Mohammed Babavali, a 36-year-old resident of Thotlavalluru in Krishna district, has been protecting a brass tin for the past two decades. His father the late Abdul Raheem, a head constable in Vijayawada Police Commissionerate, protected it all through his life and even salvaged it from the 1977 Diviseema cyclone that swept away everything in his native village Pedagurumotu of Avanigadda mandal.
Raheem’s father Abdul Azeez too protected it all through his life before passing it on to him.
The tin, with a shape of a small tiffin box, isn’t an ordinary item, for it has a long and interesting legacy connected with the British.
“It’s Princess Mary’s Christmas gift and has a history of more than 102 years. It (the tin) was born out of the idea of Princess Mary, the daughter of Great Britain’s King George V and Queen Mary, who wanted to gift the members of British, Colonial and Indian Armed Forces on the eve of Christmas during First World War.”
One of the captains in Indian Armed Forces Fateh Ahmed, the great-grandfather of Babavali, was one among the 4.2 lakh personnel who received the gift from Princess Mary in 1914. The gift came with tobacco, confectionary, spices, pencils, scissors and a Christmas card. “Everything is gone except this tin. I have been protecting it and after me my kids will carry on the legacy,” Babavali told The Hindu .
“We lost everything including our home during the 1977 cyclone, but the ‘tin’ was saved by father who kept it with him in the police quarters in Vijayawada,” Mr. Babavali said.
Some of those gift tins are now among the collections of several museums across United Kingdom and Australia. “I thought of giving it to a museum. But later I decided to keep it with me in memory of my great grand father,” said Mr. Babavali.
The decorative tin is embossed with the face of the Princess Mary and Britain’s allied countries France, Russia, Italy, Belgium and the United States during World War I.
Back home, Mr. Babavali lost a fortune taking care of his ailing father who passed away in 2003 and he is presently working as a security guard, still looking for a break in life.
This six-foot plus Thotlavalluru man is taking care of the 102-year-old brass tin gifted to his great grandfather by Princess Mary in 1914.