Early Life of Madam Bhikaiji Cama
Born on 24th September in 1861, Madam Bhikaiji Cama initially went by the name of Bhikaiji Sorab Patel. She was part of a wealthy Parsi family in the Bombay Presidency of current day Mumbai. Her father Sorabji, an influential member of the Parsi community was a well known lawyer by training and a merchant by profession. Bhikaiji Cama had a flair for various languages and completed her education from the Alexandra Native Girl's English Institution.
Social Work of Bhikaiji Sorab Patel
In October 1896, the Bombay Presidency was hit first by famine, and shortly thereafter by bubonic plague. Bhikaiji Sorab Patel joined one of the many teams working out of Grant Medical College, which would subsequently become Haffkine's plague vaccine research centre, in an effort to provide care for the afflicted, and later to inoculate the healthy.
While treating the afflicted, Bhikaiji too caught the deadly disease, though she recovered but the disease left her in a poor health. In 1901, she was sent to Britain for proper medical care and after a 7 year long hiatus when she was finally preparing to return in 1908, Bhikaiji came in contact with Shyamji Krishna Varma. Through him, she met Dadabhai Naoroji, a strong critic of British economic policy in India, and began working for the Indian National Congress. Cama also came in contact with other Indian nationalists, including Lala Har Dayal, and together they addressed several meetings in Londons Hyde Park.
On 22nd August, 1907, Madam Bhikaji Cama became the first person to hoist the Indian flag on foreign soil in Stuttgart in Germany. Based on the Calcutta Flag, the green, yellow and red fields represent Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism respectively. The crescent and the sun again represent Islam and Hinduism. The eight lotuses in the upper register represent the eight provinces of British India. The words in the middle are in Devanagri script and read Vande Mataram, the slogan of the Indian National Congress.
Appealing for human rights, equality and for autonomy from Great Britain, she described the devastating effects of a famine that had struck the Indian subcontinent. The original flag raised by Cama in Stuttgart is now on display at the Maratha and Kesari Library in Pune.
Exile of Bhikaiji Sorab Patel
Madam Bhikaji Cama was in exile in Europe, during the First World War until 1935, when, gravely ill and paralysed by a stroke that she had suffered earlier that year, she petitioned the British government through Sir Cowasji Jehangir to be allowed to return home.
Personal Life of Bhikaiji Sorab Patel
On 3rd August 1885, Bhikaijiji Cama married Rustom Cama, who was son of K. R. Cama. Her husband was a wealthy, pro British lawyer who aspired to enter politics. Her married life was not happy and she spent most of her time and energy in philanthropic activities and social work.
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