FIFA Parsis : Madame Bhikhaji Cama
Born :
September 24, 1861
Died :
August 13, 1936
Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama was born Bhikai Sorab Patel on 24 September 1861 in Bombay (now Mumbai) into a large, well-off Parsi family. Her parents, Sorabji Framji Patel and Jaijibai Sorabji Patel, were well-known in the city, where her father Sorabji – a lawyer by training and a merchant by profession – was an influential member of the Parsi community.

Like many Parsi girls of the time, Bhikhaiji attended Alexandra Native Girl's English Institution. Bhikhaiji was by all accounts a diligent, disciplined child with a flair for languages.

On 3 August 1885, she married Rustom Cama, a wealthy, pro-British lawyer with a desire to enter politics. It was not a happy marriage, and Bhikhaiji spent most of her time and energy in philanthropic activities and social work.

In October 1896, the Bombay Presidency was first hit by famine, and shortly thereafter by bubonic plague. Bhikhaiji joined one of the many teams working out of Grant Medical College (which would subsequently become Haffkine's plague vaccine research center), in an effort to provide care for the afflicted, and (later) to inoculate the healthy. Cama subsequently contracted the plague herself, but survived. Severely weakened, she was sent to Britain for medical care in 1901.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, France and Britain became allies, and all the members of Paris India Society except Cama and Singh Rewabhai Rana left the country (Cama had been advised by fellow-socialist Jean Longuet to go to Spain with Acharya, but she had preferred to stay). Cama and Rana were briefly arrested in October 1914 when they tried to agitate among Punjab Regiment troops that had just arrived in Marseilles on their way to the front. They were required to leave Marseilles, and Cama then moved to Rana's wife's house in Arcachon, near Bordeaux. In January 1915, the French government deported Rana and his whole family to the Caribbean island of Martinique, and Cama was sent to Vichy, where she was interned. In bad health, she was released in November 1917 and permitted to return to Bordeaux provided that she report weekly to the local police. Following the war, Cama returned to her home at 25, Rue de Ponthieu in Paris.

Cama remained in exile in Europe until 1935, when, gravely ill and paralysed by a stroke that she had suffered earlier that year, she petitioned the British government through Sir Cowasji Jehangir to be allowed to return home. Writing from Paris on 24 June 1935, she acceded to the requirement that she renounce sedetionist activities. Accompanied by Jehangir, she arrived in Bombay in November 1935 and died nine months later, aged 74, at Parsi General Hospital on 13 August 1936.
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