'Monday Morning’ was one of the liveliest political weeklies that Lahore has ever seen. It was sparky, irreverent and decidedly left-wing. B.P.L. Bedi set it up – a Sikh educated at Government College and then at Oxford who had earlier found and published an impressive quarterly review, Contemporary India. He was helped by his wife, Freda, an English woman who had been a fellow student at Oxford. Others involved included the young Balraj Sahni, later to blossom into a brilliant actor.

Bedi seized on a gap in the market. At that time, in the late 1930s, the main daily papers didn’t work on Sunday and so didn’t publish a Monday edition. So on a Monday morning, ‘Monday Morning’ didn’t have much competition on the news-stands.

‘This magazine has a very profound effect because it was very militant’, B.P.L. Bedi recalled. ‘It was totally anti-fascist in character.’ This was a turbulent time with the Second World War looming and nationalists in British-ruled India stepping up their campaign for independence.

‘Some English friends at the time called it laughingly a rag – I suppose it was a bit of a rag’, Freda Bedi confided in a letter to a friend. ‘But it was a very outspoken, interesting weekly paper which came out on Monday morning and successfully deprived us of every bit of rest that we might have had on Saturday and Sunday as a result.’

According to B.P.L. Bedi, ‘Monday Morning’ quickly gained a circulation of 40,000. Advertising started to come in. And fearing this upstart competitor, the established daily papers but pressure on newsagents not to stock their weekly rival.

The paper started in 1937 or thereabouts. Two years later, Freda Bedi wrote to an Oxford contemporary to say that ‘Monday Morning’ had folded. ‘After terrific hard work, sometimes from eight in the morning to eight in the evening with scarcely a day’s break, it had to stop. Journalism in India is a tragic struggle against advertisers and newsagents who sit on bills and never pay up and it’s practically impossible to carry on without strong financial backing which, as all over the world, a “left” newspaper can rarely get!’

What did ‘Monday Morning’ look like – what range of stories did it cover – how did it achieve success against the odds, at least for a while? Difficult questions to answer, because ‘Monday Morning’ seems to have disappeared completely. One purpose of this article is seek the help of readers of this paper in locating any surviving copies of the weekly.

As for the Bedis, they were one of the most remarkable and convivial couples among the progressive writers, publishers and activists who congregated in Lahore in the 1930s and 40s. B.P.L. went to Oxford following in his brother’s footsteps, with the intention of entering the elite Indian Civil Service. But in England, he became increasingly attracted to Indian nationalism and to communism.

He also was attracted to a young woman from Derby in the English Midland, Freda Houlston, who attended some of the same lectures and also came along to the often stormy meetings of the Majlis, the Indian students’ society where competing strategies to evict the colonial power were advanced and argued.

In June 1933, B.P.L. and Freda married at Oxford registry office, a union of ‘two students in love’ – Freda wrote – ‘refusing to recognise the barriers of race and colour’. The college wasn’t keen on the romance, neither initially was Freda’s family, but she was buoyed by the support of her college friends. ‘In the eyes of the world, a wild marriage without financial foundations, without social foundations, or orthodox religious foundations. In our eyes, the only marriage we could bear to think about, a marriage based on everything that was good in us.’

It was a full year after her marriage before Freda set foot on Indian soil, but she decided from the moment of her wedding that she had a life-long commitment to India and from then on wore only Punjabi-style clothes. By the time the couple arrived in Lahore after several months studying in Berlin, they had a baby, Ranga.

In Lahore, B.P.L. turned his back on the Indian establishment, and was a rebel in other ways too. The Bedis’ made their home in a cluster of huts constructed in traditional style on spare land just beyond Model Town. The poet Hafeez Jalandheri was a close friend and among the regular visitors at the huts.

‘It was a picturesque sight’, Som Anand reminisced. ‘Half a dozen thatched huts built on a large tract of land with trees all around gave the place a somewhat romantic look. This austere style of life in a neighbourhood of palatial bungalows seemed a little exotic. It naturally aroused the curiosity of all the upper middle class people who passed that way.’

Freda taught English as Fateh Chand College, wrote for the ‘Tribune’ and was involved in a short-lived Lahore magazine called ‘Modern Girl’, another paper which seems to have been lost to history. B.P.L. pursued publishing interests and became increasing involved in the kissan movement. Both were activists and orators. After the collapse of ‘Monday Morning’, and with war enveloping the world, both spent time in jail. B.P.L. was detained in the Deoli camp by the British because he was a prominent communist; Freda chose to be a satyagraha and courted arrest for opposing the war effort, and spent three months in Lahore women’s jail.

At Partition, the Bedis reluctantly moved from Lahore to Srinagar, where they worked closely with the Kashmiri nationalist, Sheikh Abdullah. By then, they had another child. Kabir Bedi – later to be such a commanding star of film and TV – was born in Lahore in January 1946.

Freda Bedi eventually became involved in helping Tibetan refugees, embraced Buddhism and was ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She died in 1977. B.P.L. also took a spiritual path in later life. He settled in Italy where he died in 1993.

For both, as they looked back fondly on their Lahore days, ‘Monday Morning’ loomed large in their memories. Perhaps somewhere in an archive or uncatalogued library shelf, in an attic or at the back of a bookcase, some copies of this weekly still survive. Let’s hope so!

Andrew Whitehead is writing a biography of Freda Bedi. He would love to hear from anyone with memories of the Bedis or copies of ‘Monday Morning’ or ‘Modern Girl’. His email is <awkashmir@gmail.com>