Beginning from my roots…
This post is dedicated to the untold stories written by my late grandfather. He must be watching over us somewhere, else these tales wouldn’t have been surfaced!
It so happened that I got into a longer than usual conversation, with my dad. Combined effect of lockdown and his sickness. I wanted to distract him or rather get him to talk more. He’s an introvert as such and in this lockdown situation, has been devoid of any external contact. He hates to speak on the phone as well and that just leaves him with watching TV as his only genuine interest.
With his evening cup of tea, I made one for myself as well and sat down to talk. I started on a random thought of how milk was managed back in his childhood days when he stayed in a village in Orissa(now Odisha). To mention the name of the village, it’s Kumarbandha, in Jajpur district. The village still has some mud houses as is true for many rural parts of India. As kids, we used to always spend our summer vacations there until eventually academic pressures didn’t allow us to shift focus. I honestly think everybody should live in a village at least once in their lifetime, it can definitely help in getting a wider view of life.
My dad began by telling me they had 2 cows and 2 bulls. I was curious to know how often the milk got curdled due to the absence of refrigeration. As in modern times, even with high capacity refrigerators we face this issue. He said that happened often and the freshly made cottage cheese was utilised elsewhere. Having seen a lot of this in action myself, I always remain in awe of how things are well managed in rural areas even in the absence of kitchen appliances and other convenient processes that we so easily take for granted.
From there on, he happened to notice how intently I was listening, which may not usually be the case and he started telling me the story of my grandfather. I had known few details as a child but either didn’t remember all of it or possibly the story was incomplete.
My Grandfather had lost his father early on and was raised by his uncles along with his cousins. He had a keen interest in studying and with the help of another gentleman(who considered my grandad as his son), happened to get decent education. He had topped his graduation and wanted to study further but his uncles weren’t happy with that. They got him back to the village as being Zamindars they were more interested in getting him to do some simple money management work continuing their family tradition. It could partly be jealousy too. The love of Indian adults to control every child in the family is unexplainable.
My grandfather soon realised that the work they wanted him to do was rather boring. He then expressed his interest to open a school in the village and he made it happen as well. For many years he was the headmaster of the school and also a teacher. The village would always remember him as a great teacher and continued to call him ‘Master’[teacher] even after he was made to quit teaching, by his uncles.
Meanwhile, he also got married and had a child but lost both of them. He further lost his second wife and the child he had with her. This made him give up on family life and he refused to get married again. He started doing folk theatre in the village, known as ‘Jatra’ in Orissa, and was apparently pretty good at it. When my dad reached this point in the story I got really keen as I had never known this. How creative of my grandfather back in those days to get into something so interesting while others around him continued with their mundane rural lives!
During one such theatre performance, he was spotted by the family of a young girl who found the Zamindar boy a suitable match for their daughter. Somehow he was convinced to be married again and eventually my uncles and dad were born along with my aunt. I got reminded of the ‘Palki’ [Palanquin] which had been permanently placed at the entrance of our village home. My grandmother had told us she had come home after the wedding in the same. This being an older and rather well known tradition in Indian weddings where the bride was carried to the groom’s home in a ‘Palki’.
For me the most interesting point was the hint of his creative side and I asked my dad out of curiosity if my grandad liked to write by any chance? To which my dad said yes.
‘Did he write poems or stories’
‘That must have been in Odia language. Did you read any of them?’
‘No I didn’t’
‘Are they kept somewhere in the village home?’
‘No, they would have been saved had he been in company of people who valued his talent. We shifted houses also so all that was lost long back.’
It broke my heart in a way but also gave me a permanent piece from my family’s history to hold on to. My grandfather was a peace loving, intellectual and creative man. It gave me the hope that maybe, just maybe, I might have inherited at least my interest in writing from him. It also led me to finally gather the courage to publish my thoughts as I suddenly realised that they could otherwise be lost. I’m not sure where this journey will end but I want to begin now and the timing couldn’t get any better :)