Free Press Journal

In The Shadow of Freedom


Laxmi Dhaul book ‘In The Shadow Of Freedom’, was launched during the Jaipur Literature Festival by Suhel Seth. Laxmi Dhaul, who is a is a post Graduate in Biochemistry from the University of Mumbai worked very hard to track documents from various places followed by tremendous research to pen a book on her parents and their experiences during Hitlers Berlin and Gandhi’s India. Her other published works include ‘The Sufi Shrine of Ajmer’, ‘The Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’, ‘Guide to the Gentleman Chef’, and ‘Chimi’s Dream’.

The book under review is a story of Dr A G “Ayi” Tendulkar a young journalist from Maharashtra who travelled in the early thirties to Germany for study. In the book, Laxmi speaks about Dr Tendulkar’s, four wives. The first wife was Alexandra, a Russian who he met in Paris in 1924. They later separated, and Alexandra married an Italian.

The second wife was German actress Eva Schubring, daughter of his professor in Germany. The author says that she got to know about this marriage from his PhD application. But the marriage with Eva was short-lived. After that Tendulkar, who had by then had become a renowned journalist in Berlin, fell in love and married filmmaker Thea von Harbou, divorced wife of Fritz Land.

In this unique account, Indumati and Tendulkar’s daughter, Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul, traces the turbulent time lives of her parents and Thea von Harbou, against the backdrop of Nazi Germany and Gandhi’s India.

Many years his senior, Thea became Tendulkar’s support and mainstay in Germany, encouraging and supporting him in bringing other young Indian students to the country. Hitler’s coming to power put an end to all that, and on Thea von Harbou’s advice, Tendulkar returned to India, where he became involved in Gandhi’s campaign of non-co-operation with the British, and where with Thea’s consent he soon married Indumati

Gunaji, a Gandhian activist. They met in Belgaum, and she was working in Bapu’s Mahilla Ashram in Wardha then. This fourth wife was the author’s mother.

Caught up in the whirlwind of Gandhi’s activism, Indumati and Tendulkar spent several years in Indian prisons, being able to come together as a married couple only after their release – managing thereby to comply with a condition that Gandhi had put to their marriage, that they remain apart for several years.

In this unique account, Indumati and Tendulkar’s daughter, Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul, traces the turbulent time lives of her parents and Thea von Harbou, against the backdrop of Nazi Germany and Gandhi’s India, using a wealth of documents, letters, newspaper articles and photographs to piece together the inter meshed histories of two women, the man they loved, their own growing friendship, and two countries battling with violence and non-violence, fascism and colonialism.

Not until the publication of Patrick McGilligan’s monumental biography of Fritz Lang in 1997 had the name of Ayi Tendulkar rung a bell among experts of German cinema during the Weimar Republic (1918–1933), or even in the community of scholars who have done extensive research on Indians living in Germany between the two world wars. The latter included students, radical activists engaged in the cause of Indian independence, artists, filmmakers and a handful of businessmen. Some of them are well-known: the communists M.N. Roy and Virendranath Chattopadhya, the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia, former President Zakir Hussain, filmmakers Himansu Rai and V. Shantaram. Ayi Tendulkar does not figure in the list.

This is odd, to say the least, for Tendulkar had forged strong links with institutions and personalities that shaped Germany’s tumultuous politics and culture in the decade preceding the triumph of Nazism. On the strength of his proximity to leaders of the freedom struggle in his early youth – Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel – he wrote extensively on Indian affairs for influential left-wing publications in Berlin. He also enjoyed a reputation in the city’s intellectual circles for his scholarly achievements and, not least, attracted much attention for his love affair with, and subsequent marriage to Thea von Harbou,” observed former editor of The Times of India Dileep Padgaonkar in his foreword of the book.


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