Harvard to Halvad

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HARVARD

When they were both PhD students at Harvard in the 1980’s, Prince Jayasinhji Jhala (Jayabapa) and Karim Ajania became friends. They also shared the common heritage of their families both having originated from the Indian state of Gujarat.

Today, Jayabapa, the Vice Chair of The Bored, and Karim, the Founder of The Bored, have embarked upon an inspiring endeavor in Halvad, Gujarat.

To read more about The Halvad Revitalization Initiative kindly click here.

Below, is an excerpt from the journal of Karim’s late father, Abdul Ajania, reflecting on his days as a schoolboy in Pune, India when he was a student boarder at Shivaji Military School, a school that Jayabapa coincidentally attended a couple of decades later. Another lovely coincidence is the fact that Jayabapa continued his schooling at The Doon School in Dehra Dun, India, which is a school that Karim taught at some three decades after Jayabapa attended Doon.

Also below, in an excerpt from The Telegraph five years ago, is the obituary of Jayabapa’s father, His Highness the Maharajah of Dhrangadhra-Halvad.

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HALVAD

Excerpt from the journal of Abdul Ajania:

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Abdul Gulamhussein Gulamali Ajania 

(1926 – 2011)

The year was 1943, perhaps the most memorable year of my youth.

I was a 17 year old student who was soon to matriculate from the boarding school in Pune that I had been attending for five years, Shri Shivaji Preparatory Military School.

I was homesick. I missed my parents and my siblings back home in Mwanza, Tanzania. Although our family was originally from Khathiawar in Gujarat, my parents had emigrated from Gujarat to what was then known as British East Africa, and began a family in Mwanza. We eventually relocated to Nairobi, Kenya where Karim was born.

I was born in 1926 in Mwanza, in what was then known as British Tanganyika.

I grew up speaking Gujarati and Swahili but also heard German and English being spoken in Mwanza. Tanganyika had been a German protectorate from 1885 until a few years before I was born. When Germany was defeated in the First World War, Germany handed over Tanganyika to the British at the Treaty of Versailles and some years after that, Britain received a League of Nations mandate to administer Tanganyika.

My father, a hardworking shopkeeper or dukkawalla, had left school at the age of 10 to work in his own father’s shop. He was determined that his son should have a good education and so he scrimped and saved to send me to school in Pune. In those days, only a handful of wealthy families could send their sons to boarding school in England. The more affordable option, was to send off their sons to the English style boarding schools in British India, which is how I ended up at Shivaji Military School.

In 1943, Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba Gandhi had already been imprisoned under house arrest for a year at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, which was a comfortable distance from Shivaji Military School. Since I had grown up within the Aga Khan community, I had the rare privilege of being allowed to attend several of Gandhiji’s evening prayer meetings at the Aga Khan Palace. Those profoundly spiritual gatherings within the context of a politically charged and often violent period in British Indian history, and within a global arena in the midst of the Second World War, were some of my most formative experiences.

I cannot express in words what a profound privilege it was to be in the maganinmous presence of Gandhiji and Kasturba as a 17 year old schoolboy.

Excerpt from The Telegraph on September 2, 2010:

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The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra-Halvad

His Highness the Maharaja of Dhrangadhra-Halvad, who died on August 1 [2010] aged 87, was the last of the Indian princes who ruled their own states before India became independent in 1947.

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The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra–Halvad

(1923 – 2010)

On acceding to the gadi (throne) on his father’s death in 1942, he launched an economy programme, ordered the State Council to meet once a week and enacted a series of modernising laws. These affirmed his subjects’ fundamental rights, ending the segregation of the “untouchable” castes, and permitting women to hold property and to remarry. Compulsory free primary schooling was introduced as well as village and municipal self-government.

As Independence became inevitable, Dhrangadhra threw himself into the task of creating what he saw as the “free” India. Recognising that the amalgamation of his state with the larger Saurashtra was in the greater interest, he was among the first princes to sign Mountbatten’s Instrument of Accession, thereby losing his ruling powers.

Born Mayurdwajsinhji on March 3 1923, his birth was celebrated with the beating of war drums and the release of all Dhrangadhra-Halvad’s prisoners. Although small in comparison with its neighbours, the state comprised 1,157 square miles with a population of about 250,000, and rated a 13-gun-salute.

They were educated at the palace’s royal school, where he learned to recite Kipling’s poem If, and started his day either riding or doing drill at 6.30am. Scouting, carpentry, ploughing with bullocks and tinkering with cars as well as academic work followed.

The Maharaja of Dhrangadhra was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1948, and was the last surviving KCIE. He was president of Rajkumar College in Rajkot; and a life member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association; of the World Wildlife Fund; the International Phonetic Association; and the Heraldry Society. He was also a member of the Cricket Club of India, the Fencing Association of Great Britain and the Bombay Masonic Lodge.

He married, in 1943, Brijraj Kumari Sahiba (daughter of the Maharaja of Jodphur).

Prince Jayasinhji Jhala locally known as JayaBapa, is his second son.

To read this full article in The Telegraph on September 2, 2010 click here.