Apr 24 2011
Today’s vintage postcard features Malka Jaan, the mother of famed performer Gauhar Jaan. Her saree is shown in vivid emerald green with golden thread accents, striking against the turquoise tiled floor. Many singers and dancers around the turn of the 20th century were photographed reclining on pillows on the floor, or occasionally atop pieces of furniture, but it is not something I’d want to do in an expensive silk saree!
The biography on Gauhar is fascinating, and reveals much about the difficult lives of Indian women, including Malka Jaan, at that time. Malka, as Victoria Yeoward Hemmings, fled a broken marriage with her new protector, a refined Muslim man. She and her little daughter adopted new names and the faith of her partner, cutting all ties with their unhappy past. The gentleman also took up a new business when they moved to Benares – as a textile merchant sending the famous Varanasi sarees to Calcutta!