Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L - London -2007

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 Prelude K - Karaikkal port 1914 

L – London - 2007 

It was a subject that was not part of Jaanu’s course curriculum.  African studies and history of immigrant indentured labour was an optional  course offered by the anthropology department at the London School of Economics and political science. Owen,  her roommate  from Nigeria was enrolled into the course and was raving about the new professor from Johannesburg whose anthropology class was  always oversubscribed.

Professor Padayachi normally  taught at the university at Johannesburg .  Every year he spent five weeks in the Lent term  as a guest lecturer with the London School of Economics and Political science lecturing  about labour migration of the early 19th century and Anthropological and political changes it brought about across three continents. His  Doctoral degree was for his research on the immigration of Indian Indentured labour in British colonies from 1850 to the 1930’s.    

Prof. Padyachi’s lectures were much sought after. His lectures were not of  a scholarly demeanour of the academic kinds.   He was a man driven with passion and clearly his lectures emanated a strong sense of purpose and a great understanding of his subject.   The best part was that they connected to the growing reality of inter racial tensions and social uprisings that have shaped the developed nations.

Jaanu decided to enrol for the course.  Anthropology kind of interested her. But more  than that the suave Prof Padayachi   intrigued her. 

Instinctively she felt a connection from her past. 

Towards his last years in the two bedroom housing board tenement in Chennai, Subbu her grandfather would bemoan  about his bygone years in Agaramangudi. He would constantly reminisce about Sivachami  Padayachi  who was his man Friday in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the golden years of his life. He would choke with tears when talking about the loyal, hard working Sivachami.  Soon after Sivachami died, Subbu sold all his agricultural lands and left Agaramangudi for good and migrated to Madras to live with his son who now worked for a Nationalised Bank in the city.    

By the mid 1980’s, he had sold all his agricultural lands including the ancestral house, Sri Lakshmi Nivas before he migrated to the city for good.  But the cattle shed and the mud hut with the thatched roof  where Sivachami lived all his life, along with the Mango orchard near the pond, he gifted it away to Sivachami’s  only daughter, Thenmozhi.    

Professor Padayachi was born in Johannesburg  at a time when Apartheid was on the cusp of being abolished and South Africa under Nelson Mandela was starting a new chapter in its history based on the principles of racial equality, thus throwing open an abundance of opportunity for the colored race.

His father grew up in an Africa clearly divided on racial lines and his grandfather had passed on the memories of his great grandfather telling them about his sailing the Indian ocean  from Karaikkal to Madras and then to Mauritius to work in the sugar plantations  of the then French colony of Mauritius. 

When his five year term as an indentured worker came to an end, far from returning back to his village in Agaramangudi,  near Kumbakonam, he sailed across a different vessel  in the opposite direction to Johannesburg to a new beginning.  His name was Manickam Padayachi.

Sivachami shared the same surname with this professor from South Africa and that is exactly what intrigued Jaanu.

She enrolled for the course offered by the Anthropology department.     

To be continued ... M - Mayavaram - 1960 


  1. Hello, stopping in from A to Z and thanks for your continued participation!

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Cohost
    Twitter: @StephenTremp

  2. I wanted some more of London....


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