Today, I am going to relate to you all an incident that happened with my great-grandfather back in 1900s’ – I am not very certain on the date- but which had brought to me tears of laughter when I first heard it, and many times since, from my grandfather, his thirteenth and the last child.
My family, the Varmas’ were a quite rich and influential family in Badaun, a district town in Uttar Pradesh, back when the English still ruled over India, and were head by the reticent, respected and renowned barrister Shri Vasdeva Sahay Varma, who lived with his wife and a huge family. Overall, there were thirteen children, out of which only six survived, and who are now reduced to two, my grandfather and his immediately elder brother. Apart from that, there were many servants, many families of relatives, and it is said that the house once was the home of over fifty people.
My great-grandfather (referred to as GG from now on) was a very reserved man and liked to keep to him. My grandfather, Dr. Hari Krishna Varma (G), admits that he rarely ever talked to him; in fact, even topics related to his children’s schooling were dealt through a loyal relative. He was a man way ahead of him time; all of his surviving daughters were educated, and one even did her Masters’ at a time when girls were married in their teenage years. He was extremely intelligent- he had topped his University in Sanskrit, which he had learnt for just three months- and was a superb barrister whose his earnings were voluminous. A man of class, G says for him to have never travelled below a first class in a train, and yet he donated at the local temple every Tuesday.
Physically, he was extremely fat and weighed well above 100 kilos. Normal height, and wide body, I like to imagine him as Father Santa.
The following incident occurred when he was travelling for work on a train.
It is an incident in a time, when trains were not in ample, and Indians travelling in the first class compartment of the train even more uncommon. Hence, there was no reservation of seat, and once people got on the train, they were supposed to get their tickets from the ticket collector.
One time, my GG was sitting in the train when it came to a stop, and he alighted on the station to get a drink of water. On returning, he found that another man had made himself comfortable on GG’s seat.
The conversation that unfolded was something like this, but in Hindi, I suppose:
GG: *politely informs* Dear sir, I’m afraid you’ll have to vacate the seat. This is my seat and I had just got off for a sip of water.
Man: *in clearly no mood to leave from the seat* Sir, forgive me, but I really don’t see your name imprinted on this seat anywhere. If you’d just point that to me, I’ll vacate immediately.
GG: *surprised* What…? *recovering* Okay, then please forgive me sir but then I’m left with no other option but to sit on you since there is no sign here that says that only one person can be seated on one seat.
Man: WHAT?! *staring at the huge and heavy expanse of my grandfather* I’m… I’m… Sorry, sorry, I’ll leave immediately. *gets up and leave*
Yes, that happened. It happened in real life, and the man had to give up the seat.
My G has traced our family back to five generations and it’s really refreshing when he tells us stories like this. In a time when nuclear families are the norm and one is loses the roots of the family evolution, it is stories like these that keep us bound together in laughter.
G often tells us incidents like these, most of the time, a funny thing that happens at a moment leads us to stories that happened years ago, but are funny even today. It’s a beautiful experience and memory to share.
How’d you like it? I’m thinking of beginning a collection o such incidents together, narrating them as the come to knowledge and mind? Would you be interested?
Hope you liked this one and (hopefully) the others to come too.