Wednesday, September 13, 2017


He was a great man, your grandfather, I have heard them say. He would sit for Maths tests and his answers would be so brilliant that they would award him a 120 out of 100, they would say without irony. His English lessons were so brilliant that students would loathe to leave the class and come back year after year just to hear him recite Hamlet. He was destined for the green hills of England when the sudden demise of his father meant an abrupt end to his plans and he remained at home to teach in a college on a dismal salary. Marriage and children further scuppered his dreams and he never recovered from the sourness. But his oratorical brilliance or that supposed mathematical wizardry  is not what his third born, my mother remembers.

She recalls instead in vivid detail her mother, the only daughter of a tahsildar cowering in fear, while her father yelled at her for not seasoning the rasam. My mother remembers all too well her mother's wedding saree, the cherished six yards of silk being ripped to shreds by a madman wielding a pair of shears. She remembers her father's curmudgeonly behaviour which meant that his wife would be sent to a local government hospital to terminate her sixth pregnancy after bearing five children in a decade, rather than be cared for privately. She recalls being told that her mother would not be coming back home as she had contracted lock jaw and had died. Even after seven decades of bereavement, my mother still misses her mother acutely and says that some days she talks to her, asking her how she could leave her children to face the frightening world alone. But no, they would not talk of her. Instead, they talk of his brilliance. The legions of students that recall his command over Shakespeare and Chaucer and his great facility with numbers. A kind father, a genial grandfather, an erudite scholar. Not a wife beater, not that one. 


30in2005 said...

If this is a metaphor for history it is pretty perfect. It’s our retelling of life as it was tweaked one way or another that makes demons into heroes and changes the truth into the more palatable. I’ve only just changed upon the resurgence of the blog Ammani. Expect an email from me. Loads of love.

ammani said...

30in2005! How long has it been? Too long is the answer. So good to hear from you and look forward to reconnecting. And yes, there is just one version of any story that gets told and all too often, it's the woman's version that never sees the light.

30in2005 said...

Why can I not find your email address??

ammani said... update on profile.