Ayi Tendulkar met Harbou in January 1933, days before Adolf Hitler was sworn in as chancellor of Germany, which ushered in the end of the Weimar era. As Dhaul writes: I still remember the gleam in my fathers eye when he spoke about how wonderful Berlin used to be in those dayshe would call it the centre of the western world, a vortex of creativity, a leader in innovation in the field of films, the visual arts, architecture, theatre and music... He spoke about his impressions of the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and how India had won the gold medal in hockey. But soon after Ayi Tendulkar and Harbou met, things changed drastically in Germany. On her adviceby then, they were married but couldnt be seen together, as Hitler banned Germans from marrying foreignersAyi Tendulkar, a man with a western outlook, complete with a gleaming red Mercedes convertible, returned to India, and got involved with Gandhi and his Quit India movement.
With Harbous consent, he soon married Indumati, who had grown up in a sheltered Saraswat Brahman family in Belgaum (on the Karnataka and Maharashtra border) and was influenced by both cultures. She was a follower of Gandhi and worked for a while at his Wardha ashram. In fact, when Ayi Tendulkar and Indumati decided to get married, they
were asked to wait five years by Gandhi-ji and when they finally took their wedding vows in front of Bapu, he spun the garlands for them. In a letter Gandhi-ji addressed to Indu, he wrote: I would like to perform your wedding on the 19th August (1945)...I consider that this wedding is not being undertaken for pleasure. You both are embarking on this marriage for the sole purpose of service. You will have to promise to me that you will not have children till India gets independence from the British...
Though her parents would grow apart subsequently, they always had a cordial relationship.Indumati was persuaded by Ayi Tendulkar to visit Harbou in Germany and she was touched by Theas warmth. This was in 1952 and three years later, Laxmi was born. Her charismatic father died when he was 72, and her mother died in 2006 at the age of 96. By then, she had given enough material and more to her daughter for a fascinatingstory. It was at the Jaipur Literature Festival that Laxmi met Thomas Keneally, the author of Schindlers List. ...whenI spoke to him about this story and my frustrations, he said: Continue writing and you will be guided by thespirits of your loved ones. Happily for us,Dhaul didnt give up.
In the Shadow of Freedom: Three Lives in Hitlers Berlin and Gandhis India
Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul
Sudipta Datta is a freelancer