Anand requests me write about myself on the occasion of my 67 th birth date. And while I look back down the memory lanes, I get immense happiness. I have sweet memories, particularly the unimaginable love and affection that I got from my elders. I remember how sweet were the great old ladies- my great grandmothers. They imbibed in me a perennial interest for Bhojpuri folk songs. They had a rich memorizing capacity and could sing for hours songs meant for all occasions. That may be the birth of a child, different functions in marriage, grinding of wheat or rice making, or even rice transplantation, or beginning of rain and cultivation. I vividly remember my childhood routine till I was in the village and they were alive. After my dinner on a winter night, I used to slip in their quilt and request them to sing or narrate story till I slept.
My great grandmother (aunty of my grand father) was a child widow. She led a pious simple life as ‘sadhuain’ (female saintly person). It was a strictly vegetarian kitchen; even boiled rice was not cooked. The ladies were to take a bath before they could enter kitchen. Rule of untouchably was in force. Her rulings in all household affairs were the final. My grandfathers used to respect everything she said. And she was not educated in formal sense.
I still remember her sitting with me in her lap as a child near the main door facing the village lane. She would request every one whom she thought educated enough, to teach me. She would request him to write something on my slate that I can copy or learn. Perhaps that was the only way, as per her, to educate me in that village in those days.
My great grand mother and not the grand mother came with my youngest uncle and me first time to Birlapur near Calcutta when my grandfather thought we must leave the village for proper education. I remember her concern about our safety. It was end 1947 – a period just after the independence. Rumours of riots and forthcoming attacks used to trouble all of us through the night. We used to move inside the residences of some known persons that were inside the company boundary wall and so considered safe. And then gradually she convinced my grandfather to send us back to our village.
I grew under the affectionate care of my great grand mother, as my mother was living in my maternal village to take care of her parents. I used to carry out all her orders and she used to be very happy. I shall like to talk of one thing of those days. The water of the wells in the village was so hard that the housewives could not cook lintel properly. After rains, on her instructions I used to bring water in small utensils from the pond near the canal. Perhaps my uncle used to show hesitancy, so I used to get a lot of praise from her.
Perhaps, I learnt many things unknowingly from my great grandmother that I feel proud of today. She influenced my life perhaps the most, though my grand father was responsible for every thing that I could attain in my life.
This is just about the way I grew. Today all the children are in US and after some years perhaps the family may not have anything in India for them. But my writeups, if stored and saved, may remind them their place of origin and the background.
Read The President’s ADDRESS TO THE NATION ON THE EVE OF 60TH INDEPENDENCE DAY