Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X - X references

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.

X  References  

X is a difficult alphabet when you take up the A to Z challenge. 
I did not want to force fit it into a place or an incident for the sake of the challenge. 

X here refers to the cross (X) references that I have done to write these tales. 

Without much ado ... here I begin. 

The Cross(X)  references involve three major sources 
1.Family photo albums 

2. Family folklore  

3. Connecting the Random dots 

4. God called google : Wikipedia , Google free images, youtube  and the other innumerable sources from the internet.

1. Family photo albums :

In August 2014, while on a visit to my Uncle's home in Chennai , a cardboard box full of old moth laden photo albums tumbled down from the Attic. Clearly they urgently needed to be preserved, lest they would be lost to decomposition over time. I took on the responsibility of  digitizing them and got them over from my uncle. Sethu, my uncle is the strongest living link to the family folklore.  But for all that he has shared in the form of photographs and incidents, I would not have been able to connect many of the dots. 

The project of digitizing the photo albums is still pending my attention. However the by-product of that long pending project is this story. 

The Story that spans Four Generations : Three continents : Two world wars : One village.     

Click here for the parts of the album that i have uploaded and catalogued. 
While they are not copywrited, they certainly are my family property. Please get in touch with me if you need to use them. I have disabled the reshare option in the album.  

 2. Family folklore : 

In the late 1980’s when my grandfather struggled to raise funds to revive the Sri Anandavalli Ambal temple in Agaramangudi  and to entrust the responsibility of reviving the now defunct Veda Pathashala of which he  continued to be the trustee,  I was in high school  on visit during summer vacations to Madras .  I would  accompany him across to visit people connected to Agaramangudi and to the political powers that were ruling and seemed sympathetic towards the brahminical cause. 

Temples that lay in ruins were being revived by the then government, who came to power using the Dravidian vote bank but diluted the Atheist idelogy over the years. Institutions like the Veda Pathashala of Agaramangudi which boasted of alumni of Tamil Brahmin  priests who performed religious functions in the USA, UK for the Tamil Brahmin Diaspora spread across the world was in a dilapidated condition with no human inhabitation what so ever.

Sri Lakshmi Nivas was brought over by a Muslim landowner and leased out to the government as a godown for food supplies before it was razed down by bulldozers.

By the late 1980’s almost all the Brahmin families from the Agraharam had sold off their landsmigrated to cities. Settled in his old age with his son in Madras, my grandfather would narrate the tales of his hey days in Agaramangudi to anybody who cared to listen. 

He would talk of his regrets of not having moved to a bigger city in search of salaried employment. Of missed opportunities and fortunes that may have awaited him had he not been bound by his own fears and family traditions  and stayed back in the village.  From him I learnt how they got electricity into the village for the first time.  How they encouraged people to cook and eat ‘English’ vegetables  and fruits like tomato, carrot, papaya and pineapple  that were unheard of in villages. 

To his claim he was the unanimously elected village Panchayat head of Agaramangudi village for almost 40 years almost until the time he lived there.  He commissioned the government to build roads, bridges and schools around Agaramangudi. He ushered prosperity and growth during the days of green revolution in his village.   

The high and mighty that garnered political powers in their later years were his  guests and were hosted at Sri Lakshmi Nivas when they were launching their political careers. I could locate pictures of politicians who in later years went on to become very popular figures in Indian national politics. 
He never spoke much about Gandhi, the world wars or the Indian independence. The British rule or the ‘vellakkaran atchi’ was in his view what set the context for all the development that he had overseen and been instrumental to in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It was clearly a different take from what I had read in schools about the struggle for Indian independence.

He died bitter and defeated in 2002, unable to salvage the temple, the Veda Pathashala and the cultural fabric that glued them all together in Agaramangudi from the sweeping social and political revolution and the anti-brahmin uprising that uprooted all brahminical institutions and their way of life  through the 1960’s and the 1970’s all over Tamilnadu.              

As I rummaged through old family photographs and scanned them for preservation, I discovered many facets of my extended family which were my inspiration to visualize life in different places and time that was far before I was born.  

3. Connecting the random dots :

V S Naipaul’s book ‘India – a million mutinies now’ which I read in 1993 has a chapter that features  the rise and establishment of the Dravidian movements and the anti-Brahmin campaign in Tamilnadu from the perspective of Brahmins who lived in Mylapore  and Triplicane. I could visually and mentally connect to them and just felt, I knew them well. Although the characters featured over there lived in times before I was born.      

Suguna Iyer’s ‘An Evening gone’  was a fleeting novel,  I once read, but it stayed on my mind for years to come. 
The house where C V Raman’s mother’s maternal home in the Agraharam in Agaramangudi where she came over deliver her noble prize winning son is today dilapidated and falling over to pieces. When my uncle pointed it out to me, it set me into a research of my own and lead me astray to aspects that I would realize later were to connect the dots.

Amitav Ghosh and all his works have been a source of immense inspiration that set me to put together the story of my ancestry and its interlinkages with social, cultural, economical and anthropological developments over the course of this century. 

'The English Patient' – by Michael Ondaatje rung a familiar chord in my memory bank as I had heard of similar accounts of the fight during the World War 2 in Africa and Europe by Group Captain M B Krishnamurthy. The missing pieces in the puzzle were solved when I signed up to the military heritage walk at the Madras Sappers at Ulsoor in Bangalore. Vijay Thiruvady's enchanting pieces of information about the military heritage of Bangalore and the Military heritage museum took me on a flashback on many random pieces of information that I had heard from Group Captain M B K.
Group Captain M B Krishnamurthy was my grandfather’s cousin and his best friend. In Madras, in the late 1980’s they shared a bond that was very unusual for two men who differed like chalk and cheese in their social standing , intellectual wave length and economic status.
I knew Group captain M B K as a retired ex-serviceman, who was in his days a high ranking official in the Indian Army. Flamboyant, well travelled, well read, he would drink, smoke and defy all social customs that my grandfather espoused.  He owned and lived in a posh bungalow that was tastefully done with expensive paintings and decor in the heart of T Nagar in today’s Chennai.       
Theirs was a very unlikely friendship that intrigued me.   It is their friendship that set some background for the canvas that I would weave over here.  

4. Wikipedia , Google free images and the other innumerable sources from the internet.

Wikipedia  has been the main source of research to draw upon information on many people and places.


There could be  lot more that I have missed to give credit to.

The ommissions are inadvertent.

And finally ...

1.Neither animals nor human beings, both living or dead have been intentionally  harmed in this process.

2. All characters and incidents captured through this A to Z challenge were based  on 40% reality, 30% Fiction and the rest as a heady mix and match of fact, fiction, narration, imagination and extrapolation.         

To separate fact and fiction  watch out for tommorow's post Y - Years in Chronology 

1 comment:

  1. Just came across your blog, That's an interesting way to cover the A to Z challenge , drawing inspiration from family folklores, pictures and books. Would love to return to your blog for reading some of your posts.


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