Anecdotes From My Family #2

First of all, let me apologize for my prolonged absence. Recently, I had taken part in a contest celebrating the National Poetry Writing Month on Instagram (@theakankshavarma) that went on for the entirety of April, but which I did for some 20 odd days. Though, I fuelled me, I felt drained as I invest a lot of myself in everything I write. I left it midway. After that, I took a conscious break from all writing, and from writing, I mean typing i.e. emails, ideas, thoughts, everything had to wait.

Now I think, with purpose, I am back, and had taken a very personal post as my “comeback” post.

A few weeks ago, I had posted of an incident that had happened with my great grandfather and I had asked if you’d like more. Much to my delight, most of you said you’d like more, and I had said that I’d give you my family tree as well.

Without further ado, I present to you all my family tree, which was designed meticulously by my grandfather and I in over two hours.

Pakka Promise

 

Huge, right? That’s what we thought.

Just a quick go-through: I’m Akanksha, whose name is in the red font in the yellow box, at the bottom of the image. My grandfather is the first yellow box (i.e Hari) and the ‘m‘ there means ‘married to‘. The yellow boxes are my family and my first cousins. The green boxes denote my grandfather’s brother’s (i.e. Gopal) family and the orange ones are the family of his sister’s (i.e. Gayitri). The ‘?’ are the names that my grandfather couldn’t recall or/and which were unavailable at the moment. The white boxes denote all his siblings who became deceased before marrying/having kids. (This line denotes only the six children that my grandfather has recollection of seeing. He was the youngest of 13 siblings and he did never see the rest of his siblings.)

This is a chart that we plotted for reference,  just in case we forgot someone.

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As can been seen, this chart lists six generations of my family, easily back up to early 1800s.

On the way, I got and received  a great idea, attaching photos wherever available, writing the dates, making it in the form of an actual tree et al. I think I’ll keep working on it, at least till I am free.

So, did you like it? Do you have a family tree? Can you trace back your family. I’d love to know.

Lately, in Akankshaland, I’ve been redecorating my room, putting up fairy lights, photographs, music arrangements, posters, plus I’m hitting the gym about 5-5 times a week, I’m trying and doing a lot of cooking,  and every weekend is jam packed with exams- I’ve 2 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday. Even if it feels like an extended holiday, it still is draining. I’ve also been watching a lot of movies of late; in the past 5-6 days, I’ve seen The Dead Poets Society, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, The Before Trilogy, Begin Again and I’m trying The Breakfast Club and though it sees great, the file that I have is really disturbed, so I’ve been testing my patience now. I was left feeling very happy after watching these movies and I made me feel satiated somehow. I will be seeing Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind next. My point is, I’m on the lookout for some offbeat, enjoyable, unpredictable movies like this. Do you have any suggestions, because word of mouth goes a long way. Please, please, please, let me know. I’m dying to watch some great movies and it would be a let down if they aren’t as good as these.

So, that’s all for today, folks. Hope you enjoyed this post, I’ll be back soon, so keep tuned.

 

 

Anecdotes: Stories From My Family #1

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.

History

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.

Incident

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.

Conclusion

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.

Boom!

Blithely, I count the purchases on my hand, and feel a rush of excitement
To prepare food for the party at my father’s retirement.
He doesn’t have a clue, I grin with glee,
He will be so happy, we will all see.
A full roast of pork, and the succulent gravy- Boom, boom!
Something blasts, sending shards of metal and glass across the room
The image of my father’s face burned into my memory
And the thought of how his party will happen at the cemetery.

Promise, I did not want to go to the concert, and I did tell my friends.
They persuaded, knowing little that it would bring our end.
And yet, I proceeded, to make them happy.
Not wanting to abandon my friends and then be crappy.
I called my boyfriend’s cell phone and told him of my plans.
He said he’s sick. He did not know it then,
That we had said our ‘I love you’s, our last time it would be
As one of us would be dead before the nocturnal hour in the city of intimacy.

Please, I don’t wish to go,” I begged with my mother to let me skip,
My school, for once in my life, and of course she flipped.
“No, you must go,” she insisted for I had my religion exam today,
And she had painstakingly listened to Prophet’s sermons yesterday.
“Don’t kill, don’t betray, forgive and always be kind,”
These thoughts are going on in my mind,
As during the test, they barged into the room and opened fire in our school (and hearts),
I wish my mother had listened to me from the start.

Mum said to send her pictures of the sea from the hotel roof,
With myself in it, and the lovely evening; I’d agreed, appearing aloof.
Fulfilling her wishes, I was descending to the lobby
Of the hotel, to visit the Gateway next to the Sea,
When I heard the loud noise just across the hall,
And felt myself collapse of the floor with each one and all.
There is something wrong, I feel palpable in the air,
I lose consciousness as I see my mum call on the local number here.

My new job is in the country that hosted the famous Tomatina, 
The first time I am abroad from my home country of Argentina.
I was enchanted and delighted as I stepped in the commuter train
Not exploring the capital city would’ve rendered my visit, vain.
I glanced left and right and in and out and up and about,
And in my occupation, was unaware and didn’t hear what the others doubted.
Suddenly I saw some panic and some people shouted, something had happened,
I was flung to the floor, something on my leg had me shackled.

The entire world sits tensely, for once in solidarity,
As the cries of the wounded and the killed echoes through the air.
We just sit and take in the live news, in horror and in pity,
We sit in front of our screens and stare.
As a thousand lives are destroyed, and they leave a stain,
That refuses to fade away with time; only darkens again,
when something similar happens and we are all dumbfounded,
paralyzed into action, since we and our loved ones are safe and counted.
Yes, there is fear, and there is rage, and yes there is pain for those whose lives have altered,
forever, and nothing can ever bring them to even remotely normal,
we can all pray for them lives and pray for the world,
and pray for the monsters that we have nurtured.
Or we can take a stand and remember to fight,
against what is wrong, and for the right.
We can raise and voice and we can make a change,
in ourselves by making our humanity resurface again,
In spite of the fear and the doubt, we shall fight
Against our blood, united for once, for the right.

Ishmeet, Gayatri And Forever.

Glossary: 

Diwali, Holi- festival in the Hindu calendar, celebrated across India. 
Badaun, Uttar Pradesh- a district in the state of Uttar Pradesh
Bauji- father
Mausi ji- maternal aunt
Agra- a city in Uttar Pradesh
Ludhiana- a city in the state of Punjab ( predominantly Sikh community)
Chennai- a city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu

~

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We were born three hours, two minutes and twenty seven second apart, on September 23, 1939. We hit off immediately. Our mothers’ were best friends, and our fathers’ bonded over politics, and so, as far as I can trace back, we spent every Diwali at their house and Holi at ours. I was the elder, something I reminded her at least once every day, much to her dismay.

I lived in a government colony that was separated from the rest of the city. Our area was actually green and clean as compared to the rest of the dusty and dirty countryside. Her house was next door. The accommodation that the newly formed Indian government had provided us was comfortable, on account of our fathers teaching at the Government College in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh.

Those days were amazing. There were no cell phones, no televisions or radios. One simply spent time living, not surviving. We did not live in a fantasy world warped with the idea that the number of likes on our picture and the friend we have on Facebook made us happy. We liked company of people. Ishmeet was the one person I always wanted to talk to. She was my best friend.

Our day would start by us meeting for our tuition that would happen at our houses alternatively, then we would have our lunch which we followed up by a walk. Sometimes, when we wanted to go out, bauji would send his driver and we would go for a drive in that old rattling Ford. In the evening, we had classes at the University where our fathers taught, and after that, we would go to the other’s house for dinner. Finally, at around eight, we would retire for the night, only to look forward to the next day. Where there was Ishmeet, there was Gayatri. We were friends’ forever. 

When we grew eighteen, Ishmeet’s father fixed her marriage with Gurvinder Singh. He was a nice lad of twenty four, practicing law under the tutelage of his father. He was an alumni of the university and had had his eye on Ishmeet for a long time. I liked him because I knew of him to be a respectable man. Besides, Ishmeet was happy, and so was I.

I, on the other hand, wanted to continue my education, an idea my father supported with gusto. He was way ahead of his time, and so he enrolled me for a Masters’ In English in the Agra University, very renowned back in the 1950s’. I left for Agra, where my mausi ji lived in the summer of 1957, after a tearful farewell by Ishmeet. We promised to keep in touch by exchanging letters. And we did, until I got the telegram in the fourth year of my education, by which I was been courted by a fine man with the name, Vikram Sanghwal, that Ishu had borne a child. It was a girl and she had named her Diljeet.

By then, Gurvinder had shifted to Ludhiana, where he had been appointed as a district prosecutor. I hadn’t seen her in over four years, I immediately booked a ticket to Ludhiana, with a stop at Badaun, to congratulate her. Vikram insisted that he accompany me, so I let him. I liked him, and it would mean that Ishu could meet him too. There was no awkwardness between us when we met. Pregnancy had done her well and she looked very beautiful. And Diljeet had literally won my heart. She was exquisite. Vikram and Gurvinder became good acquaintances and we spent a delightful two weeks there, during which Vikram proposed to me.

He told me how he had already talked to my father and how much he loved me. I said yes, and we got married on December 11, 1962. He was an amazing husband, we three years later, I gave birth to the most beautiful boy, who we named Anurag. I had been working as a professor in the Agra University by then, and was up for a transfer. Ishu and I were still in contact, but it was less frequent now that we had our own families to look after. Our letters had been exchanged with phone calls and our visits by photographs.

The next few years passed in a blur. I was busy with my family and my job and Ishu was busy with hers; I’d heard that she had started her own boutique. We sent some two three letters an year, rest all contact was sporadic, but we were happy. We met for some two three times during that period.

The year I turned forty two was an eventful one. Our small family of three had grown to a big litter of six, and I had been promoted to the position of dean in the Department of English in the Agra University. It was when I got my transfer. Be it luck of pure coincidence, it was to the University in Ludhiana. I was exhilarated at the prospect of my Ishu everyday again. When I called her, she was surprised to hear my voice but when I told her, she had screamed.

We shifted there in March 1982. Living at a distance that took some five minutes to cover, we met each other every day. We shared the same rapport now that our parents had shared back in the 1930’s. We were family. The kids mixed well with each other and the next year, we shifted from the University accommodations to our own house in the same block as the Singhs’.

Then came the fateful year of 1984. That morning started just as it did every day, with me going to the University early morning and the kids to school. Vikram had been in Chennai for a conference and Ishu had called me in the morning, “G, come over for lunch. Bring the kids too. I’ll make biryani.” I had replied, “I’ll be seeing you.

The day had been a hard one and I was wishing for lunch. On returning, I found the colony unusually quiet. I stopped in front of Ishu’s house and found the door ajar. It was unusual. On entering, it seemed as if the entire community was inside. Making my way inside, I found Gurvinder crying and Anurag hovering around nervously. I was shocked.

“What happened?” I had asked. Turned out, Ishu’s throat had been slit. The entire room was splattered with blood. Beside her body was a newspaper clipping that had screamed, “PM ASSASSINATED BY HER SIKH BODYGUARDS, Unrest in the city.”

I never saw her again. It was then I realized that forever is such and incorrect concept.

~

Independence Day Special.

Keeping up with the spirit of Independence Day, these are some of the movies based primarily on patriotism that are  must watch. A hat off to the cat a crew for directing such movies. Here, I present the I-Day must watch contemporary movies:

SWADES (2004)

A story of a NASA scientist Mohan, who after spending his childhood and a substantial part of his adulthood, return to India to find his nanny. He finds that she lives in a very underdeveloped village that faces multiple problems such as power cuts, poor water supply system and many social problems such as caste system, child marriage, female stereotyping etc. It shows how disturbed Mohan is after seeing the conditions in his nation compared to the lavish lifestyle that he has in the US. Brilliantly directed, strong storyline and flawless performances, it will reduce you to tears somethimes.

LAKSHYA (2004)

This is a story of Karan, a young man with no goal or ambition in life. He joins the Indian Army following a friend and miraculously gets selected. His girlfriend Romi is happy to see that he finally has purpose in life. Unused to the discipline of the military life, he runs away much to the disappointment of his parent and following this, Romi break up with him. Stunned, he joins the Army, takes his punishment and changes his ways, becoming Lieutenant Karan. The story follows his metamorphosis, as from a vagabond, he becomes the leader of his unit in the Kargil war of 1999. The story ends with him, alone and gravely injured, hoisting the Indian Flag on the Tiger Hill. The acting in the movie is superb. Hrithik is the perfect Karan and Preity’s role speaks for herself. A beautiful, touching movie, that should not be missed.

CHAK DE INDIA (2007)

Chak De India revolves around Kabir Khan, a former hockey player and team captain who was subjected to ethnic and regional prejudice after he loses the Hockey World Championship and is seen shaking hands with a member of the opposite team, who was congratulating him for his performance in good spirit. It is about Kabir regaining is respect and proving his love for his nation, mulk, after becoming the coach of the Indian National Women’s Hockey Team and leading them to win the World Championship. A stunning movie that deal with topics such a religious bigotry, sexism in various professions and prejudice on religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

RANG DE BASANTI (2006)

Rang De Basanti is about a group of 6-7 friends who are aimless. Their friend, whose grandfather was employed by the East India Company who maintained a diary in which he noted the movements of some nationalists, arrives in India with aim of making a movie on their lives. In way of getting the characters, a single incident occurs that changes their life forever. It traces their life from aimless people to people who  change the nation themselves. A movie that will infuriate you just as it makes you cry. Not to be missed.

4
If your blood doesn’t boil from anger , it’s not blood, it’s water because if you don’t serve the nation, your youth is wasted.

The Country of My Dreams

i-day

The India of my future,
Will be the best in the world.
An India of Gandhi and Nehru’s,
The young stepping into their shoes.
It would be open and free,
To every human being.
A country safe and secure,
Where every disease can be cured.
A superpower that’s corruption free.
A future that our children would see.
Constructed by our youth,
Where no one is rude, spoilt of uncouth.
A country of my dreams,
Where everyone is in peace.
No one is rich or poor,
And everyone is at ease.
Where one corrects the others,
When they make a mistake.
And everyone is sweet and true,
And no one is fake.
The country of my dreams,
Is safe for women at night,
Where everyone is equal and,
No one has to fight for their rights.
The India of my dreams,
Will be the best in the world,
A country of Gandhi’s and Nehru’s,
The young stepping into their shoes.