The proceeds of Shivnath Jha's new book will go towards the rehabilitation of Sultana Begum, the great-granddaughter of Bahadur Shah Zafar, says SHAILAJA TRIPATHI in The Hindus' Metro Plus on February 11, 2010
They are literally the words of change; “Prime Ministers of India: Bharat Bhagya Vidhata”, the 534-page coffee-table book compiled and edited by the husband-wife duo of Shivnath and Neena Jha, is meant to transform the life of Sultana Begum. The great-grand daughter-in-law of India's last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, Sultana Begum lives in a pitiable condition in Howrah, West Bengal. Covering Nandigram for a newspaper, Shivnath stopped over in Kolkata for a day to meet his friends and that's how he met Sultana, who lived selling tea on the streets of Kolkata. Adding to the Moghul heiress' stress was the impending marriage of her youngest daughter.
“There are thousands of publishers to print different kinds of books but I wanted to bring out one which could change somebody's life,” says Shivnath. The exhaustive compilation boasting contributors like Bipin Chandra, Inderjit Badhwar, Sunil Shastri and Salman Khurshid looks at the performance of the 14 Prime Ministers of the country — Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to Dr. Manmohan Singh — who have held the prime position so far. The proceeds generated from the sales of the book will go towards helping Sultana Begum.
It was the sad plight of the legendary Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan which coaxed the pair to kick off the initiative “Andolan Ek Pustak Se: Bismillah The Beginning Foundation” in 2002. Under the aegis of the foundation, they envisaged a monograph on the virtuoso's life. The proceeds from its sale were used to fulfil his dream of educating his grandchildren and revamping his ancestral home in Bihar. “When I couldn't fulfil his last wish to perform at India Gate, I took a resolve to induce a change in the lives of the people who contributed to making India what it is today,” says Shivnath, who followed up it up with “Lalu Prasad: India's Miracle” with a view to help Vinayak Rao Tope, the third-generation descendant of Tantya Tope, a significant leader of the 1857 Uprising.
“Bahadur Shah Zafar was the Commander-in-Chief of 1857, when we fought the First War of Independence. A freedom fighter's daughter-in-law living in slums is a sad commentary on our society,” says Shivnath, explaining why Sultana Begum qualifies for help. “Anybody else who I thought deserved it would have also got the same treatment,” adds Shivnath, who now plans to take up the case of a sportsperson fallen on bad days.
The money generated from the sale of the book has ensured money for Sultana's daughter's marriage. Besides the amount of Rs.5 lakh to be deposited in her account, there are plans to get her a one-room flat in a decent colony in Kolkata and a job with a Government school, which will fetch her a monthly salary of Rs.6,000. “Young well-settled Indians from Kuwait, the U.S. and other places wrote to us offering to marry Sultana Begum's daughter without taking a single penny,” says Shivnath.