Saturday, April 04, 2015

D – Delhi -1979

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.

Prelude : A - Agaramangudi 2009
              B - Bangalore -1939

Delhi -1979 


It was the year 1950. A man with a fiery moustache and trousers, dressed in a military uniform carrying a huge trunk suitcase walked into the Agraharam. It was afternoon. The men and the labourers were busy in the fields, while the Agraharam wore a weary and deserted look. 


Sankara Iyer, now almost blind with cataract and senile with old age lay on the veranda of his house, talking to himself. He did not notice the stranger who had paused in front of his house. The man took one close look at the old Sankara Iyer, gasped and then decided not to step into that house. Instead he headed to Sri Lakshmi Nivas on the farthest end of the Agraharam.

He noticed the women peeping in from the windows and the doors to look at the stranger who had set foot into the Agraharam. No man who had set foot in the Agraharam with his chest held high had ever sported a moustache or worn trousers. Even the labourers who were not always clean shaven and wore a veshti and a shirt at the most, always knew to keep away from the street when a Brahmin passed by. 
But this man walked straight on and seemed to know the place like the back of his hand.

He stopped by at Sri Lakshmi Nivas and asked for Subbu.  Perturbed by the appearance of a stranger, a demure and slightly shaken Susee appeared at the door step and asked him to wait at the Thinnai (veranda outside the house) and latched the Iron Gate from the inside. She summoned a labourer working at the backyard to fetch her husband who seemed to have a strange looking visitor calling on him unannounced.  It was unbecoming of a woman of her stature to talk to a complete stranger directly.
While he sat patiently for over an hour at the Thinnai waiting for the man of the house to be summoned, he was served water in a jug from afar.  The women, who passed by to go the pond, threw curious glances at the stranger, but upon being leered back by the stranger, averted away their gaze and moved on hurriedly.

Clearly the stranger was enjoying the attention.

Almost an hour later Subbu returned and took a look at the stranger who had come calling,  The stranger was light skinned and had a sharp nose, slightly bent at the tip which flared up the nostrils when he smiled.  It was that smile that revealed it all.

Kittu  !!! cried out Subbu in surprise and amazement and embraced him tight.  
Gone were the kudumi ( tuft of hair at the back) and the veshti ( white waist cloth)

A neat Army haircut, a thick moustache and Military uniform gave him an identity that made him a stranger in his own village. 

In any case his earlier identity was something he so desperately wanted to shun.  When he jumped from the train into the River Cauvery almost eleven years ago, he had made up his mind that he would never come back again.

When the women in the Agraharam giggled while he was being flogged by his father Sankara Iyer, for his youthful escapades, he had vowed, he would run away from the ridicule and the stifling existence of Agaramangudi.  Somewhere in his heart he had vowed to himself that he would return only to a Hero’s welcome.

Subbu made sure that he got one.  

At his own home, his mother was overjoyed at her son’s comeback, long believed to be dead.  However father and son refused to acknowledge each other’s existence.  Sankara Iyer swore that he had cremated his son long ago in his mind.  As far as he was concerned his son existed no more. 
The son retorted saying the feeling was mutual.             
Subbu and Kittu spent hours catching up on the years gone by.  In the last ten years Subbu had married, acquired a wife and was now the village Panchayat President while Kittu travelled places fighting the Second World War for the British. 

Susee discovered a very different man in her husband after Kittu’s comeback. It was as though her husband’s soul had reincarnated, a dark cloud had lifted and renewed with a youthfulness that she had never seen before in him.  The next year when Kittu came visiting for a vacation, he bought with him a woman whom he claimed to be his wife.  It was a scandal that raged across the Agraharam like wild fire.In those times and place, marriages were fixed by elders.  No man had ever chosen his own wife leave alone marry in secrecy. 

Sankara Iyer was furious with rage, despite having proclaimed that his son was as good as dead as far as he was concerned.  His mother howled and cried and disowned the existence of the woman whom her son claimed to be his wife.

Once again it was into Susee and Subbu’s house that Padma and Kittu stepped in as husband and wife.
Generous at heart that she was, Padma tried her best to adjust and be accepted.  She did not speak their language. It was her cultural ignorance about her husband’s side of the family that made her look like an alien from another planet to the entire agraharam.  It rendered it impossible for her to warm up to the orthodox customs and norms required of her role in the Agraharam.  Despite language barriers it was to Susee that she warmed up during her trips to Agaramangudi, which over the years became less and less frequent.  She had realized early on that she would always be an outcast at her in-laws place no matter how much she tried.  

It was the year after, and around the same time that Susee and Padma were expecting their first child.  
Subbu and Kittu’s daughters were born a few months apart from each other. 
Maalu and Neelu in the later years would share a deep bond much like their fathers despite the distances that separated them. 

While Subbu had settled in Agaramangudi, Kittu lived and worked in Delhi. He was now a high ranking official in the Indian Army of a newly formed Independent nation.

When they came visiting, Kittu and Padma hosted Susee and Subbu in their Army Bungalow in Delhi.
When they visited Delhi for the first time, Subbu was in awe of what heights Kittu had scaled in his life. 

*******

Subbu and Susee had never seen grandeur like this before. They were the guests at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.   Clad in a nine yards kanchivaram  saree with diamond earrings and nose ring, Susee embodied the traditional Brahmin woman who had never sat down while a man served her coffee in a silver cup in a silver tray to her.  She noticed the pattern of the elaborate and elegant Crochet design that covered the silver tray and made a mental note of the patterns. She felt out of place.  She was blushing at the VIP treatment that she was getting in this office.

Major General Venkitakrishnan was the Army official responsible for the security of the country's president with his office at the Rashtrapati Bhavan where the country‘s president held residence.

As Kittu’s guests, Susee and Subbu  toured around Delhi with Padma and Kittu. At Rashtrapati Bhavan, a massive colonial structure on the Raisina hill, designed by the British Architect Edward Lutyens, they walked across the famed Rose garden which breeded the best variety of roses.  
As years passed they would regularly visit each other and their children grew up as the cousins they met during vacations and family functions. It was a family bonding that had withstood the test of time, survived the many family feuds and would last a couple of generations.  
Kittu’s years with the British army where he fought the war in North Africa, Europe and later in East Pakistan were what family folklore were made of.

Almost half a century later Jaanu would attempt to decode them all from the memory of the stories, incidents and anecdotes that her grandfather had told her in the sunset years of his rather tulmutous life. He along with his cousin would recall the years gone by. All that she had heard from them, she corroborated in the later years especially on Wikipedia and other sources.
It helped her connect the dots...

To be continued ...E- Eritrea -1942  

4 comments:

  1. Hi! Stopping by from the #atozchallenge from http://alexandriapublishinggroup.com/. Your story was very interesting! All the details made it come alive for me. Thanks for sharing it!

    Donna

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! Fascinating story!! I'm stopping by from the #atozchallenge https://nicegirlswritingnaughty.wordpress.com/
    I'm glad to be visiting all these interesting blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was very interesting and, at times, heartrending. He really defied the customs and that took so much strength

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow... The story is getting intense and very interesting,

    ReplyDelete

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