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1857: A family story

May 8, 2007
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Meerut

The gothic structures of the Cantonment area and the St John Cemetery -- where many Britons are buried -- are Meerut's only throwbacks to India's First War of Independence.

They are the Uttar Pradesh town's only reminders of an era 150 years ago when Indians took up arms to defy their Gora Sahibs. A mutiny that sparked off in India's dusty heartland and spread like a fire across the country, igniting hearts and minds.

Jean Quieros Thomas, 70, is perhaps the woman of British origin left in Meerut who can tell you stories about 1857. Her grandfather Alfred Quieros was in school in Lucknow when the revolt erupted in Meerut.

"Many of my grandfather's relatives died in the mutiny that broke in Lucknow," says Jean, who married Major General Thomas of the Indian Army (now retired) in 1957 and stayed back for love when the rest of her family moved back to England 10 years after India's Independence.

The elderly couple have made Meerut their home for the last 20 years. Their three children too live in town.

"I have heard from my father and my other family members that it was hell to be white in India during 1857," says Jean Thomas, who is still an active teacher and social worker whose work makes her travel often.

Image: Jean Quieros Thomas, right, and Major General Thomas

Photograph: Courtesy Major General Thomas' family

Also see: 'The bitterest result of 1857'
Marching on history's path to the Red Fort

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