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The elders of J E Farm

Our History & Ancestry

I would like to introduce ourselves – the Broome family of JE Farm to our friends, supporters and readers. This blog includes some interesting snippets about our background and our recent family history and in the process I introduce JE Farm as it stands today. This blog for me is also a way to pay tribute and express gratitude to our elders whose contributions in kind, spirit and as blessings continue to create good energies on the farm.

Back in February 1979 my father Brig Shivaji Wasudeo Shahane VrC, (retd), a WWII Indian army veteran, and my husband Ashok Gour Broome, an ex tea planter began hunting for farm land as close to Pune as possible. On one of their rounds with the land agent, they located this land, then known to locals as Amrai (‘mango orchard’ in Marathi) for its large number of old ‘gavran’ (local or desi as they say) mango trees. As a thirty acre plot, it was exactly what Ashok required for the dairy farm he had in mind. They bought it! No electricity, no entry road, little water, only old and rather sad looking mango trees, jowar fields, and most of the top soil sold off years before. But it was just 25 km from Pune GPO, ideal for us!

Ashok had studied agriculture and dairy in England and was ready for the task ahead, with a small contribution and support from his father Justice William Broome, who was one of the last British judges in India, well known for his upright and just orders. In fact, he had ruled against Mrs. Indira Gandhi on a corruption charge, although she was already a powerful Prime Minister and her father Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru had been a dear friend of Mr. Broome. In 1958, Nehru wrote of Broome “I have seldom known any Englishman who has so Indianized himself in various ways as he has”, and that “he is as much an Indian as anybody can be who is not born in India and indeed probably more so than many people born in India”.

On the farming front within the year after buying the land, Ashok realized dairy as he knew it wouldn’t do and traditional farming was the best way forward, but large dollops of radical thinking would need implementing. That was the era of organic farming as our ancestors knew it, but thanks to introduction of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, things had already shifted. Ashok decided to return to the old farming methods: organic, healthier and less maintenance. That side of the story I will write about later. Look out for further blog posts under “Early Farming years” if you wish to know more.

Coming back to our ancestors, the story of our family is also a story of as strong and progressive women as their male counterparts. My Dutch mother Zionne (Onnie) Kroes was a nurse in Amsterdam, Holland during WWII and worked in the Resistance against the Nazis. She was awarded a Laurel Leaf by King George (III? IV?) of Britain for her care of wounded Allied officers and soldiers, and for helping many escape to Britain from the Dutch hospital where she worked during the war. She married my father a day after India got its Independence, and lived the rest of her life in India, adopting Indian culture, dress, foods, and customs to the best of her ability. She proved to be a toughie, brought up her four daughters almost single handedly for the first 14 years of their married life as my father was often on border postings, being in the Artillery. When she did get a chance to travel with him she took to each new posting easily. Finally my parents settled down in Pune. We daughters were brought up to be proud of our country, tough, self reliant, creative and innovative and I’m proud to say we have tried to pass this legacy on to our children too.

Ashok’s mother Swaroop Kumari Gour, ( among the first Indian women to study Law at the Temple, London. William and she married in 1939. They had three daughters and a son - Ashok . Ashok’s grandmother was Kamala Gour, who was also among the first Indian women to study medicine, but never practiced after she married Sir Hari Singh Gour- Ashok’s grandfather. Dr.HariSingh Gourwas a proponent of women’s education and donated generously to start the first Hindi University in Sagar, MP. He studied and wrote about Buddhist philosophy. He was also part of the Constituent

Committee that drafted the Constitution of India. He also drafted the first Hindu Marriage Act for Women, giving them more equal status.

Looking back today, I see that our family story is also a story of India with its diversity of backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures coming together as a cohesive whole. Not surprising that our children have also married people from different cultural and religious backgrounds. We are die-hard Indians, deeply proud of our Indian heritage, our strong thoroughly mixed ancestry and our ancestral achievements! This cultural diversity is what we leave behind for our children and grandchildren and we are sure they will be proud of it and uphold it.

How and when was JE Farm launched?….Do join me in my next post to find out more!

Leela Gour Broome.

JE Farm, Pune. Sept 25th 2021.


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