Saturday, April 11, 2015

J - Jayamkondan -1942

 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 for the Prelude A - Agaramangudi -2009 

Kollidam river, a tributary of the Cauvery swept past at the backyard of Swaminatha Iyer’s ancestral house in Jayamkondan.  Inside the house women were busy grinding gram and rice flour on the millstone in huge quantities.  Next week, this time would be the wedding of Swaminatha Iyer’s third daughter Suseela.

Swaminatha Iyer was an accountant at the Accountant general’s office in Madras.  His father was the largest landowner in  Jayamkondan. After his father died last year, the five brothers inherited the land. 

The eldest son, as in most big families looked after the agricultural lands, while the younger ones migrated to the city in search of jobs.  A satellite arrangement like that, helped the joint family supplement the income and also to get their children educated in the city. 

Swaminatha Iyer’s house in Madras near the temple town of Mylapore would be buzzing with children. Seven of his own and several of other relatives would pursue their education in the city.  In Mylapore, their house would see a constant stream of visitors from Jayamkondan. His wife Annapurani  would at  any given time of the year cook for atleast 15-20 people everyday. 

At a meagre income of Rs. 65  a month this may have overwhelmed any housewife of this generation. However in their days when collective living was the order of the day, food and help was in abundance. Also needs were minimal. Their food needs including rice, oil, vegetables and other perishables like ghee and pickles would be in constant supply whenever someone from Jayamkondam came visiting.  The money from the harvests was adequate to take care of everyone’s needs.  An accountant’s salary was therefore an extra supplement to get the family the luxury and exposure to the city life.

For the wedding the father of the bride had to ensure that he provided for the Jewellery, the wedding trousseau and all that was required for his daughter to set up home.   The entire clan would get together to pull off the rest of the event.  Women who lived in the neighbourhood would gather up to prepare the edibles and to cook for the steady stream of visitors that were to arrive from Agaramangudi throughout the week. The men would erect the pandals, bring home banana leaves and make sure the feasting was done in full swing. The marriage itself would be an elaborate three day affair and would culminate when the bride left on the third day along with the Groom and her in-laws to her marital home. 

Suseela grew up in Madras where her father worked.  She grew up in a house where there was a constant stream of visitors long with her own brothers and sisters. By the time it was time for her to attend high school, she came of age and her education was discontinued. 

In the previous year her elder twin sisters had got married. Suseela’s alliance came from Natesa Iyer’s family of Agaramangudi for his eldest son.  Natesa Iyer was a man known for his flamboyance and temper tantrums.  He was extremely self–conscious about his social standing as the wealthy  landowner of Agaramangudi.  If Susee had to settle into a happy marriage,  it was extremely important for her parents to provide for adequate dowry in the form of gold  jewellery and silver cutlery and to ensure that the Groom’s family was treated like a king when they arrived there.

It was never an easy job to keep the Groom’s side of the family happy. A sweet dish not served in a timely manner on the banana leaf,  adequate gifts not given to all relatives or even not being around in person to attend to the various needs of the Groom’s family could lead to taunts and tantrums for a long time to come. They would last for months and years well beyond  the wedding  even after their daughter had settled down in her marital home. It was a time everyone would be on tenterhooks.

Susee had the first glimpse of her husband-to-be when he arrived in a bullock cart along with his father and mother, two days prior to the wedding.  Susee and her sisters had secretly opened the window in the room adjoining the terrace to glimpse at the Groom from up-above when he arrived.
He was handsome to say the least. From what others had told her about him, he was very mild mannered and had none of his father‘s temper or flamboyance. Her mother-in-law was heavily pregnant during her eldest son’s wedding and would confine herself to the house before and during the wedding. There were four other boys who were her husband’s younger brothers. The two married sisters would arrive with their husband’s family a day prior to the wedding.
It was a big family that Susee was getting married into.  It was also a big house that Susee was moving into.  After the three days festivities, Susee along with Subbu moved into her Marital home in Agaramangudi.

Sri Lakshmi  Nivas 

Susee noticed the inscription atop the huge mansion that was built in 1914. It stood at the end of the Agraharam just before the Mango Orchard and the private pond where the women folk went to bathe and wash clothes.
As she stepped into the house, the fragrance of fresh blooming jasmine wafted through the Veranda from the climber that had spread across the entrance of the house. 

 ‘Valadhu kaala eduthu vechchu vaamma ‘ ...Set your right foot ahead  and step into this auspicious beginning ...echoed an old woman’s voice. A 16 year old Susee put her right foot forward and entered Sri Lakshmi Nivas for the first time. Ever sincce then, everytime she smelled fresh jasmine flowers, it would bring about the nostalgic memories of the day she arrived as the bride at Sri Lakshmi Nivas.

She would spend the next 40 years, nurturing and nourishing the lives of many people, overseeing along with her husband an entire eco system of the Agraharam life, while Natesa Iyer her father-in-law moved to Tiruchy along with his wife and the younger boys, leaving the farms and Sri Lakshmi Nivas under the care of his eldest son and daughter-in-law.          

Natesa Iyer the family patriarch was a man with an imposing personality whom everyone including her husband feared. He had a nose slightly bent at the tip that flared up the nostrils everytime he smiled. He had a sense of flamboyance and confidence that dangerously skirted the signs of arrogance.

She would learn much later in life that her father-in-law had a reputation that rendered it awkward for him to continue to live permanently in the Agraharam. He nevertheless kept constant vigil over the running of Sri Lakshmi Nivas and the farms until his death in Tiruchy many years later.         

To be continued K - Karaikkal -1914


  1. Photo collections are adding to the beauty of the blog, giving it the feel of what was it like then. Superb.. !

    1. Thanks Sowmya. More to come next week.

  2. I love old black and white pics. They add so much to a story.

    Stephen Tremp
    an A-Z Cohost
    @StephenTremp on Twitter

  3. I read the entire story and felt nostalgic in the end. I could imagine those times with strong familial ties, love and as you said ' minimal needs' .

    Thanks for visiting, do visit again.

  4. Now i have started believing the cause and effect theory. I was wondering about the root-cause of the down fall of Agaramangudi Agraharam. Now i could get the glimpse . Other caste people have suffered so much in earlier years . Now we are at the receiving end . Whom to blame? Only to God of Agaramandudi ................God has failed to give good thinking and right path.


Thank you for stopping by.
Good, bad or ugly ... Trust me I would love to hear from you...
Please leave your comments here.