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Graduate in Maths, Postgraduate in English literature. Worked as a medical transcriptionist, also as a teacher.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My maternal aunt Lakshmi of whom I couldn't see more..

Hi all,
               A relaxed and a fresh mind paves way for the words to flow from a writer. And what better time one can get to write a planned article other than Saturday night, if one has relaxed the whole day and look forward for a lazy Sunday ahead. If I write something unplanned and out of instinct, I do not need a Saturday night. With all the ugly events in the name of nationalism or anti-nationalism in JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and that which took place in the name of caste in Hyderabad University (death of a Dalit student Rohit Venmula), it is natural to wonder where our country is headed. With the words like sedition, jingoism, caste, anti-nationalism looming over us like demons, it is understandable that if we want to voice our opinion, people like me will think twice before putting down in words out of fear that it might offend somebody who may read these lines. Among all these depressing events, one incident which brought me to tears is the death of a private employee Harish Nanjappa in Bengaluru. Last week, he was hit by a truck when he was riding his bike, and his body was cut into half under the monstrous wheels of the truck. Even in his dying moments, he requested his organs to be donated!! Can anyone of us imagine ourselves in that situation and thinking about organ donation? As his organs were badly damaged, only his eyes could be donated. I wish that any street, hospital or any organ donation institution to be named after him so that he is never forgotten. He was just 26!
                        Well, talking about the age of 26, I had a maternal aunt who passed away at that age. She was younger to my mom, and when she died, I was too young to even understand the concept of death! Naturally, I have few memories of her, though powerful ones. Because she keeps living in my mind even today, I feel the following words will flow out easily. Many of us will have some or other close family member who died early or disappeared and continue to remain a curiosity. I have not seen my paternal grand parents  because they were dead before I was born. We do not have a photo of my dad's mom and so I do not know how she looked like! Well, my aunt whose name was Lakshmi, was different in all ways compared to rest of my mom's siblings and parents. She was born in the year 1954 in Trichy (Tamil Nadu), while rest of the members were all born in the years ending in zero, ie. 1930, 1960, 1970 etc. She was already an odd 'woman' out in that way. From the time I remember, she was known to me as 'Lakshmi chithi-Delhi (chithi-mother's younger sister), as she was staying in Delhi. My grandpa is a strict disciplinarian and very protective about his daughters (that includes my mom and other maternal aunt), but he had more faith in this aunt and believed that she is bold enough to survive anywhere. 1970s-80s were years when women in India considered themselves great if they finished graduation, let alone going for a job. Yep, there were women who have started plunging into careers to carve a niche for themselves, but they were still far and few, and of course, marriage was the topmost priority. My mom and my two aunts were all graduates, and if my mom had tried a little more she would have got into a promising Bank job. Now, coming back to this Lakshmi aunt, she was described as intelligent, outgoing and a strong personality. When she was doing her graduation in Govt Women's College in Trivandrum, my grandpa, who was working in BSNL, got transferred to Chennai and so she had to move to hostel to stay back and complete her degree. I have not stayed in any hostel throughout my life and I do not know what it is like to stay in a hostel.

                                                                  
                                                                           Lakshmi aunt (Lakshmi chithi)
  
                                                               She had good proficiency in English language as her letters showed. Once she finished graduation, she applied and appeared for the Assistant grade exam conducted by Staff Selection Commission of UPSC. Assistant's grade exams are conducted for recruiting in the middle level cadre, and if he/she is selected, they are posted in various establishments and offices of Indian Government. She passed the exam and got selected as an assistant(Supervisory grade) in the Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, New Delhi. To give the idea of what this position is, if anybody passed the clerical examination and got into the Central Government, it would have taken 10-15 years to reach my aunt's starting position. She had to stay in a YWCA hostel in New Delhi to go to office. She worked from the years 1975-80, until her illness got better of her. Because death approached her much early, we can only make lot of assumptions. Had she continued in her career, she would have risen and reached the post of Undersecretary before she retired. Undersecretary post in India is 5 levels below the Secretary of India. It is one of the topmost posts anybody dreams of getting into. Well, our family could not see her as a married woman, career woman.
                                                 According to my grandpa, she could not bear the extreme weather conditions of Delhi and that maybe the reason she was struck with meningitis or brain fever. When she was 3 years old, she was struck with the deadly small pox and managed to escape from that to survive for few more years. As the brain fever attacked her, she started blabbering and she was shown to a neurologist in Chennai who diagnosed the disease. The doctors advised that if brain operation was done, there were more chances of recovery. The operation was, of course, done but it did not save her life. She passed away in the hospital itself.
     My memories about my aunt is very less. Her appearance was different from my mom and my other aunt. I have vague memories of her feeding me snacks, and taking me out somewhere when I was in Chennai during the holidays. We all had gone to Gandhi Mandapa in Adyar, Chennai. She always enquired about myself and my sister through her letters. She had gifted us both with nice and cute pink dresses. I remember vividly those dresses that we wore and the moments captured in the camera. My sister was very small and looked very cute in the pink dress. Had Lakshmi chithi lived, she would have shown lot more affection and gifted us more things. My grandpa described some incidents about her when she was a child. He narrated to me one incident in which there was a drug addict in the YWCA hostel in Delhi who was staying with her and wore by mistake my aunt's dress and disappeared. The image of her which I can never forget is when she was lying in the hospital bed wearing a white shirt and a piece of cloth below. We travelled from Trivandrum to Chennai by train run by steam engines, and from the railway station, we straight away went to hospital to see her. When we got to see her, I remember that she was staring blankly at us. My grandma was standing beside the bed and pointing to my dad, she asked my bedridden aunt who that was. She did not answer anything for a longtime. At the end she told my dad was chithappa (younger dad), when actually my dad was brother-in-law to her. My grandma again asked her questions and she did not answer anything. That was the last time I remember seeing her. Those days, we did not own a phone and our grandpa used to make trunk call to our neighbour's house. That one day still etched in my memory. My dad went there to attend my grandpa's phone call and he gave us the bad news. I still remember my mom crying a lot with my sister and myself on her lap. I was too small to understand what was going on, but to this day, I remember those moments clearly. My mom tells me even today that after her death, my grandpa burnt all of my aunt's letters. Had she lived on, she would have either become a great career woman or a great mom or both. She would have been an inspiration for all of us. With her death, we lost one branch of our family. My mom still managed to preserve a couple of her letters written from Delhi. I have read those letters many times over. She has described beautifully the acting of Rekha and her appearance in two plaits in the Hindi film Khubsoorat. I would like to share with you a letter written by her.

                             
                                                                                  
                                                   The 1st 2 pages of the letter (expand and read).

                                                        Below is the 3rd page of the same letter.
                                                      
                                                 


                    My grandpa's letter (below) to my mom describing his helplessness and sleepless                     nights during that time.
                                                  

Thanks to my parents and grandparents for the input and materials.


Deepa.

P.S-  I started this page on Saturday, hoped to complete that day itself but couldn't. So I am publishing this today.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Isle of Man

Hello everybody,
                              I am back soon as I promised. I have this so-called 'travel bug' in me, though I am not a frequent traveller. If I travel a lot, in the sense, leisure travel, this blog would have doubled up as a travel blog because I love putting down in words and pictures, the experience a new place gives me. So it is no wonder that somebody like me will always cherish the visit to the first place or a country abroad.
                                                   The very first foreign land on which I set my foot was many moons ago. The name of it is not San Fransisco, not London, not Sydney or Melbourne but Isle of Man which belongs to British group of Isles. This island looks like a drop from an aerial view and is perched in the Irish sea between UK and Ireland. It was hitherto unknown place until my husband had an assignment there for some months. My first-time-ever trip was arranged along with his colleague who was also travelling at that time. The journey and the route is still etched in my mind. From Mumbai International airport, my first international flight was in Lufthanza airlines. I kept on watching the route map that was flashed on the TV screens and I clearly remember that we flew over Istanbul of Turkey. Forget WiFi in flights, that was the time when cell phones were just getting common and so there was no way to communicate in flight or when I reached a particular airport. Wish I could land in the Frankfurt airport again to relive the experience of setting foot in the first airport abroad. To go to Isle of Man, the connecting flight was from Manchester airport. The aircraft was charter type and it flew low with some turbulence. As we were nearing the place, I used to peep from the window to have a glimpse of the land, but what I could get to see was the endless sea water with no trace of land anywhere near. As the plane lowered down, I still could not see the land and for a moment I thought 'are we going to sea-land or land on water?? Just when I thought our plane was going to descend in water only, I got the first glimpse of Ronaldsway airport. The airport itself is on the banks of the sea.
                                                             
                                                      Image result for isle of man images
                                                  Image result for isle of man images
                                                           The above images borrowed from google....
                                                 
                                                         
                                                            The above top is the one I bought from a charity shop.

                                                              Yep, finally I am going to see a new land of which I had construed some images. It being December, I had a suitcase full of winter clothes to protect me from the frosty, biting cold. But I was totally unprepared for what I was going to experience. The moment I came out of the plane, I had to fight the strong gusts of winds which I had never experienced in my lifetime and which would have swept my feet away. I had to fight for my breath to brave those winds and extreme cold. My husband was given accommodation in an apart-hotel in Cherry Orchard group of hotels in Port Erin. For the first time in my life, I was seeing all empty roads with not a soul in the sight after coming from India. I was all alone in our room, scared and managing the jet lag. Another thing which scared me was the place became pitch dark after 4 o'clock in the evening and I could see the daylight after 8 o clock in the morning as it was winter and the days were much shorter. I thought how were people living in a place like this? Slowly I started liking the quietness, charm of the place. The accommodation we had was a 2BHK which was quite comfortable, bright and airy. It had a patio on which I could not step out and enjoy due to freezing cold.
                                                       I filled those short, winter days by taking strolls in the nearby streets, visiting those shops multiple times, some of them being charity shops. I found the discarded items in the charity shops more attractive and cheap than the ones in the normal shops. People who run those shops were friendly and talked about how they came from other places to settle there. The other major attraction was the supermarket 'Shoprite' where I regularly used to go to get food and other grocery items. After some days, I had the company of my husband's colleague's wife and we used to go to interior of the place by catching bus. As the population was sparse and the buses were much more comfortable, travelling by it was a luxurious experience. The island was very small and everywhere the sea was just a stone's throw away. Douglas, the capital of  Isle of Man, was the hub of all the activities. There was  a shopping street, casino, the one and only Indian restaurant (then) named 'Taj'. Weekends used to be fun filled with time spent in the casino and then going to the Indian restaurant. Peel was a place where we went to see the castle and enjoy the spectacular sunset.
                                     Tynwald is the open Parliament of Isle of Man which is supposed to be  the oldest parliamentary body in the world where lots of Governmental decisions are still made. Another major shopping area is in Ramsey where multitude of shops and markets are there. Another pass time during the weekends was visiting various glens and admiring the natural beauty and experiencing the sound of the water flowing in the glens. There is one giant wheel known as Laxey wheel which is a must visit. Cregneash is a remote village where there is a museum exhibiting lot of items and equipment used by early settlers showcasing the way of life. The Pebble beach is situated in Point of Ayre, which is at the northernmost tip of the island. In this beach, we can find a variety of pebbles instead of sand. Why so much pebbles are there is still a mystery. Port Erin is the southernmost tip of the island, and we could see another small island from its shore and it is known as 'Calf of Man'. I could get to see the mountains of Ireland arousing the curiosity of another country, though we did not visit there (Ireland... :(  ). I used to take lots of strolls on the beaches, though I never ventured into the water as it would be ice cold. The whole island as a place is charming in its own way, and the one I would like to visit again. As the days passed by, the duration of the days got longer and the days became brighter. By the time we were about to leave, I totally fell in love with the place, never wanting to say goodbye to it. The small, sweet, quiet, windy, frosty island has found a permanent place in my heart!!! The mountains, beaches, roads, buses,shops, charity shops, casino, glens, the countryside charm.......I feel that I am again in Isle of Man now that I am writing about it. When will I see you again, my dear???

Deepa.

P.S. Next article is about my maternal aunt whom I never got to see more of her..