Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Tahilram Motumal Kanar - One of our Unsung Heros




In our effort to highlight the achievements of Bhagnaris, we have mainly concentrated on our youngsters. In this article, on the occasion of India’s 64th Independence Day, we bring to you the achievements of one of our unsung heroes, who was a selfless freedom fighter and a talented artist.

Tahilram Motumal Kanar, popularly known as “Taala”, was born in a family of literates. From the childhood he was instrumental in organising freedom rallies. During the Quit India movement he fought for India’s freedom, along with people like Ravjibhai Ganatra, who went on to become mayor of Mumbai. When Mahatma Gandhi visited Karachi for the Quit India movement, Tahilram acted as one of the main volunteers.

He used to organise Prabhat Pheris (early morning processions), where they sang songs for freedom. He wrote several Sindhi, Bhagnari and Hindi songs, of which the following nationalist songs become very popular:

- Aayo aayo re Quomi fakeer, kuch naale watan je diyo
- Tahil akhenda Tahil karo, Waqt Tahil da aaya hey
- Gandhi ek langoti wala, jiske jande ke rang teen
- Jai Jai Bharat Mata (this was a very popular song and was sung in schools and cultural programs all over India)

He spent 7 years in jail at various times and suffered injuries in lathi charges. He was well supported by his wife Putli and his brother Issardas Kanar (Master), inspite of the financial difficulties faced by them. After India became independent he received offers from Congress Party for various posts, but he refused them stating that his job was done. Many of his juniors grabbed the opportunity and achieved high positions and material rewards.

He was a talented story and play writer in Bhagnari and Hindi languages. One of his plays was staged in Bhagnari Para in Karachi. Thakurdas Kamra, Ramesh U Mehta and many other Bhagnari artists acted in his plays. His songs like “Halo Halo Ri Sakhi Hardwar Haloon..Ganga Jamuna je Paar Haloon” and “Hey Koi Laal Mai Da Makhna, Mekoon Deve Dilasa Sakhna”, were a big hit. He wrote several scripts for movies, most of which were plagiarized by film producers without giving him due credit.

He also acted in films with one of his dearest friends, Moolchand Dewan. Their pairing was called Taala and Moola. They were the first Bhagnaris who acted in movies.

Being a fighter all his life, God repaid for his deeds by curing his dreaded throat decease and he passed away peacefully.

Tahilram’s grand-son Bharat has an interesting account to share. “I still remember how on 15th August, I was lazing in bed, instead of participating in the school’s flag hosting ceremony, as most school kids found it a drag to attend the same. Baba came over to me, a certain pain in his eyes, and explained as to how much torture and trouble he and his peers had to undertake to witness this glorious flag to be hoisted. Henceforth, I was one of the regular participants in the flag hoisting ceremony.

It will be interesting to know that his service to the nation was also acknowledged by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, when he received a letter which appreciated his efforts in India’s freedom struggle. It was indeed a very proud moment! He will always remain in my fondest memories.”

Vishnu Kataria who lives in the UK had the good fortune of interacting with him at a young age. He has kindly forwarded the following write-up about his impressions:


Tahilram has remained an unsung hero. Bhagnaris have worshipped wealth and power all these years but neglected talents of our heroes in other directions. To me he was almost like a father who guided me through the early years of my life. I met him one morning in Jodi Bazaar in Karachi where he was running a clothes stall, close to the perfume shops. Tall, with a face like a Roman soldier, but with a heart of gold, he spoke with the power of Prithviraj. “Son”, he said, “would you help me with the Bulletin.”

Bhagnaris of my age would perhaps remember that Bulletin was the main instrument of freedom movement, a brain child of Tahilram, a short magazine printed under the cellar of his house which also served as a candle factory, the main source of his livelihood. I was promoted as a candle maker and later as the sales person.

Tahilram's brother, as you will perhaps all know, was Master Issardas, who was then a surveyor with the municipal corporation. The family lived on the same floor with their mother. I was twelve and the Quit India movement had taken hold of India. Tahilram was the leader of the Bhagnari movement. There were four to five boys including myself who helped in the printing and distribution of the Bulletin door to door, an offence punishable by the British with a prison sentence of six to twelve months.

Tahilram, the bread-winner of the family, would ignore his dear wife Putli and thrust himself fully into the movement that had gripped us all – young and old. I clearly remember that he had, on one occasion, led a large procession to Boulton Market Police Station and laid a peaceful siege of the police station without any violence. The station was surrounded by Bhagnari and Sindhi neighbours. We kids stayed at the back of the procession. Tahilram, being the leader of the group, was taken into custody and I was pushed back by the Police as being too young to be taken into custody.

This was the political side of our dear friend, guide and philosopher Tahilram. Let us not forget that he was an artist as well. He was a great actor and director.

I will always remember his famous words: As we march ahead, we go backwards. These highly philosophical words sting in my ears as I see that the people around me in England and Mumbai are going backwards, while technologically we are supposed to be marching forward.

I had met him in Mumbai when I had started teaching in K.C. College. He was a changed man, his eyes showed intense pain and suffering, his dreams vanished, our community gradually split and darkened by economic struggle. He was, if I remember well, a disillusioned man but then he had one asset: his family, a dedicated wife and two loving children, of whom he was intensely proud of.”

14 comments:

  1. this article was very enlightening and ispiring.the bhagnari community salutes mr kanar for his sacrifices during the freedom movement of india. mohini gehani USA

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  2. A great human being...Shri Tahilram's achievements make us feel proud to be a Bhagnari...more so because he was a close relative.

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  3. Suresh D. Gehi, CPA Sugar Land, TX14 August 2010 at 01:26

    Another illustrious Bhagnari I did not know about until today. Mr. Kanar was a selfless freedom fighter and his efforts have enabled us to live without any shackles. He was truly a Master of Humanity.

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  4. Great to hear stories like this one very inspiring for the sacrifices that he made and the achievements he achieved for others.We salute you Mr.Tahilram Kanar a.k.a Taala Our thanks to Mr.Ramesh Poplay for sharing this and proud to be a Bhagnari...Umesh Batra,Los Angeles,Ca,USA.

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  5. since my birth as a bhagnari i have hitherto
    never been introduced to such a profile. ramesh
    popley deserves kudos for highlighting such
    achievements on indias independance day. besides
    our reverance to the national flag, i am happy
    to pay my respects to a personality i.e. mr.
    tahilram kanar - who until now had his feather
    missing amongst pride of bhagnaris.
    Rajan t mehta

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  6. Thanks Ramesh for this heart touching article.
    It is a honour to be a part of this family.
    Sunil Gehani

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  7. Thank you dear Ramesh Uncle for this enlightning article on our grand father(Baba).
    He will always remain in our fond memories...Bharat and Sakshi Kanar

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  8. YES A BIG THANK YOU FOR RAMESH POPLEY FOR HIGHLIGHTING THIS TOUCHING NEWS . WELL HE WAS MY CHACHA I NEVER NEW ABOUT THIS STORY. EVEN MY FATHER MR. TIRATHDAS MOTUMAL KANAR NEVER TALKED TO ME ABOUT IT. I DONT KNOW EVEN MY BROTHERS KNOW ABOUT THIS AND UPON HEARING THIS I AM VERY SAD AS TO WHY NOBODY IN OUR FAMILY TALKED TO US ABOUT THIS GREAT PERSONALITY
    DEEPAK KANAR

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  9. A well-deserved tribute to an unforgotten soul of Shri Tahilram M. Kanar for his contributions and sacrifices. He was my father Shri Arjun Kanar's uncle (chacha). My Dad remembers how his Dada Dadi (Shri Tahilram's parents) used to be extremely worried and feel harrassed about his uncle. His mother used to keep asking her people "Has he been caught?" She used to have tears in her eyes because she knew once in prison the British would not leave any Indian untouched. My Dad was very young but remembers quite a few instances. There were many others both in the family and community who were fully charged with the movement at that time and willingly contributed. On behalf of the Kanar family, grateful thanks to you for taking the initiative and refreshing those memories on the occassion of Independence Day. Madhu Kanar

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  10. Thank you Dad and dear Vishnu Uncle for your insights which I was unaware of too.

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  11. ANJANA & LACHMAN GEHI16 August 2010 at 13:10

    THANKS NIRANJAN FOR A FEW THINGS WE HAD NOT REALISED THOUGH WE WERE ALWAYS GUIDED BY DEAR BABA FOR ALL OUR PROBLEMS A GREAT SOUL AND A GREATER HUMAN BEING ONCE MORE THANKS NIRANJAN

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  12. A great story; much of what has been written would have been a revelation to many in the Kanar clan, let alone other Bhagnaris. I now understand why people used to keep referring to my Buwa, Putli, as "Taale dhi zaal". I used to see this elder, in the old Karachi-style kurta-pyjama, very intense, and I wondered at his intensity. I understand now.

    One request from the family, friends, and seniors of Bhagnari community: If you have the script of the songs that Shri Tahilram wrote, please post them here, it will be nice to read/hear them.

    Ashok Lulla

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  13. Ramesh,am really proud to be a BHAGNARI,and proud of our heroes who were really unsung,but you have brought them to Limelight.3 cheers for Kanar family and WE BHAGNARIS.

    BEENA S MEHTA

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  14. Ramesh kudos to you.for given us this information and enlightening us on the part taken by our dear bhagnaris, in the freedom movement, especially Mr T. Kanar. My respects to him and his family. It is indeed a very proud moment for ignorant people like us, who did not know anything much about our ancestors. to know of his brave action. Please keep up the good work.

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