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.
Click Here to read the Prelude – C – Calcutta -1907
G – Geneva - 1930
It was the year 1928. One afternoon, Sundari’s husband returned home unnaturally jubilant and restlessly excited. A couple of days prior, Krishnan, the research assistant and her husband were neck deep in discussion over an experiment that they had set up at the laboratory. Krishnan had asked for a day off since it was his Father’s shrarddham ceremony and was to come back the day after to pursue the findings of the experiment that had been set up in the laboratory.
Lakshmi had sought Sundari’s help for the preparations for the Shrarddham ceremony and like in the previous years, Sundari would go over to help in the elaborate preparations of the meals for the Brahmins who were to be fed an elaborate feast as a mark of thanksgiving to the dead ancestors of her husband.
It is during rituals like these or during festivities like Deepavali and Pongal that both families reciprocated and helped each other, which would not have been the case if they were living in their home land. But in Calcutta where few spoke their language and shared their customs and tradition, they networked with almost everyone from their clan for a sense of belongingness and kinship.
In the Calcutta of the 1920’s many families from the Madras presidency migrated in search of living and were employed as accountants or clerks in the British firms. It was a mini Diaspora which preserved the traditions and customs in as exacting a manner as it would be if they would all be back home.
Sundari was taken aback when her husband forbid her going over to Krishnan’s place to help Lakshmi out with the preparation for the Shrarddham ceremony. It was a ritual that they followed for the twenty odd years that they had known each other’s families in Calcutta.
He was a man known for his high temper and flamboyance amongst his students and colleagues, but was not known to interfere in family matters. If anything one could describe their marital life, it was distant but serene.
Since that incident, the visits between the two families became less frequent. The late evening discussions and debates over scientific research almost ceased. Every time Lakshmi and Krishnan visited them, Sundari could sense a tension in the relationship between her husband and his research assistant.
Her husband had sailed abroad many times to attend scientific conferences and other official engagements. It was not something that a pious Hindu born into the Brahmin community did in those times. It was a widely held belief that a Brahmin who crossed the sea ceased to be a Brahmin.
Her husband scoffed it as a regressive belief that his clan held and would often question the existence of God. It gave Sundari sleepless nights and anxious days when she worried hoarse if her husband’s blasphemous statements would incur the wrath and curses of the gods from above.
She loved him despite his beliefs and felt that it was a phase in his life that would pass. It was his flamboyance and extreme confidence over his abilities that made her fall head over heels in love with him. Truth be told, she nursed a great sense of pride in being his wife. After all, by now he was a widely respected scientist at the Tata institute of fundamental research in Mumbai. Their house was an intellectual hotbed for physicists from all over India and the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, she diligently prayed every day, followed all rituals that her husband’s family expected her to follow and made sure that their two sons were raised as traditional Brahmin boys.
It was the year 1930. One day her husband casually remarked that she should get ready for a long voyage. There was a supreme sense of confidence and flamboyance in his demeanour.
He inherited his sense of flamboyance and confidence that dangerously skirted the signs of arrogance from his maternal side of the family. When she was a little girl, she had observed Sapthagiri Shastry, her husband’s maternal grandfather, who was instrumental in bringing together their marriage alliance, whenever he visited her parent’s house.
Sapthagiri Shastry was a highly respected Sanskrit scholar and was the head of Agaramangudi’s Prestigious Veda Pathashala. He would indiscriminately rubbish other Sanskrit scholars who did not share his intellectual horsepower without any qualms whatsoever.
It would be a virtual monologue, whenever he came visiting her father’s home in Tiruchy. Her father out of respect for the highly acclaimed learned man would listen to him patiently and would never challenge him about his opinions.
Sundari, then an impressionable girl in her teens and not quite an adult would find this behaviour of the old man very obnoxious. But then she was a just a little girl and no one really asked for an opinion from a girl. A guest was to be treated like god and that is how a learned Brahmin scholar who came to visit them, would be treated.
In her husband, she found the same genetic traits as his maternal grandfather, only this time it was not a Sanskrit scholar but a renowned physicist.
As the ship left the docks in Mumbai, Sundari felt a strong sense of unexplained melancholy grappling her.
It was supposed to be a proud moment. A moment that came rarely, if ever, in a woman’s life of her times. It was almost as if her father’s predictions about the juxtapositions of the stars in her horoscope had come true. She along with her husband were now sailing to go to Geneva in Europe.
Their tickets aboard the liner that would take them to Europe had been booked almost four months in advance by her husband. That was when he had told her to get ready for a voyage.
But it was not until about three weeks ago that the announcement came about in the newspapers.
The entire nation was celebrating and just about everyone, not just the scientific community were immensely proud of her husband. He was interviewed by almost every newspaper. Their relatives from Agaramangudi and Tiruchy sent them congratulatory telegrams and postcards that would reach them two weeks after the announcement came in the newspapers.
Her astrologer father, Raghava Shastry, who had predicted the good fortune in his daughter and son-in-law's horoscope, was all over the place beaming with pride. He now made it public to anyone who cared to listen to him that he had foreseen this in their horoscopes almost 23 years ago in 1907.
There were hundreds of people who came to see the couple off. They congratulated her husband before they boarded their ship that would take them to Southampton in Britain from where they would travel to Geneva to receive the prestigious prize.
As much as she tried hard, she could not brush away the strong sense of melancholy that overpowered her and she could now point out the reason to herself.
In all these weeks of celebrations, congratulations and jubilations, she never heard back from Krishnan and Lakshmi.
A few months ago Krishnan resigned from his job in Calcutta and went back to settle down in his home town in Tiruchy to teach physics at the Bishop Heber College.