In India’s struggle towards Independence from British Rule, Mahatma Gandhi started the “Swaraj Fund” in the early 1910s. Among the contribution of many Indians for the cause, the Tawaifs of the Indian Subcontinent also supported the movement and one such name was Gauhar Jaan.
The Prima Donna of the Indian Subcontinent; was also called the Nightingale of India. A prominent musician with an amazing repertoire, the first Indian singer to be ever recorded on 78rpm technology in 1902. Gauhar recorded around 600 songs in her eminent career in more than 10 languages from 1902-1920.
Gauhar and Gandhiji had their first interaction at Calcutta in 1920; during Swaraj Movement’s fund-raising. Having heard of her popularity across India, he asked her to help for the cause thinking she could significantly contribute.
She agreed and wrote back that she would be glad to perform at a fund-raising concert to support the movement upon one condition and it was that Gandhiji must attend the concert and meet her in person. Gandhi Ji was amused by her pre-conditions to help the Swaraj fund.
But, to her surprise, Gandhiji didn’t attend the concert and she performed the whole concert looking for Gandhiji in the audience. Gandhiji couldn’t attend the concert as some political development had taken place and sent Maulana Shaukat Ali as his representative. The concert was completely sold out with a sum of 24,000 Rupees.
Maulana Shaukat Ali met Gauhar Jaan after the concert to collect the donation amount and was shocked to receive only 12,000 rupees. She replied smiling,
Maulana couldn’t say anything and went back with the money.
Gauhar was a flamboyant personality who was ready to take on even a person like Gandhiji.
Reference- “My name is Gauhar Jaan” by Vikram Sampath