Sarada Lakshminarayanan, my mother’s 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.

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