ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Many Lives and Names of ‘Bhagwan/Bhogwan Singh’

Were Betty Lee, the owner of a Los Angeles apparel store, and Abnashi Ram, a businessman of Indian origin, the missing links between the strange double lives of Ghadar leader Bhagwan Singh Gyanee and Hollywood “turban-wrapper” Bhogwan Singh?

In 1918, Bhagwan Singh, the Ghadar leader, was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for his role in the “Hindu–German” conspiracy: a plot to incite revolution in India with German help. But, Bhagwan Singh had many other lives, other names, which I have detailed in an older article (“Dual Identities, Parallel Lives,” EPW, 25 March 2017). Here, I had offered evidence that Bhagwan Singh, who took on the last name “Gyanee” from the early 1930s onwards, was also Bhogwan Singh, the Hollywood “extra” and “turban-wrapper.”

Bhogwan Singh in a screengrab from the film Last Train from Bombay (1952) 

It wasn’t just a case of similarity of names. The fact that there were two men who lived at the same time (both were born and apparently died within a couple of months of each other), and within miles of each other in Los Angeles from the 1920s to the 1950s appeared unusual and striking. Further, the dates of the working life of one appears to complement the other’s, and they had strikingly similar interests, like Hindu foods and customs, and subjects, like the transmigration of the soul. My deduction and research led to what now seems to be the apparent truth: These men were one and the same.

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Updated On : 4th Jun, 2018
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