PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIESTweet
This is an image of my grandmother Kanwarani Danesh Kumari photographed in Patiala around 1933-34 and she would have been 20 or 21 years at the time. It was photographed by R.R. Verma, a photo artist from what was then Cawnpore (Kanpur). This is the only photograph I have of her, though my memory of her is vividly different.
I remember her as a simply clad, dignified, exceptionally proud woman, who would spend her time gardening, shopping for groceries in the market, or chatting away with the gardener, her domestic staff or entertaining friends from out of town in Dehradun, many of whom were people who belonged to royalty or influential circles. Her home 'Sawant Villa', named after my great grandfather, was an open house, with people constantly streaming in and out.
Formally addressed as 'Rajkumari Bibiji Danesh Kumari Sahiba', my grandmother was fondly called 'Brownie' by her family and friends. She was the wife of the late Maharaj Kumar Aman Singh of Bijawar (now in Madhya Pradesh) and the daughter of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala (Punjab). She was brought up in the lap of great luxury, but she adapted very well to the simple life. She was a beautiful, strong, non-judgmental woman who wouldn't suffer fools and was known to never mince her words. The only thing that impressed her was a good education.
She believed that it was the only way one could change their lives for the better. She ensured that all her children and grandchildren would appreciate the importance of literacy and a good education.
My grandmother was a very social woman and loved going into the city to meet her friends. Everyone knew her in Dehradun. I remember her dragging me to meet her dear friend, Mrs. Vijaylaxmi Pandit and they would spend hours chatting away while she would keep tucking my hair away from my forehead and eyes.
My grandmother was as comfortable in a Rolls Royce as she was in a local bus in Dehradun; the latter was how she would travel to visit me when I was studying at the Doon School. She insisted on teaching us how to walk barefoot on Bajri (pebbled) pathways and chew on a Datun, I think it was to prepare us for the real world.
A few of her interesting obsessions were collecting imported soaps and thailas (shopping bags). Anyone who ever travelled abroad had to bring back bars of soap, thailas and chocolates. I remember a particular soap in her bathroom that was shaped like a fish, perhaps because of her quirky fascination with soaps, something that I appear to have inherited from her.
After an accidental fall, her health began to fail and she passed away in 2005 peacefully in her sleep. This image of my grandmother is framed and hung in my dining room. While I never saw her dressed like this, the dignity and pride I see in this image is alive and inspiring.