1879: Personalities: Pradnya Sharma

In a month or so, this will be transformed into a Personalities dossier, complete with Connections, Adventure Hooks, and Mage spell Goodies compliant with the Jain dharma.


After Pradnya’s last child married and moved out on his own with his new wife, she started looking for something else to do with her time. Oh, of course her eldest, Gatha Mainasundari, lived just two streets away, and brought her daughter around almost every day, but Gatha wasn’t even pregnant with her second yet and Kalika was just a toddler. Hemchandra wasn’t ever going to bring grandchildren round, having joined a hijra commune, and spending her time with a religious theatre troupe doing plays about Hanuman and Sri Ganesh and Sita. And it was going to be a year (maybe less, Lord Ram willing) before Samyak had a baby to bring around, and the house just seemed so empty. Padmaprabhu went out to see his friends most days, and still put in time as a sign painter when his hands were up to the work, and there was only so much cooking and cleaning and reading one could do. So she went out looking for something else to do. That was where all the trouble started.

She’d spent so much of her life in the house, taking care of her younger siblings, setting up a home for her husband, raising her children, that she just didn’t have a grasp of how bad things had gotten. Oh, of course she knew when there was a shortage of dal because the British diverted a crop to their use, everybody complained when the dal was scarce and dear. She knew that her cousin Gajkumar had been hurt in a lathi charge by Indian troops in the service of the British, when he and his friends tried to protest for safer working conditions at the factory. The mutiny was back in her childhood, and the East India Company’s loss of its charter, and hadn’t things gotten a little better after the Company wasn’t running everything for their own profit, and the British had sent a governor-general?

Well, no, it hadn’t. Taxes were still high. People were still conscripted for the British factories, and their Army, since India was a British Crown possession now, and owed service. The Mahana Pravasa had taken so many people to that new world, the Gruv, and the British had followed right up on that, buying up the newly-available property and turning it to their own use. Tamils had risen up about water rights just a few years ago, when their state was shorted on its water because the British diverted it to a neighbouring area for their croplands. There’d been people shot. There’d been people killed.

Pradnya had a grandchild now. What sort of India was that girl going to grow up in? She’d never know a land run by its own people for their own good, with respect to the Hindus, and the Muslims, and the Buddhists, as the Jain dharma taught, respect to all people and to all living things. The British had no respect. They killed without thought, everything from the roots of the plants for food to those poor Sikhs just last week who got in the way of a British firm’s profit by asking for wages enough to feed their families.

Something had to be done. Pradnya had spoken with other women in the market about taking up spinning and weaving again. Everybody was getting a charkha, saying they’d make their families’ own clothing and starve the British at the fabric shop. Cut off the flow of money they came here for, and the British will go home, or so people said. Pradnya knew how to use a charkha, of course she did, her mother had taught her properly as she’d taught her own daughter. The idea seemed sound, but was it enough? The dharma teaches that there are rules to the world, some of them spiritual and some of them made up by people. Rules made up by people had predictable systems. Learning those systems, understanding the rules that other people worked and lived by, was part of what made India function. It’s not enough to know that you shouldn’t eat root vegetables, as you can’t harvest them without killing both the plant and the smaller lives in the soil around it. You have to understand that Hindus eat onions, and that is their dharma, and the karma that attaches to them for it is their problem and it is not yours. By all means, plead with the Muslims to spare the lives of the lambs and goats they raise for meat, but if they will follow their own traditions, you must understand this. Business has systems, and if you understand how the British operate their businesses, you can work those systems against them in a way that causes no harm to any lives, but convinces the British that they have lost their opportunity in India and should go home.

So Pradnya took a part time job with a salvage firm, one run by Indians, of course, she wasn’t going to get into a British firm where she could make a difference without some experience first. The brothers that owned the salvage firm ran it by British rules, because they bought junk from the British to salvage, and sold back the repaired and reusable bits. Pradnya started in the back room, taking apart devices that came in, sorting out the parts into what could be cleaned up and reused, what could be repaired and still sold on at a profit, and what needed to be broken down further for the metals and glass and whatever else was in it that could be turned into something else useful. And that’s where the plan changed.

Some of the devices weren’t ordinary technology. They were Weird Science. Pradnya nearly shouted when she opened one and saw the battery still glowing. She took the device to the table boss, and showed it to her, and the table boss couldn’t see anything. Pradnya reached in to disconnect the battery and pull it out, and lightning surged up her hand and across her shoulders and out her other fingertips and set a stack of papers on fire.

That was how Pradnya found out she had the ability to become a Mage.

Months of training followed, in between keeping her house clean and making sure her husband got his evening meal when he came in, and working at the salvage firm, spotting the devices that were still live, and learning how to handle them safely. After a time, she was moved to another team, at another building, where they rebuilt devices. Some of the work done was ordinary enough, putting together hand-built steam jitneys out of spare parts, making one-off labour-saving machines for Indian businesses so that they could compete with the British, things that could go out the front door and be seen as the legitimate activity of the business. In the back room here, things were built that the British would not like to find out about. Pradnya made it clear that she would not work on weapons, or anything that would cause harm, in keeping with ahimsa, and the table boss agreed, and pointed out the other followers of Jain dharma in the work space. These devices would heal the land, clean it of the soot and tar that the British left everywhere, would ease the load on the oxen so that the cart could be moved more quickly and with less pain to the animals, and so on. Pradnya now works at a bench, building Weird Science devices out of salvaged parts for a free India, having found a non-violent revolutionary act she could be part of.

And of course, she takes the opportunity for a Healing or an Entropy spell where it will quietly do some good. Nobody pays attention to an old Indian woman in a crowded street, but the British have had serious problems with their steam lorries developing terrible rust of late.

Character Sheet

See the PDF, and note the following.
• She has not gained any Profession abilities at PR4, but will at PR5.

Tally Ho!