Fitting to start this anniversary month of Independence with mention of a unifying communication tool, rooted in the power of peace. A fast-fading ideal today.
Founded in 1942 by Gandhiji, the Hindustani Prachar Sabha conducted classes in spoken Hindi and Urdu, so promoting Hindustani as a link language. Dadabhai Naoroji’s granddaughter, Perin Captain, lived above Orient Club at Chowpatty. She helmed Sabha activities from neighbouring Adenwalla Mansion.
A companion newspaper advocating Hindustani as a common tongue, Rahber (Leader), was produced in Devnagri, Gujarati and Urdu, from the home of broadcaster brothers Hamid and Ameen Sayani. It was published by their remarkable mother, Kulsum, whose father, Dr Rajabali Patel, was Gandhiji and Maulana Azad’s personal physician.
Ameen Saab credits his firm grounding in Hindi to helping his mother with Rahber editions. Interviewing the legend, I learnt about his memorable years growing up at Pervez Mansion of Cumballa Hill Lane. Opposite the Sayanis, in Cumballa Chambers, their New Era School teacher, Amy Moos, hid nationalists like Aruna Asaf Ali and Achyut Patwardhan – “They came across to us for meals. As children we knew well never to reveal that they were underground. I associate Kemp’s Corner with patriotism and passion for the larger good.”