Patricia Margaret Gwynn.
the battle of cancer
The sacrifices of some who laid down their lives for the Independence of India have been documented in history books. However, there were many others whose contribution has not been recognised. Chitleen K. Sethi reports.
Seventy-four years ago, on March 23, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, were hanged to death while fighting for India’s Independence. The three have been immortalised with history books passing on their sacrifices to successive generations.
There were many others, equally patriotic, whose sacrifices have gone unsung. With the passage of time, all that remained with us was what got chronicled in history books.
But for the British, who out of bureaucratic compulsions, maintained and stored records about extremist activities, these freedom fighters would have remained anonymous.
One such document is a comprehensive statement of terrorist crime compiled from January 1929 to August 31, 1931. In the 1920s and 1930s every terrorist act was seen with suspicion.
The Lahore conspiracy case that ended with the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev forms one of the 200 similar incidents that took place during this brief period of two and a half years. Only a handful of these incidents find mention in our history books while many are referred to in passing.
In 1930, in Bengal, as many as 31 extremist activities were noted down. A majority of incidents related to the use of bombs by terrorists, highway robberies and armed dacoities. Extremists targeted the British police officials, government buildings, trains and post offices.
The year began with the murder of Satish Chander Roy at Kishoreganj, on February 1, 1930. He was suspected of being a police informer by the extremists. Two persons, Chunni Lal Mukerji and Subhodhendu Das Gupta, were arrested in Calcutta in this regard.
Two Inspectors General were assassinated during the year. Lowman, Inspector General of Police, Bengal, was assassinated on August 29, 1930 in Dacca and Colonel Simpson, IG (Prisons), Bengal, was assassinated at the Writers Building, Calcutta, on December 8, 1930.
The same year, an attempt was made to murder Sir Charles Tegart, Commissioner of Police, Calcutta, at Dalhousie Square on August 25. An attempt was also made to kill a sub-inspector and a constable at Jamalpur, in Mymensingh district in October.
Similar activities were taking place in Punjab but not many met with as much success as in Bengal. Other than a host of bomb outrages and explosions that seemed rather commonplace during those days, attempts were made to murder Khan Bahadur Abdul Aziz in Lahore in October.
An attempt was also made on the life of Sergeant Smythe of the Punjab police and Punjab Governor in December 1930 after the convocation at Lahore university. The terrorists in Punjab organised simultaneous bomb explosions in six towns of the state on June 19, 1930 which killed two and injured four. The bombs were made of cigarette tins, coating a mixture of mansal, potash and sulphur with glaxo tins as shells and parked with iron rivets bolts strips. According to the police, these were booby traps to murder police officers.
Bombs, crude handmade coconut shell bombs, barley tin bombs and some more sophisticated ones were the commonly used arsenal. It was less risky than trying to murder someone using a revolver. On February 22, 1930, a country-made bomb was thrown at the Principal of Khalsa College, Amritsar, while he was presiding over a gathering of 150 students. One person was killed and 11 wounded. Three persons were arrested and one convicted but subsequently, they were acquitted by the high court.
In May, a bomb cracker, consisting of pieces of glass and metal odds and ends tied in a cloth, was thrown at a police party accompanying a magistrate in Multan. The Superintendent of Police, five constables and two civilians were wounded.
According to the compilation, while many of these acts were successful, some of these failed during execution. Sometimes crude bombs failed to blast, at other times, the mischief mongers were caught before the act. In March 1931, a 3 up train was entering the Ajmer railway station. Two bombs that had been tied to the rails exploded. However, the explosions did not cause any damage. Similarly, in April 1931, quoting an incident of the compilation: "A highly dangerous aluminum bomb believed to be of the type used in the attempt on Sir Charles Tegart last year was thrown at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club house. It failed to explode owing to the fuse being damp."
Many a time, the activists
themselves got injured. There were incidents when they were killed by
unknown persons. In July, 1931, at Cawnpore, a Ramesh Mehta was shot at
by Raja Ram Zalim, a suspected terrorist. The same year in August, Zalim
was shot dead by unknown assailants and an efforts was made to make the
incident look like a suicide.
No minor contribution
Jacqueline Tressler, General Secretary, Minority Advisory Council, Punjab, Pakistan, was instrumental in reviving Holi and Divali in Krishna Mandir, Lahore. She got Rs 22 crore sanctioned for minorities and is at the helm of two NGOs — In an exclusive interview to Rashmi Talwar, Jacqueline talks of her work.
What are the measures that can strengthen ties between people of India and Pakistan?
At this moment, interaction between two countries was basically between elite and VIPs on either side. To build stronger ties, more interaction is needed between common people, to erase misconceptions about each other. This would be the actual test of the better relations between us. The starting of new buses is a positive step.
You are affiliated with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto, how do you perceive president General Pervez Musharaff?
Until now, he has been very lenient and tolerant.
How did the government agree to sanction Rs 22 crore for the uplift of minorities?
It was time to view things from a changed perspective after half a century of standoff and three wars. Both sides suffered loss of lives and property. Eventually, things had to cool down and when they did, we pushed for results. In August 2002, a resolution on behalf of religious minorities was passed to state the minorities would build an emancipated and welfare-oriented society with the help of government edifices. The very next year, we pressed for a minorities’ ministry in Punjab province, which till then was only at the federal (union) level. This led to sanction of Rs 22 crore for minorities to be used for maintenance and repair of gurdwaras, temples, churches, graveyards and cremation grounds. Colonies inhabited by minorities would be developed and the standard of living improved.
When did the government sanction a cremation ground in Lahore?
Twenty two bighas along the Ravi was earmarked and the government formally announced the allotment of land for which the Provincial Minorities ministry played a pivotal role.
What is the population trend?
There is a marginal rise in the Hindu population that has reached two per cent of Pakistan’s census figures. The concentration of the Hindu population is in Sargodha, Sialkot, Narowal, Sindh, Peshawar, Barachina (NWFP) Kohat.
Recently many churches were renovated.
Yes, hundreds of churches were renovated. There is also a proposal to make a dharamshala in the compound of a demolished Jain mandir. Why temples were not revived is because there is a miniscule number of Hindus who take very little initiative.
You were instrumental in reviving festivals in Lahore.
Yes, we revived Divali, Janamashtami, Holi, Lohri in Lahore, which is also the cultural capital. Now participation is increasing every year. Everyone wants to get invited. Slowly the festivals are becoming status symbols. The Aggarwal Ashram has come forward and is doing a yeoman’s service. For the forthcoming Holi, a larger space has been earmarked this year. We started with only 30-40 persons in 2000. Last year, 400 people from other communities participated in the celebrations. Parsis, Buddhists, Jains and Bahais too have felt motivated to pitch in.
How do you feel about the furore in Pakistan over a ‘kissing scene’ enacted in Hindi movie by Pakistani actress ‘Meera’?
Yes, Meera’s scene did evoke an
uproar in Pakistan but one must accept that India is much more
technically advanced as for as films go. Their presentation portrays
quality of a high degree. Pakistan has recently banned live performance
by women on stage especially dances that invited criticism for
Forever for India
Aditi Tandon meets Patricia Gwynn, a die-hard Indophile
Eighty-two-year-old Patricia Margaret Gwynn brings with her countless memories of a glorious Indian past. With a heart loaded with nostalgia for this land, she leads us back to the days when Madras, now Chennai, was busy benefiting from the Armenian presence.
In lieu of the immense contribution the Armenians made to Madras’s economy, the British awarded the community with the famed Armenian Street, the main financial street of Madras, which still exists by its original name. And Patricia can’t but feel proud of her links with the city as her own father had a role to play in Madras’s development.
He was a domiciled European from Armenia, and her mother was the daughter of a Portugese gentleman. Theirs’ was a Roman Catholic family where the best lesson mothers taught their children was "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" and where marital bliss was measured by the number of children a family had!
Patricia grew up as the 14th of the 15 children born into a traditional Roman Catholic family. In days to come, she was to be one of the two highest paid women in secretarial positions, this side of the Suez. She was also to wed a man called JPL Gwynn, the last ICS officer to have severed the British link with the empire.
While all ICS officers of British origins abandoned India after the country won Independence, JPL Gwynn served free India for 20 years. He also secured a place in Indian history by writing the first Telegu-English dictionary, a copy of which every Indian university possesses.
Till date, this dictionary is rated the most authentic work that enhances the understanding of modern Telugu grammar. Such was his contribution to the Telugu that he became chairperson of the first ever Telegu Academy to be founded in India, besides being called in to head the "revived" Salar Jung Museum, which Pt Nehru inaugurated.
A diehard Indophile, she talks of how community living in India inspired the child in her and helped her to focus on humane aspects in every endeavour.
"I steadily reached the heights of well-respected international companies, first being a British company and the second being the American Theatre of War in the Inspector General’s office. Then I worked as secretary to Chairperson, Indian Aluminium Company, Montreal, based in New Delhi before bowing out as private secretary to chairman, Philips India Ltd, Calcutta. I gave up working after marriage to Peter in 1959," she says.
Incidentally, it was the love for India, which brought JPL Gwynn and Patricia together. On a personal visit to her Chandigarh-based friend of 52 years, Kanta Saroop Krishen, Patricia recalls, "My husband believed that India was a country the world would do well to look up to. The Indian culture and its languages particularly smote him. He even got a scholarship in Sanskrit from the Trinity College, Dublin. In India he became interested in Telugu and went on to compile the first Telegu-English dictionary."
Interestingly, JPL Gwynn and Patricia
had resolved to adopt Indian children had they not been blessed with
kids because of their exceptionally late marriage. But destiny had other
plans for them. They had two sons, both of who are now holding top
diplomatic positions in the world. Patricia spends six months in India
every year. These six months are the best moments of her life. In the
company of Ustad Vilayat Khan’s music, she feels at home in India,
close to her husband and her roots.
Winning the battle of cancer
Neerja Malik, a cancer survivor, set up a support group to help patients combat the big C with grit, reports Divya A
It all began with a twinge of pain. Although Cancer is associated with painless beginnings, Neerja Malik’s warning came as a pang. The pain that disconcerted her made her run and seek medical attention. This prompt action started her off on a course that now sees her as a crusader for a cause and a pillar of strength for those like her.
Malik is the co-founder of Sahaayika, an aid to face cancer. She has been through the painful process of diagnosis, treatment, surgery, the recovery, the depression, the ups and downs of the cruise that is far from pleasant.
Her qualifications in social work, along with her B.Ed helped her in counselling skills and support therapy, a vocation that she took to with enthusiasm and dedication. Family and friends called her up for support, recommended her to others and got her so involved that she had to slowly give up previous social groups and commitments in order to spend more time at the Apollo Cancer Hospital and at the homes of patients.
For Neerja Malik, who now shuttles between volunteer work and family business, it all started with a setback she suffered in 1998 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 44 years old with seven-year-old twins. While undergoing treatment at Mumbai, she came across a support group for cancer patients. Her spirits soared and she realised she could focus on helping others rather than her own condition. But to Neerja’s dismay, a member of that group said, "You have just been diagnosed with cancer. Supposing you start counselling and then something happens to you, it will be bad for the patients’ morale."
Although this depressed her, she told herself: "Even if something does happen, at least the ones I have helped would have got something out of it." She returned to Chennai and began helping friends suffering from cancer at the Apollo Speciality Hospital. This was a small beginning, which later took roots when she met a few other women in similar condition, striving to help those suffering from the malady.
What follows is a positive story of how a woman combated cancer through rigorous cycles of chemotherapy and radiation, never letting the disease get the better of her. "I soon realised that this is a temporary detour and not the be-all-end-all of your existence," Neerja says, beeming with confidence and good spirits.
Although she kept helping patients informally at the Apollo Speciality Hospital, the trigger point for the support group was a casual lunch in 2002. Neerja, along with five of her friends, who liked getting together over lunch, decided to direct our energies into a proper channel. This sowed the seeds for the birth of the support group called Sahaayika in 2004.
They begin where the doctors leave off. The group is a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold onto, and a face to draw comfort from. The group is a patient listener offering positive suggestions drawn from their own experiences. "We tell patients we’ve done it and so can you," says Neerja.
Sahaayika also forms a vital link
between the patients and their families, who also need to be given the
strength to deal with the pain of their loved ones. Adds Neerja,
"You have to rise above the pettiness around. God is a pillar of
strength. If he gives you a problem, it is his problem to give you a