Sarada Lakshminarayanan, my mothers younger sister.
Letter to my cousin, Guru:
Sarada Chitthi got independence from her life on earth, on this day…thinking of her many talents. I remember how she managed crowds of relatives who were houseguests all the time, and a large number of domestic help, too….she was as good as any corporate manager! Managing the family politics was also something she was very good at. (It used to scare me to death, and still does.)
She had excellent musical “gyaanam”, too, like your father; but sadly, in those days, the Semmangudi paani was considered “superior” to MS (“manodharmam poraathu!” your father would say) and she willingly took a subordinate role. I remember that on the sashti abda poorthi day, Chitthappa was given a garland of two-rupee notes, and she was given one of one-rupee notes! This subordinate status was something that was accepted, but she was the undisputed queen of her home.
She created a home where so many people gravitated, first at 88 and then at 51.I can never think of just the 5 of you as a family; it was always an entity inclusive of Meenu Mami (I often think what a tough life she must have had before your parents offered her a home), Suppini Mama, Su Mama, and all the rest of what we used to call the “Nagapattinam kudumbam”.
She had so many interests. She would write to many of the political leaders of the day. I remember her letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, saying, “You are the ‘jawahar’ born to the ‘moti’…” I also remember a list of “mani”s that she had, a list of names that ended in “mani” and their translations; eg. “Jayamani= Victory Bell”. She dubbed her tailor “Kuttravaali” because whenever she would point out a mistake in his work, he’d say, “Naan kuttravaali illeenga”. She had a strong sense of humour…and an earthy one that was not restricted by undue prudery!
I have very faint memories of the one year Chitthi and Chittappa spent in Kolkata, before coming back to Madras for good. I also feel that they had one of the happiest marriages I have seen.
Oh well…the pages of time flutter by, and memories fade….I realize that now we, who were young and watched our elders, are now the elders who can tell stories of the past (and bore everyone to death!). Just thought I’d share a few of my thoughts.