Obituary – Rajmata Prafulla Manjari Devi

She was a queen and died like a queen on the morning of January 8, with a grand procession marching with her to the cremation grounds – Mangardaha Ghat on banks of the River Koel at Daltonganj. My grandma was 103 years old.

And with her ended a very long and amazing chapter in the history of Chainpur Estate, one of the prominent royal families of Chota Nagpur Region in Jharkhand, India.

Princess Prafulla Manjari Devi, the third daughter of the Ruling Chief of Kharsawan (Raja Ram Chandra Singh Deo) loved and celebrated life just like Krishna, her ishtdeva. In her anecdotes, she would talk about those blissful girlhood days she had spent at Kharsawan that included travels, visits to Calcutta theatres, swimming lessons, education, elaborate religious ceremonies and a life of luxury.

After marrying my grandfather, Raja Brijdeo Narain Singh in 1941, her life took a new turn. She often told us that my grandfather looked so handsome as a bridegroom that people came in huge numbers at Kharsawan just to have a look at him. There was a train booked for the baraat and the marriage was recorded on a movie camera at that time. Otherwise all the elaborate ceremonies were a blur for her as she had to sit covered from head to toe with ornaments and bridal wear.

Accompanied by the usual retinue of cooks, servants and maids, she came to live at Chainpur fort and experienced a huge cultural change. My grandfather’s side observed purdah and ladies did not show their faces. She often smiled talking about how she was expected to walk, talk and live a veiled life in the royal household.

Communication was another issue. My grandma spoke Oriya and broken Hindi while no one in her new home knew the language. But her mother-in-law (my great grandmother) was kind enough to let her have the upper floor of the Garh where she was free to live comfortably and interact with her personal Oriya speaking staff.

Gradually, times changed, and the family moved to Chainpur Bungalow at Daltonganj town, a short distance from Chainpur. By this time, India had become free from British rule and was declared a democracy.

All the princely states got integrated into the country. My grandma adjusted to the changed and moved on to focus on education and subsequent marriages of her eight children.

After the death of my grandfather in 1977, she faced some great challenges, but the iron lady did not crumble under pressure. Instead she laughed at it all. She spent most part of her life at Daltonganj amongst grand kids and great grand kids.

She was a champion for girls education and donated land for school, hospitals and public welfare.

Towards the end of her life, she moved back to Chainpur, where she had once lived as a blushing new bride and breathed her last there. She felt no pain as she passed away in her sleep, surrounded by family.

Thus, ended the life of my grandma whose ringing laughter made people smile. She was regal, strong and spiritually exalted – the gift she passed on to subsequent generations. She is survived by three sons, four daughters and grandchildren. She will be sorely missed and mourned by all the family members of Chainpur.

Dadi Ma, we will not forget all the lessons you taught us and how you touched our lives in your own way. Hari Bol!

(Images contributed by Family)

(To read one of the anecdotes, click here.)

(To read Hindi newspapers article on her, click here)

Sridevi – My Muse

When I was a kid, Sridevi was my favourite face. The actress was everywhere – on magazine covers, newspapers and advertisements. And how I loved to draw her! My sketchbook had a lot of rough sketches of the beauty. She was an artist’s dream with large vivacious eyes and gorgeous demeanor. Her sudden, accidental death by drowning has left all her admirers in deep shock. Now, after so many years, I sketch her one last time as a tribute to her. #RIP Sridevi

The Lady from Pakistan

“I am from Pakistan,” she said looking at me closely, studying my reaction. “Oh, okay,” I replied nonchalantly. 

In the aftermath of the URI attack, when the tensions on the borders of India and Pakistan mounted, I was ironically making aquaintance with this lady from Pakistan on US soil.
I first met her when my older Son started Kindergarten. It was difficult for me to let my son go to the Big Kids School in the bus all by himself. In the afternoon, I reached the school bus stop very early to receive him. My son arrived and an older boy alighted from the bus next after him, carrying his water bottle. 

The boy laughingly told me,” Everytime your son started to cry, I distracted him.” Taking the water bottle from him, I smiled and said, “Thank you!”

His mother had come to receive the older boy. She had her head covered like the Sikhs but was not wearing Vermilion or bindi like them. I gathered they were Muslims from India. She smiled at me and I smiled back. This is how I first met her!

Her apartment was close to mine and we walked a little together, talking casually about kids, work, weather etc. This became our daily routine.

But the day after the URI terrorist attack in Kashmir along the LOC, when every Indian across the world was outraged and shocked at the killing of brave Indian soldiers, she happened to tell me that she was from the enemy nation – Pakistan!

Something stiffened deep inside me although I did not show it. I mentally prepared myself to keep a distance from her. 

As I looked back to hasten my son, an unexpected sight made my heart melt. Walking hand in hand with his Pakistani bhaiya (brother), my son looked cheerful for the first time he started school. He had made his first friend in school. They looked absolutely comfortable in each other’s company, ignorant of the fact that they belonged to two deadliest enemy nations of the world. 

They were laughing, teasing and running around us, oblivious of the hate that surrounded their mother nations.

I stole a look at the lady from Pakistan. Apparently, she was having similar thoughts. She seemed worried about the heightened tension across the borders of the two neigbouring countries and for the safety of her family back home. Like me, perhaps even she did not want her kid getting lessons on hate in case the situation worsened. We were so similar yet so apart!

It seemed as if a thick line of uneasy thoughts seperated me and the lady from Pakistan. But not far behind us, our little boys, chased each other in blissful ignorance…! 

After Twenty Years…

  

He felt disoriented on seeing the picture. After rubbing his eyes, he looked again. Yes, there she was…prominent in her white bag and blue jacket, studying something.  

How could this be true? His mind was probably playing tricks on him. When he had clicked that picture, there was no one  around.

He was aging and she looked just the way she had looked on their last day in college. 

Twenty years back, they had parted, ready to pursue their separate careers, fully aware that they would never ever meet again. 

But she had surprised him by extracting a promise. They were to meet exactly twenty years later at this favourite haunt to celebrate their friendship.

He had remembered the promise and had gone to that spot. But how could he expect her to be there? He knew she had long been dead… soon after she left college! 

(This is a tribute to ‘After Twenty Years’-a lovely short story by the great O Henry)

This is my entry to the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by the lovely Priceless Joy. We are given a photo prompt and approximately 75-175 words with which to create our stories. This challenge is open to all who would like to participate. For more information, click HERE

Sadhana and Audrey Hepburn, look alikes?

 They say that there are seven look alikes in the world! Well, I cannot be really sure of the theory but one thing really struck me when I watched the iconic Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ – she looked very similar to our Indian film actress Sadhana.


The veteran Indian actress, passed away last night in India, leaving her fans and film industry in a state of shock. She was 74.

It is said that Audrey Hepburn’s hairstyle had inspired her popular fringe-cut. And just like her British predecesdor, the style diva revolutionised the Indian fashion scenario of 1960s. She was responsible for popularising churidaar-kurta, which is still a favourite with women in India.


Undoubtedly, both will be considered peerless beauties always. Here are some of the pictures of the beauties for you to compare. RIP Sadhana!




Images courtesy Google

Be Well Barbara! In memory of a special friend

  Remember to be well! ^..^ 

This is the last line Barbara Beacham wrote in her blog ‘Life in the Foothills’, before cancer took her away from us.

The lady was one of my first blog friends when I started blogging in January last year. Time constraints did not allow me to write long posts so I thought of taking up some 100-150 words story challenges. And then I came across ‘Mondays Finish the Story’ and her highly creative hostess Barbara Beacham. It was a fun challenge and helped me overcome my writer’s block. She ran two blogs – first was ‘Life in the Foothills’ and second, ‘Mondays Finish the Story’.

I would look forward to the story challenges every Monday and would peep at posts of other story writers and wonder at their creativity. I learnt a lot in the whole process. With time, I developed a strange kinship with the lady… I admired her story telling skills and loved it when she wrote ‘Be Well’ at the end of each comment.

What I didn’t know was that she herself needed the wish more than anyone else as she was battling cancer all this while. She did reveal to us about her illness at a later stage and expressed the hope that she will strike back…

One morning there was no ‘Mondays Finish the Story’ challenge in my inbox. I asked Priceless Joy… she sounded hopeful that BB may strike back but I think we both knew that her end was near! 

She could not make it. With a heavy heart I accepted the fact that I will no longer look forward to Mondays as I did since last year. 

There will no more be ‘Mondays Finish the Story’ from now on… The only thing is…it was too abrupt an end for me.

What I admire is the fact that cancer couldn’t defeat her optimism and creativity… She wrote and encouraged us to write wonderful stories till the very end. She showed rare courage and wisdom all this while! I miss Barbara. I miss the challenge.

One thing I know for sure – I had grown to love her. Be well Barbara, wherever you are!

This post is written in memory of Barbara Beacham – FfAW-Special Challenge for Barbara Beacham – hosted by Priceless Joy. To read other entries please click here.

The Redeemer of Sins

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The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be…a redeemer of sins committed by them.

Since childhood, little Luigi would notice the brutality of the men in his family. They were aristocrats and ruled whimsically. The women were prudish too.

As he grew up, he felt agonised to see the atrocities. One day, he saw his father beating a subject to death. He cried and begged God to give his family good sense. He resolved to do as much good as he could to absolve their crimes.

He rejected politics, ancestral riches, marriage in favour of priesthood. To this day, Rev Luigi is working tirelessly for mankind.

This story is a part of the wonderful ‘Mondays Finish The Story Challenge’ by Barbara Beacham. She provides us with a photo prompt, the first sentence, and approximately 150 words with which we are to use to write our story. To take up the challenge click here MFtS