Amitabh StoryTime: Born the Revolution, Transformed to the Light That Will Not Die

Amitabh Story Time!!!! There are so many little stories of his life, not even worth an article, more kind of bedtime stories you might tell someone. But I thought it would be nice to share some of my favorites.

Amitabh was born in 1942, to two revolutionaries and scholars. His father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, was a poet and professor of English at Allahabad University (he would go on to be the first Indian man to get a PhD in English from Cambridge). His mother was a Sikh woman, a fellow professor (of Psychiatry) who had met and fallen in love with Harivansh at work. Harivansh himself was born a high caste Hindu with last name “Srivistav” indicating his status. As a poet, he began using the pen name “Bachchan” (child). At some point after his marriage to a Sikh woman (through which he lost caste and became estranged from his family), he switched to using “Bachchan” as his name in all parts of his life.

When Amitabh was born, the freedom movement was everything to his parents. They named him “Inquilab”, in honor of the cry “Inquilab Zindabad” (long live the revolution) which beat in their hearts. His birth name was “Inquilab Bachchan”. It could be translated to “revolutionary child”.

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But a few days after his birth, one of his parents’ close friends, a fellow poet and revolutionary, came to their house saying he had just had a vision about their son. They must change his name, no longer “Revolution”, his name should be “Amitabh”, “The Light That Never Dies”.

Amitabh was born a “child”, a “Bachchan”, a new name that represented poetry and freedom and love and new beginnings. He was born the Revolution, the revolution that would not die. And then he was changed from the Revolution to The Light. Which is what he would become, the Light that took India from it’s revolutionary birth into a new beginning.

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10 thoughts on “Amitabh StoryTime: Born the Revolution, Transformed to the Light That Will Not Die

  1. Thank you! I’ve seen you refer to Bachchan as a chosen name before, but I love seeing the whole story, and of his first name as well. What was his mother’s name?

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  2. I never knew this story about his name! I love that his parent’s friend had an epiphany and insisted on changing the name. You hear this in fiction, not in real life!

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    • Yes! I also love that his name was originally “Inquilab”, which tells you how completely devoted his parents were to the cause. They weren’t one of those post-Independence “oh of course we wanted the British to leave” types, they were heart and soul, name-their-kid-Inquilab, all in on it.

      On Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 8:55 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • His life truly is like a fairy tale, isn’t it? I think sometimes about his father being a poet, it’s as though Amitabh himself is a poem his father wrote, meaningful and metaphorical and beautiful and beyond logic.

      On Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 9:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Random fact, but I think an important one. Amitabh’s father was not the first Indian to get his PhD from Cambridge. The first Indian to get a PhD at Cambridge was a woman: Kamala Sohonie. She got her PhD when Harivansh was still at Allahabad University. Harivansh may be the first Indian to get his PhD at Cambridge in the subject of English Lit.

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    • Yes, that is what I intended to convey when I said he was the first Indian to get his PhD in English Literature at Cambridge. I assume there were many other Indians before him with other degrees, but it’s something special that he had that level of English language skills, and the ability to write poetry in Hindi. A very linguistically talented person.

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  4. I know this wasn’t your intention, but my heart practically stopped when I saw all of these Amitabh-related posts this morning. Luckily I noticed the word “positivity” right away. Anyway, his background is so interesting and I love reading about it.

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    • Oh, I’m sorry! I never think of myself as the first place people would see bad news, I always think of myself as the second place that softens the bad news.

      On Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 5:09 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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