Archive for January 2016
In a recent social media conversation, I stumbled on this concept / idea / realization that, the increasing co-option of ‘our history’ by those in power is strengthened because of our lack of awareness / knowledge of our very own personal histories. This vacuum at some point allows for some form / notion of motivated narratives to gain a toe hold in the drafting our histories – gays and lesbians in India have always been treated well, women in India were happier than anywhere in the world, the congressization of the freedom struggle, the brahminization of Hindu identity, the ‘paddy’ization of south Indian food, or the vegetarianization of Indian food … the list is endless.
We are a mixed breed family – my mother is a brahmin and my father is a Lingayath. And my parents’ was the first inter caste wedding in either one’s family. Their mothers and siblings reconciled to this at different times over the many years since (their respective fathers had died before they tied the knot). As one would naturally expect, a lot of stories about family histories have been about and around this watershed event. Yes, we did hear a few stories about the extended family tree but very little about the generations before that.
So a few days after that realization, I had a conversation with my mother about her maternal grand father. I grew up hearing stories of my maternal grand mother’s struggles in life, and know a few things about her siblings and her first cousins. But I knew very little about the generation before that. Here are some things I have learned about my personal history …
My mother’s maternal grand father was a health inspector and worked for/with the British officers in the State of Mysore about a century ago. He had a fairly good standing in society and was one of the models that his peer group would refer to when talking to their children – ‘you should study hard to grow up to be like him.’
He had a large family (by today’s standards) and his wife, my mother’s maternal grandmother died during her 5th child birth. He was not very old at that time and given his name and position did not have a difficult time finding another bride. Apparently all the children from his first wife, including my grand mother, were dispatched off to live in some near/far relative’s house or married away.
And so, having grown up as a daughter of a person in such a position of power and influence, my grand mother was married to a very skilled and fairly learned, but poor, man living in a village east of Bengaluru, more than 200 kms away from where she grew up, i.e. Mysore. One can only imagine what an experience this would have been for the young girl that she was back then.
So my great grand father and his second wife continued to live in Mysore. They had a few children. Apparently, my great grand father did not live for too long after his second marriage – though I am not sure what was the cause of death or at what age he died. Of the children from his second wife, only one maintained some contact with my grand mother and apparently remained in sporadic contact till my grand mother died in 1995.
I shall continue collecting (and sharing) more stories from my family’s her/history, and the people’s her/histories of places and families I have had the good fortune of being born into or interacted with during my lifetime. I am just wondering if I should move this to a template of a oral history project, like the one by the Minnesota Historical Society …