Tough to say goodbye

Tough to say goodbye

Multi-tasking is a word used for women these days, but the only way to describe the late Snehalatha Bhoopal is by saying that here was a lady who had all her fingers in various pies and was keen on doing various things in life, till on 19th October, 2016 she left us permanently.

Multi-tasking is a word used for women these days, but the only way to describe the late Snehalatha Bhoopal is by saying that here was a lady who had all her fingers in various pies and was keen on doing various things in life, till on 19th October, 2016 she left us permanently.

She was friendly, outgoing, approachable and she was a name to contend with. Though well known for her various activities, Sne, as she liked to be called, was much more than what defined her and more than what she could do. Anuradha Reddy, daughter and well-known resident historian of Hyderabad’s, voice goes dulcet and soft when she speaks of her `Amma'.

"She was perpetually busy and we used to travel a lot," says Anuradha. Anuradha’s father C Sreeram Bhoopal was from the Hyderabad Civil Services, 1948 and this took him to the far corners of Hyderabad state and so the family would travel with him.

"My mother would get active immediately and learn about the place," says Anuradha. These travels have permanently left an impression on Anuradha and it is not surprising that she is a historian. Sne might not have been one, but she lived it. By marriage, Sne was also the daughter in law of the Sirnepally Samasthanam, which means a worshipful audience always, since memories leave a deep impact.

Chilam Jankibai, who reigned over the Sirnepally samasthanam, left an indelible memory in the minds of all those she touched with her services towards the people of her samasthanam. Sne was the daughter in law of this family.

Born on January 27, 1928, Sne was born to a landed family. Her father B Ranga Reddy (the first Hindu officer in Hyderabad Civil Services), belonged to an agricultural family with land holdings in Bholakpur (below Tank Bund).

According to Anuradha, he used to own half of Bholakpur. He was also from the Hyderabad Civil Services and the combination of money and education gave an elitism to Sne and her sisters. In fact, they were studying at the Keyes High School, when her mother Vasudevamma shifted the girls to St Ann’s, a convent. And this is where Sne got hooked on to badminton in particular and sports in general.

"There was an old racquet and two featherless shuttlecocks and somehow she got attached to this game," says Anuradha. Not only did she play well, she went on to represent the state and later helped build the sports section of the Fateh Maidan Club.

Sne made friends easily and she was one of the earliest woman players of Hyderabad and the founder secretary of AP State Badminton Association between 1956-57. Though she was attracted to the game earlier on, she started playing the game only after coming to her husband's house and when she was in her 30s.

Sne learnt from Henry Ferreira at the Rajkumari Amrit Kaur Badminton Coaching Scheme, Bombay, and was definitely inspired by Nandu Natekar. She played for the state and was very proud that she had seen players like Finn Kobero, Erland Kopps and Eddie Chong in action. In fact she kept in touch with Saina Nehwal and followed her game till her own end, extremely proud that today girls enjoy greater freedom and family support.

Sne, earlier used to play wearing a sari, then shifted to salwar kameez and finally to divider shorts. Hyderabad, then had one hall at Mettuguda and one at the Exhibition Grounds, which had a thatched roof. The Zoroastrian Club did have an indoor stadium but was open only to the Parsis’ and Sne took it upon herself to build one.

She started by approaching the chief minister of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh Sanjeeva Reddy, who simply put her off by saying "why do you need a badminton court. It is a game for pregnant women." From there she went to Bombay and met with Morarji Desai, president of Sports Council in Mumbai who knew her father. Desai in turn asked her for a plan, whether they had land, and money.

Faizuddin, who was the land planner for the Hyderabad state, suggested that they should think and build a stadium for sports in general. Sne took this design to Desai, who gave her a cheque for Rs. one lakh and asked her to return to Hyderabad. Sne was not to lie low and soon with the help of the State Bank of India and Faizuddin the indoor stadium was built on what was earlier an empty maidan. She was also part of the team which then constructed Ravindra Bharati.

Sne also got involved in agricultural work when she started looking after their own ancestral lands. Meanwhile, the family bought some English cows and since she did not know anything about dairy farming she rushed off to Amul Dairy to learn. "She familiarised herself with all the ropes and Kamadhenu Diary was born! All of us enjoyed the prompt, regular and clean supply of unadulterated milk from the Kamadhenu Cattle Breeding and Dairy Farm, Kishtapuram, Medchal, until she decided to shut it down, when her energy levels were not quite what they were earlier," says Saroja fondly.

It was Sne who introduced Kamala Laxman to Hyderabad at a wedding. Sne also worked with Rukmini Devi Arundale, Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay and many others. She was instrumental in introducing the Jhaveri sisters to Hyderabad and that is how the famous critic Sunil Kothari came to Hyderabad for the first time. Lalita, Ragini, Padmini would come and stay with Sne.

The Chinese incursion into India upset her enormously, and promptly she set out to organise a massive Film Star Festival of three hours at the largest stadium in Hyderabad, getting Air India to fly down her artistes and singers as their contribution. The entire proceeds donated to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. In all these programmes, we had the privilege to watch and walk behind her," says Saroja.

Streemela, was conceived in November of 1987 and was about women on the move. "Streemela held at the exhibition grounds Hyderabad was the first ever experiment of its kind. It helped women to generate income, to understand their strengths and weakness and to seek their rightful place in society”. "So Sne lives on in our memories as someone whose friendship and guidance motivated and helped us in many ways during our growing years, says Saroja, in an apt goodbye.

By Lalita Iyer

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