafar’s emperorship the first War of Independence (1857 mutiny) was fought. Zafar was the Commander-in-Chief in the fight against the British. He was exiled to Rangoon (now known as Yangon in present day Myanmar) in 1858 where he lived his last five years and died in 1862 at the age of 87.

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