Monday, January 08, 2007

I ask, you write 15

After a slow start, things really picked up and a few good stories came through in response to the last question. Let's see how things go this time around.

She was born in 1940. The second of five children born to Vedaranyam Seshadri and Rajalakshmi ammal. She passed away after a brief illness in November 2006. How will Jagada be remembered?

Please keep your stories short and post them in the comment box. This might be the last question for some time, so go ahead and answer away.


monu said...

She was born in 1940. The second of five children born to Vedaranyam Seshadri and Rajalakshmi ammal. She passed away after a brief illness in November 2006.

How will Jagada be remembered?

It is a strange question to ask,for Jagada was no trend setter nor was she a path breaking evolutionary.She was never in news, In fact there wasn’t even an ad placed in the obituary column when she passed away.

She was just the ordinary woman, the ones you can find in every household. She was married off when she was 12. She had a dozen kids of whom a few died. She took it all in her stride, be it her husband’s luck with Shankar Café that he started, or her first born son’s spending ways which led to closing of the café.

She raised all her children, with patience, great patience, and a special love for the girls.
Weel, she even raised her grand children, all 12 of them that her oldest daughter had.

During her hay days, she had a lovely silky flowing jet hair.Well, she started graying just a few years back.

She could make wonderful Poli, that her husband devoured. He had a special love for food, and she was an amazing cook.

Well..well… So were these the things that were rememberd about her?
Actually , her daughter – in – law heaved a sigh of relief and remembered, how difficult it was to clean the bed pan.

B o o said...

A bitter woman. Thats what she was and thats how she will be remembered. No misunderstanding there. Rajalakshmi Ammal was hoping that her second child would be a boy and when that did nt happen, she sent Jagada to her childless sister-in-law and prepared herself for the next pregnancy. She went on to have one more daughter and then thankfully two sons. But Jagada was never taken back. She grew up with her Athai and Athimber and hated her mother for abandoning her. She developed lot of insecurities and they followed her into her marriage. She was afraid her husband would abandon her too and held a tight grip on him threatening suicide even for the slightest disagreement. She doted on her only child Krishnan and made sure he did nt spend even a day without her until he reached 21. Krishnan finished his MBBS, went abroad to complete his higher studies and came back to India. Jagada searched high and low for a suitable daughter-in-law and at last settled for a young girl, whose father was Jagadas cousin twice removed and very poor. Jagada thought that the girl, Radha will be indebted to her forever for this generous gesture and take care of her and her husband in their old age. As soon as the wedding was over and Radha came home, Jagada fired the servant. When my mother told me that Jagada Athai has passed away recently, I only felt relief. For Radha Mannis sake.

Shirsha said...

Oh, do I have to tell the story of noted scientist and professor of toxicology, Ms. Jagada Adams nee Seshadri's death following experiments in strychnine hydro suphlride now? Some other day, maybe...

Anonymous said...

I think I will always remember her for sitting in the TIFR classroom, the one with the photos of
Ramanujan, David Hilbert and Wittgenstein, patiently teaching me Iwasawa theory, insisting
that I should not be happy with the superficial knowledge that comes from reading Pop
Mathematics books. But for her, all the mathematics I know would be gossip from books
On Fermat´s last theorem, what Pete Sarnak looked like, and how he and Andrew Wiles for

I remember her taking to me on my first day at TIFR, when I was very lost girl from Chennai, ,
offering me milky tea and biscuits at the TIFR canteen and walking along with me to show me
the art collection – Krishen Khanna´s “The dead and the dying”, the beautiful Gaitondes.

She is the reason I became a mathematician.

What would she be remembered for? No marriage, no kids, just a few grateful students. But she would be remembered forever, for
a few beautiful theorems that carry her name.

(Inspired by

Anonymous said...

Nice one, Monu.

Shammi said...

Apologies in advance - I know this is going to be rather long! :)

Here goes:

Jagada, the second of five children born to Vedaranyam Seshadri and Rajalakshmi Ammal, will probably be remembered by nobody outside her family. Her life was one of perfect normality to her dying day, and she died loved and respected by all who knew her. However, despite her sterling character and qualities, the thing that Jagada will always be remembered for is an incident in her early childhood.

She was just about 5 years old at the time of Partition. Her parents were forced to flee Karachi, and they left, like millions of others, with nothing but the clothes on their back. At Karachi port, the melee was indescribable – the noise, the confusion, the sheer weight of traumatised humanity that was fighting its way onto the refugee ships which were bound for Calcutta.

No wonder then, that while they were shepherding their four children ranging in age between 7 years and 4 months, Jagada got separated from them by the crowd. Vedaranyam and Rajalakshmi only discovered this when they finally managed to get on board the ship, and words could not describe their despair as the ship finally set off. There was no way to get off and no question of even trying. They thought they had lost their Jagada forever.

When Rajalakshmi was finally able to sit down, wedging herself, the two older children and the baby into a corner, Vedaranyam decided to see if, against all odds, he could find Jagada. Perhaps she was on board, on one of the other decks, a lost and terrified child among strangers, believing that her father and mother would come and get her. It was a faint hope, but one that Rajalakshmi and Vedaranyam were desperate to believe.

As Vedaranyam made his excruciatingly slow way around the ship, fighting for every inch of space in which to move, he heard the sound of laughter. Laughter? On this ship of misery, at a time of such horror? He thought he was hallucinating, but he still made his way towards the sound. Finally he managed to squeeze through – to see his daughter Jagada in the midst of a few children, dancing merrily for an appreciative audience of somewhat bewildered but smiling adults.

Family legend has it that Jagada was none too pleased to see her father, and in fact made an unholy fuss at being taken away so arbitrarily from her new friends.

monu said...

thanks anonymous!
and a wonderful one Shyam!
really liked your story...brings out the child in me

Unknown said...

How does one pay tribute to someone who passes away at an age of 66? Not an early death by demographic standards, but definitely not the age to die. There are thousands out there who are some decades older than her who want to, wish to die…but don’t. Here’s Jagadakka who succumbs to the call of Yama at a mere 66.
We shall remember her as a woman of substance…astonishing substance at that! We had heard of stories of her daring at a time when a woman’s place was considered to be definitely within the four walls of her home. In 1956 she created waves when she, clad in white shorts and short clinging shirt, played tennis at Country Club with youngmen, waves which turned into tsunamis of communal outcry when she posed in a two piece bikini for a local magazine. As expected she was ostracized and exiled by an influential father and a livid elder brother to London where she blossomed into a headstrong young woman, under the tolerant care of her maternal aunt. She was a great oarswoman and was the trailblazer in forming the first ethnic women’s team in Oxford.
I met her with a sense of trepidation a couple of summers back, when I was on an official trip to London. Will she agree to meet me? I wondered… She did… very charmingly and affectionately and I fell for her charms-- hook, line and sinker! She was very candid about her life and did not try to justify any of her actions. I was a futuristic anachronism, she laughed, patting my cheeks. My only regret is that I could not apologize to Appa for the heartache I had caused him. I hope I can apologize to Anna at least, before…! Don’t you worry, I cut in resolutely. I will arrange a family reunion and we will all be family once more. It took me two years to thaw the stone-hard heart of my 70 year old brother and finally my exiled eldest sister Jagada returned home on 13th November. 14th was her birthday. Manni and the other women in the family had prepared a feast fit for kings and Jagadakka had enjoyed herself. The kids laughed out loud watching her slurp paalpayasam noisily and not very successfully. At last, that last missing piece in the family jigsaw puzzle had been fitted in… Yet, Gods were jealous…Jagadakka succumbed to her terminal illness last week. But the banished princess had reached her haven to roost in our memory for ever!

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Mine doesn't satisfy the 'keep it short' criteria. So here's the link instead.

neha vish said...

Mine's a bit long too. Sorry. Here's the link.

Anonymous said...

Jagada was always a happy child. When she was 3 years old, Rajalakshmi Ammal outfitted Jagada with her first sudarmani jatti. Immidiately Jagada started crying.

Ammal was very puzzled. After all Jagada was always a happy child. She had never cried, even when that OBC kid Chenthil punched her in the stomach over a dispute over the bambaram. So why was she crying ? Ammal left her alone. Jagada continued to wail.

Friends and neighbors in downtown Vyasarpadi dropped by. Why is your daughter screaming like that ? Did you beat her ? Ammal did not know what to say. After all Jagada was always a happy child.

Entire Vyasarpadi went agog. Poor Jagada! What was going on in Jagada's house ? What were they doing to Jagada ? Perhaps they were starving her to death! All sorts of nasty rumors. Vedaranyam Seshadri was very upset.

A few weeks later, Chenthil came to Ammal with a very secretive look. I must tell you something, he whispered. Your daughter Jagada, she is always scratching her butt. Why does she do that ?

Why indeed ? Ammal discreetly called Jagada inside and took off the sudarmani. She noticed a nasty red rash on her butt. So that is why Jagada was crying so much!

Vedaranyam immidiately took Jagada to the Vyasarpadi pediatrician. The diagnosis was anything but swift. Everybody suspected the sudermani. But it was just a regular sudermani, like the hundreds of sudermanis sold on the platform. Finally, the frustrated doctor sent Jagada's sudermani to TIFR for analysis, along with a photo of Jagada's red rash, to jolt the lazy TIFR government bereaucrats into action.

Somasundaram Shattagar was the chief scientist at TIFR. He took one look at the rash and decided, yes, I must solve this case. I must help Jagada! This will be my life's mission.

Shattagar persevered for 100s of man-hours under microscope with the fibers from the sudarmani. Finally, Shattagar discovered the suspect - TFLW. That Fiber Layer of Wool, which was a synthetic fiber used to line the bottom of the sudermani, was reacting adversely with the soft skin of Jagada's butt. Hence the rash.

Vyasarpadi rejoiced. Shattagar was felicitated by Dinakaran.

But what was the solution for Jagada ? All sudermanis were made with TFLW. They cannot manufacture one without TFLW just for the sake of Jagada. Soon, reports of red rashes cropped up, from Perambur, Ambattur, Avadi, Egmore. Even Arakkonam baby butts were reacting adversely to the TFLW in their sudermanis.

Spotting a fabulous business opportunity, Shattagar resigned from the stultifying soul-sapping post at TIFR and relocated to Tanjavur. He personally visited several cotton fields and purchased pure soft cotton by the truckload. Thus was born Tanjavur Textiles, and their first product, the cotton panty.

3 months later, Shattagar arrived at Ammal's house with his first batch of 1 dozen Tanjavur Textile panties. Ammal gingerly took off Jagada's sudermani and replaced it with a Tanjavur Textile panty. Immidiately Jagada smiled!

Vyadarpadi rejoiced, as did Avadi, Ambattur and even Arakkonam. Red rashes disappeared and babies sported a happy grin.

Jagada, as well as babies everywhere, are forever obliged to the gentleman from Tanjavur Textiles, or Tantex mama, as they lovingly named him. Jagada continued to receive a free supply of Tantex panties, until her death in November 2006. The Tantex chairman noted Jagada's demise in a board meeting today. All Tantex flags will fly at half mast to commemorate Jagada's passing.

Even today, when you take a seat on the Western Railways, as Tiruvallur, Avadi and Vyasarpadi speed by in a blur of Tantex hoardings, you cannot forget your obligation to Jagada. In fact, if you walk up to the Trisha Krishnan Tantex Panty hoarding in Vyasarpadi and look closely, very closely, in the right hand corner near the margins, you will see the artists's scribble. It is a scribble officially mandated by Tantex's company policy. Stencilled in black italics, the scribble says - Jagada.

blue dot green said...

As soon as Jagada’s 5th sibling is born in 1945, her parents decide to move from Rampur to a village called Timepur. After bidding farewell to Sonu, Monu and Golu, 5 year old Jagada and her family breach the concentric circles of time, and finally reach the centre of Time. This is where Time stands still. This is where a Jagada's new born sibling will live for thousands of years, as Time moves very slowly, so slowly that it seems that everything is stand still. Jagada's parents were scared of death and separation, and decided to move to Timepur to be together for the rest of their life. Jagada's neighbors are a couple, who are deeply in love and moved here, when they were just 18 and fell in love and decided that they wanted to stop time. Now, they are 20 years old, but no one really knows their exact age! Since they moved to Timepur, Jagada has just seen them sitting in their patio, holding hands!

From inside her house in Timepur, Jagada could see the daily life of the outside world. She could see her friends, Sonu, Monu and Golu grow up, to become teenagers, to university students to falling in love and getting married and have sons and daughters and grandchildren. But she was still 5 years old. As much as she liked her family, she wanted to be out there, with her friends, grow up and enjoy life, with her friends.

One fine day she makes up her mind to run away from her family, outwards from the concentric circles of time to the real world…. back to Rampur. She finally manages to escape during a 'long blink' by her parents. The way back is a difficult path, with lots of obstacles. Finally when she reaches Rampur, she is injured, her clothes are torn and she looks like a beggar... but that doesn't dampen her spirit to meet here friends. Jumping and skipping she reaches Sonu's house. Her knocks are answered by an old lady with grey hair and lots of wrinkles. Although Jagada recognizes her, (because she had been following Sonu's life all these years) Sonu fails to recognize Jagada. Sonu thinks of Jagada as a beggar and gives her a few rupees to buy herself some food. Monu and Golu treat her the same way. A disappointed and insulted Jagada, sits on a street corner. She is hungry, she is thirsty and from the remarks of the villagers, she understands her age to be around 7 years. Try as hard as she might, she can't figure out a way to get back to her family in Timepur. Her explanations of Timepur just fall on deaf ears and the villagers start making fun of her. They think she is a lunatic and start calling her ‘Timepur ki Pagali Chori’

The 30th of November, in 2006, is the coldest night in the Rampur, Jagada is lonely and cold. She has been without shelter, food or water and is sick for the last 3 nights. Finally she succumbs to the cold. In the morning, the villagers find her dead body. A month from her death, she is still recalled as woh 'Timepur ki Pagali Chori'

Anonymous said...

chockalingam....are you a jatti-feind. anyway it was a good read!!

D LordLabak said...

She would be remembered as the woman who lived the longest life as a widow and as the most-loved Atthai. Jagada got married when she was 7. Her husband was a 13 year old boy. When she was 9, her husband died. This was even before she could start living at her in-laws'. She spent the rest of her life baby-sitting her brother's kids and helping her brother's family in raising them. This was the least she could do to re-pay her Anna and Manni, she thought. She thought she was vicariously enjoying motherhood. Yes, she stood very far away from the mandapam when they all got married but she knew the kids hated that fact. That love gave her the strength to hold back tears. Through them she has seen grandkids and has changed diapers for the babies, bathed them etc. She always thanked God for giving her "everything" and for so much happiness. When she breathed her last, she was a contented woman.

Anonymous said...

All of them, the questions and "answers" need to go in a book.

Anonymous said...

The slap boy came running. “Phantom is here”. He was referring to Pandian, aka phantom, the director, who wore his Tantex briefs over his veshti whenever he was drunk on the advice of his best boy grip. Else by afternoon, the veshti would be on the floor. Phantom began taking control. He had made his name on another drunken day as assistant director to Ramgopal Verma, when he had forced Urmila to wear Ramu´s tantex banian and Ramu to wear her tantex bra (fortunately the general public was spared the latter sight). But the resulting Rangeela sequence was legend.

Phantom reeked of Whisky. Today was a song & dance sequence. He called on the fight master, Chockalingam to do everything. Chockalingam was shocked, he was trying to explain that he was being confused for the dance master, another chockalingam. But both of them ended up with skull marks on their jaw from a furious phantom, so que sera sera. Chocks, as the fight master was called, had no song, no dance, nothing. But he was a brave man. He thought to his mother, Jagada, daughter of Vedaranyam Seshadri and Rajalakshmi Ammal, born in 1940, and assured his assistant fight master, “Mere paas Maa hai”. Then he said, my mother is Jagada, my job is Jagada, why shouldn’t the song be Jagada. And so was born the immortal dance sequence of “Jagada, Jagada, Jagada” to the tune of “Nimbuda, Nimbuda, Nimbuda”, which quickly became world famous in India.

When Jagadambal expired after a brief illness in November 2006, the entire industry came out in full force for her funeral. The underwear Mogul, Nilakantan Rajaraman , Chairman of Aurangazeb Aranakkayir made a tearful speech. Aurangazeb Aranakkayir became world famous in the world by cutting Tantex sales by 50%, after employing Britney, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton to model the Aranakkayir. Everyone said “Jagada, Jagada, Jagada” almost in tune. The only conspicuous absence was Chockalingam, dance master, who had been pelted by the Nimboos distributed by AR Rahman´s fans in error and was convalescing in a hospital.

karrvakarela said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
karrvakarela said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
karrvakarela said...

She was born in 1940. The second of five children born to Vedaranyam Seshadri and Rajalakshmi ammal. She passed away after a brief illness in November 2006. How will Jagada be remembered?

In newsprint and ashes, someone says at the funeral. It is a voice jaded with cynicism, with the accumulated poisons of a lifetime of defeat, both commonplace and strange in this house of mourning. All day people have been coming and going, offering their placid consolations to the family who nod quietly, mute with grief. A mother has died.

I, too, come in and pay my respects to her son. I worked with Arun a few years ago. We were both architects, employed to collaborate on a project that regularly saw us working late into the night. I was new to the city, alone and untethered, and Arun would often invite me over to have dinner with his family. I remember one evening, in the final days of the project, we were at the office past midnight and the work was refusing to end. Arun suggested we take the plans home and work on them after dinner. Tired and hungry, I agreed.

It was Jagada who opened the door, her cheek crushed and red from the weight of sleep. As I saw her standing groggily in the doorway, her wrinkled face numb with sleep, I felt a sudden embarassment at my imposition. It's late, I told Arun. We can make an early start in the morning. I smiled at Jagada and wished her good night. She smiled back in confusion, speaking to her son out of the corner of her mouth. I turned to walk back to my car and, suddenly, felt someone gripping my wrist. It was Jagada and she was saying something in Tamil.

"She says you have to eat before you go," Arun told me.

"Please tell her I would love to but it's late and we have a lot of work to do. Some other time." I smiled more vigorously trying to compensate for my ineptitude with her kindness.

"She says nothing doing. You have to eat." I felt her fingers grip me harder, the weight of her fragile bones pressing articulately into my wrist.

"Just come, man!" Arun remonstrated. "She won't let go until you've eaten. You want to make me stand here all night or what?"

I gave in and we walked into the house. Jagada served us our meal and we ate quietly in the dim light of the kitchen. Both of us were too tired to speak and by the meal's conclusion had sufficiently fallen into a lethargy that only sleep could cure. There would be no more work that night. I thanked Jagada and took my leave.

A few weeks later, as the project came to its uninspiring end, I left the city. I visited Arun before I left, taking flowers for Radhika, his wife, and chocolate for the children. Jagada was not there. She had gone to spend some time with her sister in the village. I asked them to convey my regards to her and the talk drifted into other areas.

Now, I am back again, a guest in this home whose people all move about in muffled grief. Arun walks in and out, attending mechanically to the details of the funeral. Radhika is busy in the kitchen, amid a clutter of teacups, and greets me with a tired smile. How are you? she asks and then walks outside to field another guest. The children recognize me and fold noiselessly into my lap like soft ghosts.

"Do you remember her?" the younger one asks me precociously.

I feel a sudden weight around my wrist, a vivid pressure that wraps itself into my heart.

"Yes," I tell him. "I remember her."

Usha said...

Mine is a bit too long too. here it is

karrvakarela said...

Thank you. It's a wonderful initiative, Ammani.

shakuni said...

For her spontaneous disbelief when her son brought home the news one day in 1969, that some American called Armstrong had landed on the moon:
"Poda! Chandran ellam swamy da. Swamy kitta yaaraavadhu poga mudiyuma? Avaalum edho solraanu neeyum kaettundu vandhirkiye!"

Yesterday, when Nirmala Periasamy revealed that the entire "moon-episode" could have possibly been fabricated by NASA & co., Chandru immediately turned to his daughter and said, " You know, your pati always used to say that nobody could have landed on the moon. How right she was!"
"You mean, Jay pati?"
"Yes, lavi."

shakuni said...

whoever you are chockalingam, well-written. :)

Anonymous said...

thank you s..& shakuni


ammani said...

It's 3 am and I'm wide awake. Wondering if you wore glasses when you were in school. The last time I saw you, we were both 17 years old and we promised to stay in touch forever. I guess you went straight home from school that day and wrote me a letter. Because I received it the very next day. After that, we kept writing to each other for about a week or so. Gradually, it slowed down to once a month and then to a trickle of just new year cards. You did remember to send me your wedding invitation though. But by then I was in another part of the world and I had requested my parents to attend instead (which they did and they told me that you looked very happy). That was the last I heard from you before your trail ran cold. Until this morning. When I saw your photo in the newspaper under the obituary notices. You were loved and deeply missed by your sons and their families. And I have not stopped thinking about you all day. The funny thing is, I never once remembered you all these years. And now that you are gone, I'm left wondering. I guess that's way it goes. Some of us are remembered more in death than in life.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for putting all your stories together!

many hours of laughing almost to tears now.

Anonymous said...

It's short, but there is a photograph embedded so I leave you a link to the post:

Vidya said...

My first attempt to your "I ask, you write' series. A bit long I guess, so here's the link.

Palanivel Raja said...

Have you seen the new India search engine
they added all the cool features of popular products

like MySpace, YouTube, Ebay, Craigslist, etc. all for free to use and

specifically for India. Anyone else try this yet? First to Blend Search, Social Network, Video Sharing and

Auctions Into One Seamless Product for Indian Internet Users.