Of Dhyan Chand's wizardry and Hitler!

Dhyan Chand
The gold medal-winning Indian hockey team of the 1936 Berlin Olympics practiced on the deck of the ship during their 15-day-long voyage, losing hundreds of hockey balls in the sea.

This and several interesting incidents find mention in Mumbai-based author Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul's "In the Shadow of Freedom", published by Zubaan.

In this account, Laxmi traces the turbulent time lives of her parents Ayi Tendulkar and Indumati Gunaji and her German stepmother Thea von Harbou, using a wealth of documents, letters, newspaper articles and photographs to piece together the inter-meshed histories of two women, the man they loved and their own growing friendship, and two countries battling with violence and non-violence, fascism and colonialism.

In the August of 1936, Berlin was the venue of the Olympics. The Indian hockey team led by the wizard Dhyan Chand was invited to a reception by Tendulkar and Thea.

During the reception, team member Joseph Phillips told his hosts that during the long bumpy sea journey that took almost 15 days on the ocean liner Aitheneaver, the enthusiastic team constantly practiced on the deck, losing hundreds of hockey balls in the sea.

The book mentions India's superlative performance in the matches as the team registered a 4-0 win against Hungary, 7-0 versus the US and 9-0 against Japan. In the semi-finals, the team blanked France 10-0.

In the final, Germany was pitted to be the favourites and Dhyan Chand was not on the starting line-up as he was running high fever. But Dhyan Chand decided to play and because of the wet ground, he took to the field without his spiked shoes. The Germans were outclassed and India won 8-1 with the unwell and barefooted Dhyan Chand alone scoring six goals.

Legend goes that Hitler was very much impressed by Dhyan Chand's performance and suggested that if he decided to stay in Germany, he would be given the rank of a colonel.

In the early 1930s Ayi Tendulkar, a young journalist from a small town in Maharashtra, travelled to Germany to study. Soon, he married Eva Schubring, his professor's daughter but the marriage was short-lived. Tendulkar earned fame in Berlin as a journalist and married filmmaker Thea von Harbou, divorced wife of Fritz Land.

Many years his senior, Thea became Tendulkar's support and mainstay in Germany, encouraging and supporting him in bringing other young Indian students to the country. Hitler's coming to power put an end to all that, and on Thea's advice, Tendulkar returned to India, where he became involved in Gandhi's non-cooperation movement, and where with Thea's consent he soon married Indumati Gunaji, a Gandhian activist.

In this unique account, Indumati and Tendulkar's daughter, Laxmi traces the turbulent time lives of her parents and Thea, against the backdrop of Nazi Germany and Gandhi's India, using a wealth of documents, letters, newspaper articles and photographs to piece together the inter meshed histories of two women, the man they loved, their own growing friendship, and two countries battling with violence and non-violence, fascism and colonialism.

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