Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Women Who Influenced/Moulded Me - I

I had been thinking of writing about my grand mother for a long time now! I had mentioned her in my post about our reading habits which was influenced by her when we were small!

I grew up with my paternal and maternal grand mothers until I was around 10 years old.  My parents were in Hyderabad with the other 4 children! It was common in those days...children growing up with their grand parents for some reason...or is it because of too many children (!) I don't know!  I don't remember much about my paternal grand mother.  She was very very orthodox.  Now, I am ashamed to think of it...but it was common in those days! I had separate dresses, no, not uniforms, but normal separate dresses for wearing for school.  I was asked to remove them after coming back from school in a closed verandah, tie a towel, go to the bathroom and wash my hands and legs and wear the household dress.  I had very long thick hair and the two plaits were tied with threads taken from banana stems (Vaazhai naar).  Many children wore this! She used to feed me green moong dhal juice...moong dhal soaked for sometime and  ground raw with coconut and a little jaggery,  almost everyday!  Then sit in front of the gods and sing Purandara dasa kritis with her.  We used jalra for rhythm. She was a widow and maybe that was the reason, she was very strict in following these rituals.  I still remember those songs! Just the two of us lived in the independent ancestral house! As far as I remember, she was a very nice lady. 

I used to visit my maternal grand mother's house in the holidays, mostly.  I stayed with her later during my 5th standard, for a long time, after my other grand mother died.  The atmosphere in this  house was entirely different.  Many members were there...my maamas, maamis, chikkammas etc.  We were hearing Hindi film songs from an old Murphy radio...a whole library of books were there...English, Kannada and Sanskrit.  My grandfather (he too was not alive then) had a printing press in Udupi, where we lived.  They had a book shop also for selling mostly religious books in Kannada and Sanskrit.  By the way, I am a Kannadiga (this news is for the new readers!).  Let me write about my grand mother first!

As was the norm in those days, she used to get up early in the morning.  We had a cow in the cow shed.  I remember her milking the cow, holding a vessel with her knees! I remember doing pradakshina and namaskara when the cow delivered a new calf.  The whole family did it! Then she cleaned up the place...I don't remember any other people helping her! After taking bath, she would go into the kitchen for cooking for around 10-15 people in a choolha (mud stove...two holes on two sides and one round in the middle...the middle one is just for heating purpose) and a kumutti stove with charcoal or cow dung balls!      My maamis, her daughters in law helped her in cutting vegetables etc.  No servants.  So the ladies had to do all the sweeping, swabbing, washing clothes and other cleaning work!  My grand mother used to have food only in the afternoon.  After cooking breakfast, she used to take buttermilk and then lunch in the afternoon.  At night, just fruits!

Our kitchen was very clean.  Grandma used to clean the stove with cow dung every evening as was the practice then and draw a small rangoli over it!  This picture is just to have an idea.  In a shelf above the stove, the home made pickles were kept in huge porcelain jars. 

We call this kumutti.  This is made of iron.  We place charcoal and burn it.  Milk, coffee, water etc. were boiled on this stove.

After finishing the cooking she used to sit in the verandah and read the Kannada newspaper, 'Navabhaaratha'.  I remember her round Gandhi spectacles! She was very particular about knowing the current news.  I still remember her happiness when she read and heard in the radio about Yuri Gagarin landing on the moon.  She was so happy! Then she cried when Kennedy was shot.  She used to read a Kannada magazine 'Kasturi' which was nearly like our 'Readers' Digest'.  I think this nature of hers had influenced her children and then us, in reading newspapers and magazines and other books later.

We used to sing bhajans with her, in the evening while making pradakshinas around the Tulsi plant every evening! I don't remember her telling us stories but my mother was very good at it, esp. mythological stories.  She was an encyclopedia in that!

Though she lived  at the time, when most of the widows were not allowed to wear blouses, she wore them.  She used to stitch her underclothes by herself, by hand.  Though she was also orthodox, she was very fond of Mothi, our dog.  Normally, he was not let inside the house.  (Older people never touched dogs!)  But if it rained heavily with thunder, she was allowing Mothi to sit with us in front of the God in the Pooja room when we recited 'Arjuna Palguna partha..' a shloka to protect us from the thunder! An iron rod was thrown out in the open yard to block the lightning!

She loved carnatic music and FILM music too! Mukesh and Rafi were her favourite singers! She was a very good cook.  My aunt (chikkamma) says that my rasam tastes like her rasam.  I was in 10th Std. when she died! I don't remember the taste of her cooking at all now! Our family had left Udupi when I was in 5th std. I had visited gandma once or twice during the holidays, later. She used to make the children sit in the pooja room and compelled us to take a ball of ground neem leaves' paste and buttermilk, in the morning, once a month! It was compulsory.   If any child starts eating too much, she used to make a gothsu of red hibiscus with tamarind, red chilli etc. Place a plate full of rice and pour this red gothsu in the centre and compel the children to eat.  She used to say that this red rice would stop the children from eating more than is required.

Summer holidays means many relatives with their children (minimum 5-6!) used to come and stay in our house! Then cooking, cooking, cooking!  But it was mostly rice preparations.  Evening fried snacks.  Night again rice with some chutney, buttermilk etc.

She loved watching movies! Whenever she came to Madras to our house,  we used to take her to some Hindi movie.  She was a happy person always.   Though she followed all the rituals/orthodox things, she was modern in many ways.

She died in her 60's.  It was a Dhwadashi day.  She had kept vrath on the previous day, Ekadashi.  Next day, our people eat very early in the morning.  So, she cooked for the family very early.  My maamas give theertha (holy water) before having food.  She took that too.  Then said that she was not feeling well.  She was taken to the hospital.  Within a day, she was no more.  

All these things happened in the late 50's and early 60's!

After finishing this post, I had a doubt. How my grandmother learnt Hindi when she was in Udupi and in an orthodox household.  She couldn't have gone out.  Called my aunt and she explained about it, which is very very interesting.  I think I have to write a second part! One interesting news...she got married at the age of 10!

Picture courtesy: Google

Edited to add on 24.1.14: The second part is here.




Crafty Shines said...

Loved reading every bit of this post SandhyaMa! The delights of living the life that our ancestors lived seems so full of life. Simple.

So you seem to have got the taste in good music from your maternal paati!

Murphy's radio. My grandpa had one too :D

Waiting eagerly for part 2!

Sandhya said...

CRAFTY SHINES: I am so happy to see your comment...you are first here!

Those days were completely different! Women were not treated well but they made their own world and tried to be happy! I remember her to be a happy lady...don't know how she got so much stamina to do so much work till the end. My aunt told many stories of hers now!

KParthasarathi said...

Nice reminiscences told very
interestingly.I could relate to this post about the customs those days though both my grandmothers had passed away before I was born.
Instead of neem paste and buttermilk we were forcibly made to drink raw castor oil once in three months.
Grandmas are always affectionate, generally great story tellers and a link with olden times.

SG said...

Loved reading this post. Pleasant memories. Waiting for Part 2.

Destination Infinity said...

I feel, people in those days were far more resourceful, than now. Because of the absence of all comforts and technology, I guess. With every generation some information is lost, but something else is gained.

Good to see that you remember so much about your grandmothers, even after so many years.

Destination Infinity

Anonymous said...

Its lovely to read abt your grandmother...reminds me of my childhood days spent in my maternal grandparents house. They too were very orthodox and I had to follow a lot of rituals. But those learnings has given me a lot of tolerance towards other things.
Kummitti aduppu - oh nostalgic...if we make appalam in that, its so delicious :P As you rightly said, we used to make coffee or tea in that - pathu illadha aduppu, right ?? :)
Ppl those days were so resourceful right ?? They did so many things and followed a routine so well.

Renu said...

Loves the memories..grandparents impart so much of culture to the kida..
I am waiting for the second part Sandhya..jaldi likho:)

ashok said...

wow! so much history....very interesting to read...eager for ur second post! By the way, its news for me too that u r a kannadiga...From ur blog title 'maradhi manni' i just assumed all this time that u r Tamil :)

Sandhya said...

K PARTHASARATHY: I myself didn't know that I remembered so many things about her. I used to talk about her to my son and he was the who insisted me to write about her. My sons know about their grand mother(my mother) more than me, I guess! I was busy with work and she used to be with them, telling them stories, mostly mythological, to them. Children should keep in touch with their grandparents. The influence (good ones) will be there later in their lives!

SG: Good to know that you enjoyed the post. Will write the second part in a couple of days!

DESTINATION INFINITY: Maybe I am not maradhimanni afterall!

UMS REFLECTIONS: Yes, the childhood days' influence will be there throughout our lives. I am reminded of them often when I see the tulasi maadam at our old house...it is just like the one we had in our grandmother's place! I don't know where else she has influenced me!

Yes, kumutti was kept separately for that purpose!

We can never think of doing so much physical work, ever!

RENU: Thank you, Renu! Will write it in a couple of days!

ASHOK: I have written about Udupi in many posts, you haven't noticed, Ashok. Though I am a Kannadiga, our family settled down in Madras, many decades back. I studied here, second language was Tamil. I was and am good in Tamil...am very passionate about it. I studied in Kannada upto the V std. I can read and write the language, but Tamil influenced me more.

Second par!

Anonymous said...

Loved reading this post... infact I have always felt that actually the people born pre independence were actually pretty modern than the ones born after independence!

Anonymous said...

Yes SandhyaMa, I was first!!!

Yay! Must do the dance...

You pick the song :D

Sandhya said...

HITCHWRITER: They were mostly healthier than us! Pill popping habit was less! As far as I know she was always active!

CRAFTY SHINES: Hearing this song in our radio now! How about it?!!!



Rahul Bhatia said...

Sandhya that was a nice trip down the memory lane. How times change!!

Priya Anandakumar said...

wow, wow, wow, very interesting and came to know a lot about you and your grand parents. tying your hair with vazhai naaru was new info to me. Whatever you have written is really nice I remember my mom and dad sharing such stories. My dad was born with 9 other kids and my grandma was also married at 10. Amother familiar thing still exsisting in our house is the kumitti aduppu, but still in paranai. I am waiting for your second part...

Sandhya said...

RAHUL BHATIA: Thank you, Rahulji! Nostalgic posts will never end!

PRIYA ANANDAKUMAR: Every body will have stories like this, Priya!

Most of the couple had 5-6 six children! More than that also was not abnormal!

The next part will come in a couple of days!

Rama Ananth said...

My grandmother too was somewhat like yours only.
It brought back pleasant memories of the bygone days. Waiting for the 2nd part.

sharada.econtent said...

Hi, mami. beautiful post which took me back to my childhood days which was somewhat similar to this. When summer holidays start there will be guests... I think this part is missing in most families now.... I enjoyed reading it and waiting for the second part..

Jeevan said...

We would miss so many things if there are no grandparents... I could relate few things with your memories... as my maternal grandparents were involved in milk and bull business, we liked being with them and our holidays were most spent there and my aunt will take care of me and my bro. Those days my grandma used to cook with cow dung cakes (verati) and kerosene stove.

What really wonder me was, you could remember so many things… so change the blog title :) Memorable Manni

Bhagyashree said...

Such a delightful post. I miss those easy days. Easy in the sense that though there was so much work there was no complicity. We used to come down to Mangalore every summer and it was fun to be with cousins.

Bhagyashree said...

Such a delightful post. I miss those easy days. Easy in the sense that though there was so much work there was no complicity. We used to come down to Mangalore every summer and it was fun to be with cousins.

Sandhya said...

RAMA ANANTH: These nostalgic posts will always trigger our memories always, Rama!

SHARU: The families have become small and everybody is busy in their jobs. So, everyone feels better to go on tour to other places than visit relatives and stay with them. At least we are following it to some extent. The next generations, which are mostly IT professionals, will never have time to entertain relatives and visit them for that matter. And they won't have many siblings also to visit! No maama or aththai...just cousins or friends! It might be boring! They might write about their happy, carefree childhood days, like we are doing now!

JEEVAN: The wood or cow dung stove were the norm in those days, Jeevan. The whole area used to be full of smoke and we were helping grand mothers by blowing air into the fire with long, around one foot long pipes! Remember?! We used oale visiri (handmade fans) sometimes!

Will tell son who was the one who named me 'maradhi manni! But I forget a lot, really! Thanks for the compliment, though!

BHAGYASHREE: Yes! And mostly all the work used to be over by afternoon. The evenings were mostly free time for them too. Evening snacks were prepared by the daughters in law/or youngsters, mostly! Just more saadam at night, mostly!

A cousin of my mother had 9 children! All of them used to play cricket in the huge front yard, I remember bowling, though I was small at that time! Oh, cricket was there even then! Maybe they learn from school. No TV in those days! Film division showed some international matches before the movie started, though!

Gouri Guha said...

Such beautiful recollection...liked the going back on timeline and bringing back as fresh as it can be. Enjoyed :)

ashok said...

I have read your Udupi posts..but thought the reverse...that u were a Tamil who had lived in Karnataka! but then...how & why does it matter! Loved the post...

Saritha said...

Loved reading it sandhya.Read it long back but didnt want to comment in a hurry....

This reminded of my granny.We used to go to my granny's house after school as my mom was working and she used to feed us rice,dal and mango pickle.

She was very modern and she made it sure to have all her daughters educated.

Will read our second part now.

Sandhya said...

GOURI GUHA: Thank you, Gouri!

ASHOK: Hahaha...thank you, Ashok!

VARUNAVI: Our childhood days will remain in our memory always, more so when we get older and older!

Sai Charan said...

Enjoyed reading this post, was very interesting to know about your childhood times and the older generation were very strict in practising a moral disciplined lifestyle which was more natural and healthy whereas this generation are lazy and take life too easy!! :)

One thing I've noticed in the older generation women was - they spent most of their life working hard at home - cooking, washing, cleaning, etc which the modern Indian girl isn't doing, which is good, cause women are equal to men and deserve to enjoy life by doing what they love to do rather than getting stuck to household chores all their life! :)

Now will check the next part!! :)

Cheers!! :)

Sandhya said...

SAI CHARAN: Times are changing now, Sai, as you say! Men too come inside the kitchen to help wives in many households and for other jobs, gadgets are there! Men were sitting on pedestals in those days which is changing now, thank god! Life is all about giving respect to each other, Sai!

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