India’s first woman photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla, breathed her last on 15 January 2012 in a private hospital in Vadodara, Gujarat. At 98, Vyarawalla slipped and collapsed in her home and fractured her left thighbone. The leg injury aggravated respiratory complications that she had developed due to old age, and lead to her sad demise.
Vyarawalla started her career in 1930s, moved to Mumbai and Delhi and chronicled India’s changing face and times. She photographed many political and national leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi with some of her black and white images went on to become icons of India’s history.
She did a diploma in Arts from JJ School of Arts, Mumbai, and learnt photography from Maneckshaw Vyarawalla whom she married in 1941. After the death of her husband in 1969, she moved to Vadodara in 1973 and retired from photography sorrowful about the “bad behaviour” of the new generation of photographers.
Vyarawalla was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the Republic of India, in 2011. To lose such a dignitary is a loss for the entire nation. With her talent and passion for photography and the indelible work that she has left behind, Vyarawalla is a figure etched in Indian history.