THE LIVES OF FREDA: THE BLOG
It's wonderful to see The Lives of Freda on sale in Lahore - even if I had to carry in copies of the book myself. I was there last weekend for ThinkFest which included a launch of the biography in the city which was Freda's home for thirteen years - the place where she was jailed as a nationalist, and where one of her sons, Kabir, was born.
Among those at the launch was Viennese woman who, in a sense, followed in Freda's footsteps. She met her Punjabi husband while a student in the UK and came to live in Lahore in the early 1960s. Also present was a grandson of Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, a Baluch nationalist leader from NWFP, who features alongside Freda in a historic group photograph taken at the annual gathering of the National Conference in Kashmir in 1945.
I was in conversation with Moneeza Hashmi, who chairs the Lahore Arts Council and is the daughter of the renowned poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and his British wife, Alys. She was born in the same years as Kabir Bedi - 1946.
So wonderful to be talking about Freda in the city that she adopted as her home - and the city in which she and her husband were happiest.
Here I am talking about Freda Bedi's journalism - and the possibility that she was the first Indian woman journalist writing a regular column about women's issues. That column 'From a Woman's Window' appeared in the Lahore daily the Tribune for a year or so in the early 1940s. I was talking to Krishna Prasad, former editor of Outlook magazine, and he's posted this on YouTube.
This review has appeared on the books page of the Telegraph in Calcutta.
I'm not sure what I think of being called a 'veteran' journalist - but I suppose I've been called worse. And at least the reviewer likes the book - and indeed has highlighted Freda's championing of 'the voices of women in the struggle for Kashmir'.
The website The Print has carried a chunky piece from The Lives of Freda:
And the Sunday Guardian has published an extract from the book's introduction: https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/culture/british-birth-indian-cultural-affinity
This exceptional photograph shows Freda Bedi with no less than five future prime ministers. It was taken in the Kashmiri town of Sopore in August 1945, at the annual conference of the main political party there, the National Conference. It captures a remarkable constellation of political talent.
The older man to the left of the tall, bearded man holding a child is Jawaharlal Nehru, who had just been released from jail and hurried to Kashmir where his daughter, Indira Gandhi, was staying. She is just to the right of the man carrying the child. And the youngster? Almost certainly Indira's son, Rajiv Gandhi, then just a few days short of his first birthday. All three became prime ministers, leading India for a total of thirty-eight years.
The man holding Rajiv is Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the most prominent Pashtun nationalist of his era, also known as 'Badshah' Khan and as the Frontier Gandhi; on the other side of Nehru is another leading political figure from the North West Frontier, Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai. On the left of the picture is Mridula Sarabhai, who later spearheaded efforts to retrieve the many thousands of women abducted at Partition.
Behind Indira Gandhi is the imposing figure of Sheikh Abdullah, the commanding Kashmiri nationalist leader of his generation. Sheikh Abdullah's colleague and later rival, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, is standing behind Nehru. Both in turn became heads of government of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir with the title of prime minister (these days it's chief minister).
Freda Bedi is shown on the far right. She is clearly pregnant - her son, Kabir, was born in Lahore the following January. Her husband, B.P.L. Bedi, is behind her, largely hidden from the camera. The couple next to them haven't been identified.
My thanks to Ramesh Tamiri for alerting me to this wonderful photo - if anyone has a high res copy, please do let me know.
The Lives of Freda:
the political, spiritual and personal
journeys of Freda Bedi
by Andrew Whitehead
to be published by Speaking Tiger in February
The Lives of Freda
- a blog about my biography of Freda Bedi