THE LIVES OF FREDA: THE BLOG
Freda Bedi never came back to make her home in Derby after she headed to Oxford University. But Derby kept a watchful interest in her - and on occasions she wrote for the city's daily papers.
News took a while to travel back then. By the time the Derby Evening Telegraph put on its front page news of Freda's imprisonment in Lahore in 1941, her sentence was almost over.
A few years later, it was Freda's mum who was making the news. She had received a surprise invitation to meet independent India's new prime minister - and Freda's friend - Jawaharlal Nehru.
'Mrs Swan's proudest moment came when [Nehru] stopped at her table and shook hands with her.' This is from the city's morning paper, the Derby Daily Telegraph, on 25th October 1948:
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