'Rhymes for Ranga'
Published by Random House, India
Freda Bedi was a Derbyshire woman who at Oxford married B.P.L. Bedi, and later moved with him to Lahore. She was an Indian nationalist - and was jailed by the British - and a communist, and later a prominent Tibetan Buddhist. She was active in Kashmiri politics, and is still remembered warmly in Srinagar. And, we now discover, she wrote rhymes for children.
More particularly, Freda wrote poems for her elder son, Ranga, who is now in his late seventies. These are charming, whimsical verses - sometimes mystical, or about animanlsm, sometimes with a feel for the Punjabi countryside and a sense of the momentous events then emboiling india.
These rhymes have now been published by Random House India, graced by charming illustrations by Anna Bhushan. The cover - designed to accompany a rhyme entitled 'The Kite Song' - gives a sense of her style.
Freda and Baba Bedi
Freda's life merits a full biography. She was a striking figure - noted for her beauty and her courage. Margaret Bourke-White met her in Kashmir in 1947-8, and heard from her stories about Kashmiris' struggle against their maharajah. She later worked with Tibetan refugees in Kashmir, and that was what led to her conversion to Buddhism and then her role as a senior woman religious within Tibetan Buddhism.
She wrote a couple of books about India in the 1940s, in essence compilations of her journalism. These are now very difficult to come by.
Rhymes for Ranga has great charm. It works as a book of nursery rhymes, but the occasional insight into Freda's politics - and the evident warmth of her relationship with her son - are what stand out for me. The rhyme below is about Gandhi, and Anna Bhushan's illustration represents Freda and Ranga on the streets of Lahore.
Will read this when I get home x
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