Google Doodle Remembers Birthday of India’s First Female Photo Journalist Homai Vyarawalla
Dignified, self-made, steady as a rock, taking the rough with the smooth with equal ease. Born in Navsari, Gujarat in 1913, Vyarawalla learned photography from her boyfriend Maneckshaw Vyarawalla. Her training at the Sir J. J School of the Arts, Mumbai influenced her pictorial sense as did the modernist photographs she got to see in second hand issues of LIFE magazine. Her early portraits of everyday urban life and modern young women in Mumbai show these influences, but since Vyarawalla was unknown and a woman, these were initially published in the Illustrated Weekly and Bombay Chronicle under Maneckshaw’s name. Brave, independent and unconventional, Homai Vyarawalla is known to be India’s first female photo journalist.
She captured some of the most memorable and incredible moments of Indian history – from the first flag hoisting ceremony at the Red Fort on 16th August 1947 to the cremation of world renowned dignitaries like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. TBI remembers this amazing lady and her extraordinary contribution to Indian media.
At a time when India was still under the British Rule; when very few Indian women were privileged enough to receive education, let alone employment; a time when India’s struggle for freedom was at its peak and the entire nation was experiencing a political turmoil, Homai Vyarawalla, a young and enthusiastic girl from a poor Parsi family, began her career as a photojournalist. Little had she imagined that her years of hard work would someday become the chronicles of Indian history! In 1942 Vyarawalla moved to Delhi to join the British Information Services.
There she photographed a significant meeting when Congress members voted for the partition of India. Vyarawalla also documented the rituals of Independence, the building of dams and steel plants and the state visits of the most famous names in 20th-century history, including Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ho Chi Minh, Marshall Tito and Russian leaders Brezhnev and Khruschev. In 1982, her son shifted to Vadodara and Homai shifted with him.
Tragically, within a few years, her son was diagnosed with cancer and he passed away in 1989. Homai then bought her present house where she has been living ever since. “I have one or two friends in this neighbourhood and I know a few persons in the Parsi community here. My life is very isolated, but I like it this way. I am quite used to doing my work myself and I am not dependent on any one and do not want to be a burden on anybody.