Google remembers India's 1st woman photojournalist

Mumbai, Dec 9 (IANS) Google on Saturday dedicated a special doodle acknowledging Homai Vyarawalla -- India's first woman photojournalist -- on her 104th birth anniversary.

Vyarawalla, regarded as India's "first lady of the lens", is known for her electric images of India's independence movement and candid shots of the likes of the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The black-and-white doodle, designed by Mumbai artist Sameer Kulavoor, depicts a smiling, young Vyarawalla happily clicking away with an "ancient" camera with its leather cover flap danging.

The crowded but scenic backdrop comprises many of her photo subjects and themes shown in a dual-tone sepia-tint, reminiscent of the glorious days before colour photography was introduced to the world.

Homai Hathiram was born on this day in 1913, to a semi-literate Parsi couple Dossabhai and Soonabai Hathiram, in Navsari area (now a bustling South Gujarat town) of the erstwhile Bombay Province.

Keen to give her the best of education, the Hathiram couple moved to Bombay (now, Mumbai) and admitted her to a local school where there were barely half a dozen girls, and Vyarawalla was the only girl among 36 students to complete her matriculation.

Fighting all social prejudices and family pressures, she did not give up and joined the St. Xaviers College before graduating in Economics with honours from the University of Bombay.

Though most of her childhood was spent like a nomad, moving from place to place with her father's travelling theatre company, she subsequently enrolled for a course at the prestigious Sir J.J. School of Arts and launched her photographic career in the mid-1930s.

Those were exciting days when the Indian freedom struggle was peaking. There were ominous signs of the Second World War and its onset gave her a break to work on assignments for the now-defunct magazine, The Illustrated Weekly Of India.

Meanwhile, she had married Manekshaw J. Vyarawalla, an accountant-cum-lensman with The Times Of India group in Bombay, and Homai Vyarawalla's initial pictures were published in his name since a woman photographer was an undiscovered species on the country's media horizon!

Her talent and hard work paid off, media houses and celebrities started taking note of her stunning black-and-white images at the national level, especially after she moved to Delhi in 1942 and joined the British Information Services (BIS).