Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M – Mayavaram – 1960

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.

Nagammai was full term pregnant when she alighted the bus at Mayavaram along with her husband Sivachami  Padayachi with their little daughter Thenmozhi in tow.  It was after a long time that the fragile Nagammai  was coming to her marital home.  After the birth of Thenmozhi, almost 9 years ago, Nagammai suffered a series of miscarriages a couple of them that could have almost been fatal.
After Nagammai crossed her seventh month, this time around they were hopeful.  Nagammai wanted a boy to carry on the family line. With that they would be contended with their small family.  

Sivachami did not want to take chances at Agaramangudi where there were not many people from  their own clan to help out unless they moved into the Padayachi settlement at the outskirts of the village. His work on the farms and the cattle shed at the end of the Agraharam kept him busy all year long . Moreover Nagammai wanted the comfort of her marital home for her confinement and help  to deliver.  In Mayavaram, she had her mother, sister in law and other relatives to run errands and to watch over Thenmozhi .

In the Agraharam cattle shed, even during good times, cut off completely from her clan she would feel  lonely with no one to run for help or to catch up on gossip. It was Sivachami’s  home and he would never budge from there.  His unflinching loyalty to the Iyer’s and their lands she admired as well as abhorred.  Her husband signified the epitome of selflessness and the heights of loyalty.  They were never short of money and means.  They were provided for adequately by the mudalali’s family.  
 They were subjected to the kind of benevolence that no other member of their clan had been a recipient of.

It was ever since Natesa Iyer migrated to live in Tiruchy and his eldest son Subbu  took over to tending the farms, her husband occupied a prime position in the running of the estate.  Her husband was Subbu’s most trusted employee. Despite the wide gap in their social and economic status, he advised him on everything from the right time to harvest the paddy, the right price to lease out the produce from the mango orchard or even in matters on inviting the District collector to inaugurate the launch of street lights and electricity through the Agraharam. 

Sivachami had an instinctive awareness of everything related to farming, politics and life in general. He was his mudalali’s  Man Friday on all matters personal and occupational.  He was highly respected by Subbu’s wife Susee. Susee believed that her rather emotional and somewhat naive husband could be taken for a ride by other labourers, relatives and outsiders and felt comforted whenever  her husband trusted and relied on Sivachami’s advise. 

There was always a quiet halo of painfully earned wisdom that emanated from Sivachami.  On most occasions he kept himself aloof and was contented with life. 

When Nagammai got married  to Sivachami it was hardly an occasion.  It was a mass marriage conducted by the Suyamariyadai Iyakkam , self- respect movement launched by E V Ramaswamy Naicker.  People with humble means got their daughters married to men who followed his ideals.  These were marriages with no priests and ceremony as the basic belief of Suyamariadai Iyakkam – self –respect movement was atheism. 

Far from being an atheist, Sivachami religiously prayed at the Anandavalli Ambal  temple the reigning deity of Agaramangudi every day before starting his work.  He would never  enter the sanctorum of the temple, but would prostate to the goddess from outside the main entrance. 
Every time a high caste Brahmin walked past into the temple, people from the lower caste would lower their Veshti – a white garment  that would be folded and tied up above the knees on casual occasions. Sivachami Padayachi never  had to lower his veshti in anybody’s presence, because he went about his work at his farm, unseen and unheard by anyone from the Agraharam. But he spent of lot of time with Subbu. 

Nagammai,  believed her husband had  inherited a mysterious strain of melancholy from his mother Maragatham Padayachi. She had watched  her mother-in-law approach old age and death with a quiet dignity of a saint.  When her Mother in law died in the same cattle shed that she had lived ever since Sivachami was born, somewhere she seemed to have bequeathed to her son, the  wisdom and resigned approach  to life that enabled him to go about his life with a detached  dignity and distance from all worldly matters.

Nagammai had nothing much to complain because her husband neither drank nor beat her in the night.  This was  a horror story she had seen being repeatedly played around  in her mother’s house, and in the entire neighbourhood where she had grown up.  Neither could she complain of poverty, because while they were not rich, they were provided for adequately by her husband’s benevolent master.  They had never been in debt and she never had to pawn whatever little jewellery she had when illness or other emergencies struck the family.
Yet, Nagammai could not say she was happy in her marriage. Her life was blessed with the  absence of the  usual miseries that afflict her kind, but it lacked the love and belonging that she yearned for.
Sometimes she felt selfish about it.  Sometimes she felt cheated about it.

She was married to a man far too wise for his age, that she could not relate to. Her husband was not even a doting father to his daughter.  After  Thenmozhi  was born, Nagammai found respite and engaged herself pouring out all her maternal love in bringing up the girl. 

When the series of miscarriages struck her thereafter, she was heartbroken. She wanted a big family with a lot of children who would make up for all the lack of love and attachment that she yearned from her husband. Born in a poverty stricken family as the youngest of the five children she was fragile and cock-eyed.  Malnourished as a child, she suffered from ailments from time to time.  With an alcoholic for a father, her  mother grew weary with age as she constantly tried to make ends meet with the hope that when her sons would grow up and daughters be married off, she could relax in peace. Nagammai’s mother was at that point in her life where this wish of her’s would soon come true. Her sons were settled well and her daughters were married off. But for her youngest daughter who was expecting to deliver soon, all her cares had been taken care of.

Sivachami left his wife at her mother’s home along with the little daughter and took the evening bus back to Agaramangudi.  He said he had to supervise the harvest  and therefore excused himself and left the same day.

To be continued - N - Nidamangalam -1960


  1. It sounds so sad that Nagammai could not find real happiness. At least she had her daughter. The caste system seems like such a detriment to me. Very interesting story

  2. Remember this was the 1950's and 1960's . The later years of the century saw the crushing down of the oppression of the caste system . That is what this story attempts to tell over the period of 100 years.


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