independence day History & Culture

How a Kerala family saved an original British newspaper from India’s Independence Day in 1947

A copy of the newspaper and below, Stephen Verghese

A copy of the newspaper and below, Stephen Verghese   | Photo Credit: H Vibhu

Collectors Stephen Verghese and son Vishal treasure an original print of ‘The Daily Telegraph’ dated August 15, 1947

India is now two dominions: Power Transferred at Midnight: King’s Message to Pakistan: Earldom Conferred to Lord Mountbatten — This is how, London’s The Daily Telegraph dated August 15, 1947 delivers Indian Independence to its readers. “In a listicle headline, it downplays the momentous event in history,” says Vishal Stephen, who has an original copy of the newspaper announcing the historic event. It is the latest acquisition for collectors Vishal and his father Stephen Verghese.

“I have been on the lookout for a rare piece of history relating to Indian Independence. I bought this copy online through a friend in West Asia. There are many titles of historic events in newspapers, like ‘Death of JFK’, ‘Man landing on Moon’ and such but I was not interested in those. For us it is Indian Independence that holds meaning,” says Vishal, who scouts online sites to procure antiques and rare artefacts. He is, along with “the original collector”, his father, taking the treasure trove forward with such additions.

“If you compare the delivery of news of this landmark event in world history with other newspapers in India you will clearly see the bias in the report, the sense of superiority and the casual treatment of the event. It says The Dominions of India (Hindustan) and Pakistan came into being at midnight, Delhi time ( 7.30 BST last night) and British rule in the whole of India came to an end after 163 years. An accompanying photo is of the Union Jack being lowered from a tower of the ruined Residency at Lucknow, from which it had never been lowered since the siege of 1857. That’s all. The tilt towards Pakistan is clearly felt as I feel Britain always wanted India to be a failed State. But that did not happen.”

Stephen Verghese

Stephen Verghese   | Photo Credit: H_Vibhu

The story filed by Colin Reid also reports on Hyderabad, Indian army units, the Indian Cabinet, farewell messages of the King, PM Atlee and Lord Mountabatten.

Stephen, a numismatist, philatelist and antiquarian is in the business of old and rare objects and plays an active role in the network of eight to nine clubs in Kerala that deal with vestiges of the old world. A life member of the Numismatic Society of India, Varanasi, and of the Numismatic Society of South India, he travels as delegate of the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct classes and symposiums.

Vishal conjectures that it was the gifting of a silver coin, a temple token, by his great grandfather to his son that kick-started the love for antiques in the family. His grandfather too was a collector and the next generations are carrying this forward, he says with pride.

Their collection has curios, clocks, furniture, gramophones, vintage radios, jars, stamps and coins. Vishal also possesses a thematic collection of antique toy guns, and related stamps and books. They also have a special collection of letters, stamps and artefacts related to Mahatma Gandhi and are planning a big exhibition on his 150th birth anniversary. Another newspaper title of a historic event in the collection is of Gandhiji’s assassination in The Indianapolis News dated January 30, 1948.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:52:38 AM |

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