When Jawaharlal Nehru was giving his At the stroke of midnight speech on August 15,1947,42-year-old enthusiastic but tired freedom fighter Satyavati was sitting at Lajpat Bhavan in Lahore and listening to her favourite Panditji.
Today,wheelchair-bound but equally eager in her house at Krishna Menon Marg in the city,Satyavati (104) released The Illustrated History of the Freedom Struggle,a lushly illustrated book of pictures,maps and rare archival material that changed the history of India.
Talking about her early years as a freedom fighter Satyavati said in her frail voice,Maine Azad (Chandrashekhar) ko apne haatho se khaana khilaya. Hum sab ko koi dar nahi tha faansi par chadne ka. (Ive fed Chandrashekhar Azad with my hands. We had no fear of getting hanged.)
Published by Penguin Books,the book includes portraits of Mahatma Gandhi,Lord Irwin,the then Viceroy of India,letters from various archives,rare photographs of 78 marchers on the eve of their departure for Dandi and rare newspapers clippings of Simon go back protest. The material has been sourced from the National Archives of India,Indian Council for Historical Research,British Library and archives of various newspapers.
Satyavatis daughter,Subhadra Khosla,who was 13 when she went to jail with her parents in 1942,was present on the occasion. In jail,we used to sing songs like Azadi ke naaron se duniya ko hila denge. At that time even the Superintendent of Police who had orders to shoot us couldnt lift his gun, Khosla said.
The book has a an introduction by IFS officer Pavan K Verma,author of books like The Great Indian Middle Class,Being Indian and Ghalib. A launch like this is a rarity when people who fought for freedom are there to tell us about those days. The book is not a soulless chronology of events,but a unique description of the struggle.
Talking about the current political scenario,Satyavati said,Agar aaj ke neta hamaare svatantra sainaniyon ki tarah mar mitein,to rona hi kya hai. (If todays politicians can die like the freedom fighters,there will be nothing to cry for).
Despite not being able to walk,Satyavati wants to vote in the Lok Sabha elections. I have always voted and will vote this time also. But instead of party,one should vote for the candidate, she gives her toothless smile.