Friday, April 03, 2015

C – Calcutta – 1907

Four generations: Three continents: Two world wars: One village  

These are tales spanning four generations spread across three continents in between and after the two world wars of people who set forth under different circumstances from one small village called Agaramangudi.   
The story line traverses through different time lines, locations or incidents with no particular order. The only order being the alphabetical one – A to Z meant purposefully for the A to Z challenge. These posts can be read as standalone posts, but would be best comprehended if you read them along with their prelude provided as a link.

When the horoscope of the prospective groom for this  particular alliance came for Sundari, Raghava Shastry, Sundari’s  astrologer father was overjoyed.  Between his two daughters, Chellammal and Sundari, Chellammal was fair skinned while  Sundari had inherited his wheatish complexion, which made the girl much less sought after in the marriage market from the families of prospective grooms. In order to make up for the wheatish complexion, she was blessed with a proficiency in music. Even as a child when she set her hands over the Veena ( stringed musical instrument) ) the music that emanated would make well trained adults in music experience an inferiority complex.  Her proficiency over the Veena was well known.  But in those times a woman from  respectable family was never to nurture an ambition of going professional . Her proficiency in the art would be restricted to the man she would marry, that is if he was musically inclined and later in teaching her children so that the well known classical compositions of Carnatic music would pass on from one generation to another.
She was supposed to be born with auspicious stars and was destined to go places and live a life unimaginable by any woman of her stature.  The most trusted astrologer of his time, that he was, Raghava Shastry, never ceased to announce his predictions about his younger daughter to everyone who cared to listen to him.   
His elder daughter Chellammal  was married into a family of wealthy landowner in Sundaraperumal  Kovil.  When the prospects for alliance came and were getting finalized for the younger one, Sundari  from the family of a school teacher, in Thiruvnaikaval , it almost looked  like Raghava Shastry’s predictions would go down the drain.  The school teacher’s son  was a research student of Physics in the university of Calcutta.
The  horoscope was sent to Raghava Shastry by the groom’s Maternal grandfather , Sapthagiri Shastry from Agaramangudi, the man who had taught him the Vedas when he was a student at the Pathashala in Agaramangudi.
 It took Raghava Shastry just one glance at the boy’s horoscope to seize the moment.  When Sundari’s horoscope matched with the boy’s horoscope he could not contain his excitement.  Superstitious that he was, he vowed, not to talk about it to anyone but his wife.  Later that evening he told his wife that by marrying the boy, their daughter  was destined  to achieve things that she would have never have imagined to come their way considering their current station in life.
His wife felt he was trying to pacify her. She was not at all excited, as she felt that  this alliance with the family of a landless school teacher’s son  would be no match to the family that their elder daughter was married into. Moreover it broke her heart that while her elder daughter lived just a few miles away, her younger daughter  would go away to a far off  unknown land to the west of India .
This was the year 1907. The British Railway network was still expanding to interior areas in India.  It would take almost four days and three interchange of trains to reach Calcutta, if ever one took the arduous journey. .  
Like in all other matters,  she would never question her husband’s decision  on her daughter’s marriage alliance and let it be.

As a young bride in 1907, Sundari left Tiruchy and moved into her husband’s  university  quarters in Calcutta.

In the afternoons when her husband was out at work,  she would burst out in tears, unable to cope up with the loneliness of a young bride who shared little in common with  her husband’s wavelength and his  intellectual pursuits.  She did not know what it meant, but was told that her husband was a Physicist and worked at the prestigious institute in Calcutta.
In her eyes, Calcutta was a strange  place and people spoke a strange language. The domestic help who came and went by was her only window to the alien world she now inhabited and the language she spoke was her only dictionary to the alien tongue that everyone around spoke with them.
It was a few years later that she befriended Lakshmi, the newlywed wife of her husband’s Tamil research assistant, Krishnan in Calcutta.
Lakshmi  and Krishnan, would spend many evenings at their place. While the lonely housewives bonded  in the kitchen, their husbands discussed scientific experiments and the findings from latest journals from aboard in the living room.  Neither of the women comprehended  the nature of work that kept their husbands so engrossed and passionate about their findings. The two women amicably enjoyed each other’s  company and  became good friends.
It was a friendship that would end  bitterly and abruptly.

Tommorrow we go back to trace the Tale of Subbu in D-Delhi -1979
To catch up with Sundari  watch out for : G- Geneva -1930 


  1. I really like this theme! And I am intrigued by the story. I will be back! :)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  2. So intriguing especially the customs


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