27 September, 2020

That Tamarind Was Sweet

Small memories of 1857, but lost to indifference. Time we made amends.

Sandeep Adhwaryu
That Tamarind Was Sweet
The large flag of the Rani of Jhansi with a pronounced gold-braided image of Hanuman became the possession of the British army after the warrior queen's death. Eventually it was left in the care of Rajputana Rifles. Until some years ago it was the most important trophy at the Raj Rif Centre. It is now part of the army's unhappy memories. The flag has been stolen.

The story of the Rani Jhansi flag occurred to me when I visited my village, Mustafabad in Rae Bareli, for a TV programme on places associated with 1857. I was surprised to find an old tamarind tree cut down to make way for an electric transformer. The tamarind tree was the most evocative symbol of Rae Bareli's role in 1857. It was a particularly poignant memorial for members of my family.

One of my ancestors, Mir Baqar Ali, a taluqdar, and his 22 companions were hanged from the tree. According to the gazetteer, the bodies were allowed to decompose for three days as a warning. Mir Baqar Ali's fortified house was reduced to rubble by cannons. His son, Mir Wahid, was reduced to...


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