Posts Tagged ‘anecdote’

P N Krishnaswamy, 1917-2004

March 22, 2013

Recently, KP (that’s Kalyan Mohan Shaffer) seemed to look exactly, I said in an email, “like PiNK Mama”

To this, my sambandhi asked, “Who’s PiNK Mama?”…and that brought about this post…

PiNK “Mama” (uncle) is P N Krishnaswamy, Mohan’s dad, whose initial, K, contributes the K in K. Mohan 🙂

I first met my father-in-law to be when he came to “see” me at the Official Bride Inspection. Over the decades, I came to know and respect him a lot.

He’d been born in Tamil Nadu on August 10, 1917, in Pakkam, a tiny village close to Pondicherry. In the days when large families were the norm, he was an only child. The parents were very poor; the father, who himself was an adopted child, was working as a cook.

He was enrolled in a school in a village about 5 miles away..and the young boy had to walk to school every Monday, stay with a relative, and walk back home, the 5 miles on the highway, on Friday evenings. He finished his Matriculation; he showed imself to be a very good pupil, with a good bent for languages (Tamil and English) and excellent in Mathematics….but there was no money to educate him further.

Other details are rather sketchy, but I know that he was sent to the Mayilam temple to teach the young seer of the temple. This was after Amongst his duties, he was to teach the seer English, too. He seems to have shown, in this first job, the sincerity and diligence that always characterized him in all his work.

At this time (early 1930’s) ome recruiting started for the Post and Telegraphs Department. Since he was based in Pondicherry, which was French territory at the time, he had the choice of either applying to the French P&T Department, or the Indian one. He applied for the Indian Post & Telegraphs…but regretted it after he retired in 1976, because the pension for the employees of the French government was nearly ten times that of employees oHf the Indian Government! And because of his long life, he might have truly ended up with a huge pension…but more about that later.

He joined as a sorter in the Railway Mail Service (RMS). This meant being in the postal van of the train, taking “dak” or post, letters, and parcels from the various stations, and sorting the letters into various cubbyholes as we’ve all seen in the historic documentaries! He steadily rose though the ranks, and was an Accounts Officer at the end of his career.

Now that his career was “settled” (for poor people then, as now, a Government job meant great job and financial security) his parents wanted him to get married. He “saw” a few girls, and one anecdote which he related is green in my memory. He had a cycle, and on the way to meeting a prospective girl in her parental home, he fell off the cycle and sustained injuries, and never turned up there at all. But communications were so bad in those days, that he was able to go home and tell his parents that he did go, and that he didn’t like the girl! One of his colleagues, Mr K V Subramanian, had a younger sister of 13, and he agreed to the match. They were married, I think, in 1939, when he was 21, and she 14 . (They never remembered the date of the wedding, or bothered much about it!) The names Rukmani and Krishnaswamy were deemed to be a “divine” match.

I do not think it was a very happy marriage…but they respected many things about each other, and like most marriages of the day, it lasted until my mother-in-law passed away, in 1984. They had six children, but the only daughter died in infancy, and the sons were really widely-spaced in age…the eldest one being born in March 1941, when the mother was 16, and the father 23. The first two sons were born in Rukmani’s parental home in Chidambaram…the eldest was named Natarajan after the presiding deity.

At some point of time, he was posted to Villupuram, and then he received a posting to Jabalpur, which, in those days, was probably equivalent to someone going to the US forty years later. But my mother-in-law was a very intelligent, independent and hard-working woman, and she followed him to Jabalpur, a place of an unknown culture and an unknown language. They had two more sons there, in 1956 and 1958. They then moved to Shillong, where the youngest son was born in 1964…when the mother was 40, and the father a rather advanced (for those years) 47. There was 24 years between the eldest and youngest son…more than the 23-year gap between father and the first son! They later moved to Delhi, and my father-in-law retired when he was posted in Chennai, in 1975, when he turned 58.

Bringing up the children was a real challenge even in those days. But in spite of this, the brothers were admitted to the best schools possible. Mohan,the second son, used to say that there was often no money at the end of the month. The elder boys used to go and collect cowdung and pat it into dried cakes for the kitchen fire. My mother-in-law stitched the clothes for all the younger boys, and all the quilts. Amazingly, for those days, my father-in-law could also cook well and sew on the treadle machine;when my mother-in-law was admitted in the hospital and stayed there for more than a month, he used to cook the food for the family, and send it to the hospital through Mohan, who also took care of his younger siblings while his father was at work. The widowed mother lived with them for many years, until her death. There seems to have been no love lost between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law; but there simply was no other option but to live together.

We all loved him a lot, and loved his many quirks, too…chief amongst which was a pronounced hypochondria..which resulted in my having to take him not only to different doctors, but to practitioners of different branches of medicine…homeopathy, allopathy, unani (greek medicine), and ayurveda…none of which ever satisfied him. The funny thing was, when he finally had a real stroke, he just stopped complaining…it was as if he no longer needed to convince us that something was wrong, since it really was!

The sons, each of them, proved to be quite brilliant, academically. One passed out from the Indian Institute of Science, the second stood University first at the University of Shillong, got a B. Tech degree from IIT Madras, and went to IIM Ahmedabad. Brothers no. 4 and 5 studied at the prestigious Jawaharlal Institute of Medicine and Educational Reseach (JIPMER) in Pondicherry, and went to the UK to do their FRCS, which they completed, and then went on to do surgical residencies in the US, where they are now independent surgeons. The youngest studied at REC in Kurkshetra, and went to do his Masters in Canada, where his eldest brother had emigrated after he, too, worked for the P&T for a year or two.

This family was my by-example introduction to non-gender-based work in the family. My father in law,as I said, could cook very well…he sewed on the treadle machine….my mother in law put up a netting on a wooden frame as we had a fly problem in our first kitchen, because the flies were troublesome. They believed in doing things themselves, and did not delegate jobs to anyone else.

My father-in-law was one of the very few men I know, who completely took retirement in his stride. Not for him the angst of being without an occupation, or worrying about decreased pay. He was very pragmatic about his retirment, and spent his time pottering around the garden, or doing mechanical odd jobs around the house. He also tried to teach my youngest brother in law (who was 12 when I got married) but he seemed to have been much more successful in any education with his other sons. However, he instilled in all of them a very strong work ethic, which (along with the fact of there being no daughters to marry off, definitely) resulted in the economic advance of the family.

He used a cycle for a long time,and then bought himself one, and then two, scooters…and when they lived in Pondicherry, each of the medical students would take one of the scooters, and my father in law would take the cycle to do the vegetable and grocery shopping! He could, and did, walk for miles.

In the community where they lived in Pondicherry, my in-laws were very active. I know that my father-in-law came all the way to Chennai to intercede (successfully) for the admission of some young men to the University of Madras. They settled a lot of local disputes…when the local temple had a festival, they took care to distribute the prasad to the non-Hindu families first. My father-in-law was not interested in music, but was well-versed in Tamil literature, and could quote the Thirukkural fluently. He taught himself astrology, and was also an avid student of Homeopathy….and other schools of medicine.

Alas, whether this interest in medicine sparked off the interest in medical symptoms, or it was the other way around, I do not know, but certainly, he was a hypochondriac. This resulted in his seeing many physicians, of many schools of medicine. I still remember his visit to the general practitioner near our home in Bangalore, who was, if anything, a few years younger than he was. The doctor told him, “At our age, some ailments are to be expected!” and my father in law was utterly disgusted! On his prescribing X medicine for elevated blood pressure, he asked the doctor, “But doctor, all my friends are taking Y medication, can I also have that?” The doctor’s rejoinder was, “Do all your friends take the medication on their doctors’ advice, or because their friends are taking it?” That was the last time that particular physician was visited!

However, my father-in-law had his own sense of humour, too. When my mother-in-law once got up from the carrom board (that’s how we spent out leisure time before we bought a TV set!), saying, “I have put on the weight,” (meaning the weight of the pressure cooker in which the evening rice was being made) he twinkled, “Not too much, I don’t want you to become fat!” He would add, as he sprinkled talcum powder on the board for a smoother strike, “Shall I put some on your face, too, Rukku, and make you more beautiful?”

Most amazingly, he also changed some of his basic views. Though he’d wanted dowry when I got married, when it came to my brother-in-law’s wedding, I was able to tell him how the dowry gave most daughters-in-law (including myself) a very strong feeling of hostility; he completely desisted from asking for dowry thereafter, and in fact, when son no.4 got married, he was satisfied with the registration ceremony in London, and was not very particular about having a tradtional Hindu wedding at all. For someone of his generation to change his views like that was, indeed, most unusual and impressive.

Alas, he didn’t get along too well with his youngest son, who had to suffer comparisons to all his elder brothers. One of my father-in-law’s favourite and long-winded stories addressed to son no.5: “It’s twenty years from now. I first go to a huge Electronics company, and ask to meet the owners, and Natarajan and Mohan come out to see me. Then I decide to visit the famous clinic nearby, and ask to see the top doctors there, and Naryanan and Kumar come out to see me. After this, I feel hungry, and decide to have a dosa at the local eatery. I go there and ask to see the fellow who’s grinding the dosa batter, and YOU come along.” In spite of such comparisons, the youngest son grew up loving his elder brothers!

He never did like being poked fun at…but that never prevented all of us from doing so! But he was fond of our daughter (he didn’t have as much interaction with his other grand-daughters as he had with my daughter) and they shared a room in Bangalore when he was with us. I remember that she went for a summer course in magic in Bal Bhavan…she’d come back and refuse to teach me the trick, but would disappear into her room with “Appa-thatha” and tell him the trick at once!

He was excellent with figures, and kept meticulous accounts; he also kept house immaculately even after my mother-in-law passed away, and could lay his hands on anything at any time…something none of us ever learned from him. He was also extremely punctual….another thing that none of us picked up…but very meticulous in his work, and that’s something all his sons have, even today.

He kept excellent health (in spite of all his imaginings), and used to be quite independent even when living in the US…. but suffered a series of strokes, which made him quite immobile and quiscent in his last years, and he passed away on April 4, 2004. many stories and incidents crowd my mind…but this will have to do…”Appa”, or “PiNK Mama” as he was fondly called…here’s my loving salute to you! (Er, I was his favourite daughter-in-law, not because of any inherent goodness in me, but because I was at home, and willing to listen to lots of his anecdotes!)

KTB: Developing Language

November 24, 2011

AM writes from St.Louis:

KTB’s language is evolving and causes us much mirth on a regular basis.

One morning she stood in front of the fridge asking for “blood”. I was genuinely puzzled and wondered if she was perhaps asking for ketchup, something she loves. I offered it to her. She shook her head getting increasingly frustrated, until she just all out bawled, “Blooood. I need blooood. I need blood now!!”. I was finally able to satisfy my dracula child with what she wanted – a slice of… BREAD!

She also enjoys me singing the bhajan “Subramanyam” to her, and this morning I was treated with her request for “Sublam-mum-yum”.

K has always been one of the biggest poopers there has ever walked (or crawled) the earth. No wonder that she sometimes has a sore bum and has, in the past, asked for “medicine”. This week she said, “Amma, my bum hurts. I need sour cream”. Of course D and I could not keep a straight face. And she had no way of knowing that D and I had a friend (N) who used to call this “Sore cream”. She doesn’t always need the cream, but she really likes to play with the squishy tube. So last night as I put her pyjamas on, she looked at me so very hopefully. And with raised little eyebrows she asked, “Sour Cream ?”. She didn’t know why I was laughing so hard, but she half laughed with me and half, knowing that I was laughing at her, whined at me for laughing. She was just so transparent that she didn’t need any diaper or rash cream, but she was really hoping to have the tube to play with. Combined with her calling it sour cream, it was too much for me.

It’s a wonder that D and I still seek to pay a babysitter and go out for theater when we get so much entertainment at home!


May 8, 2009

A friend from Bangalore has just come over (yes, the 4.5 hour drive each way went BEAUTIFULLY, especially because it was KM who went into the wrong exits, and missed turns, NEVER me! I can crow about it endlessly now.) and DnA, who had gone shopping, came back and A went to change her.

A was changing K…and K pooped again, wetting her new diaper.

A was changing K again…and K pooped again, wetting her new diaper and her changing station mat.

A was changing K again…and K (insert regular words here), wetting her new diaper, her changing station mat, and her clothes.

A was changing K again…and K (….) wetting her new diaper, her changing station mat, her clothes, and her hair.

Don’t ask me how, this is D’s version of what happened, and I am sorry to say I laughed out loud instead of commiserating with my poor daughter!

That reminded me of some “children and poop” stories…

We loved a neighbour’s son when we lived in Convent Road, and he spent a lot of time at our place, and was truly like a son to me. Once, after he ate, he had to go poop…and when I was washing him, he remarked seriously, “Please wash me from the back, not from the front. I am growing up and am feeling shy.”

This same fellow was in another friend’s house and was obviously very worried that he had dirtied his pants and what his mother would say about it. So when the parents returned, he ran into a drawing room full of people with his dirty underwear, showing it proudly, exclaiming, “See, Ma! I didn’t dirty my chaddy too much! It’s only just a little!”

And my dear daughter once wrote in a school essay, “When we go to school, we have to wear a dark brown skirt and striped shit.”


August 26, 2008

No, that doesn’t mean 50 medals, it means India’s position in the medal tally in the Olympics is 50!

I just read Prem’s entry about this….

That reminds me of one more anecdote about my brother. The unfailingly happy boy brought home a very bad report card. One being asked why he had such low marks, he said, “But see here! I have a very high rank!” (He was 25th out of 27 children!)

It was late in the evening on Sunday, and in the twilight I saw this little sunbird trying to eat a fruit as large as itself, whole! The image is grainy and bad, but the greedy little bird made me laugh outright, so….

Food…no one is proof against gluttony.

A little down again…and commentlessness…

August 25, 2008

It’s a kind of roller-coaster ride, this thing called bereavement. I never usually think that things like birthdays (after the first ten are over) are big deals, but I felt really low today, because today my brother would have turned 51. I remembered the lovely party my sis in law organized for him last year…KM and I went…did we even imagine that that would be his last birthday? Definitely not.

One nice anecdote out of the past: My parents had bought us both expensive badminton rackets, and during a quarrel, my brother broke mine. Weeping, I went to my mother to complain. My brother followed almost immediately, with a happy smile on his face. “Sorry, I know I shouldn’t have broken your racket!” he said; “I felt very bad, so I have broken mine also, I hope you will be OK now!” My mother was most certainly not OK!

And the commentlessness…I keep my blog post public and even enable anonymous posting because I am interested in dialogue….today, my stat counter informs me that I had 111 unique visitors..did not even ONE of them feel like making a single comment? Expressing their point of view, plus or minus?

Oh well. Friends came by, and cheered me up again….and let me post, from my trip to Nandi Hills, this image, that I call “Stairway to Heaven” (isn’t that a beautiful song by Eric Clapton?)

With all the crowds and cars and trash, Nandi Hills is still an incredibly beautiful place….

Mischief….and personalities….

January 19, 2008

Entry on the LJ of premkudva


Kavya knows about sharing. She will share your things:-)

Other day I noticed she had two candies, one was in her mouth. The other she said was for Snehakka. Then in the evening both of them were upstairs in the library, when she came running down, enquiring about the sweet she had kept for her Snehakka. She located it, and brought a pair of scissors to open and took it up.

Later during dinner time we asked Sneha about the sweet. “What sweet?” says Sneha. And you should have seen the look on Kavya’s face;-)

She sometimes joins me when I am eating peanuts. However she loves cashewnuts more. And so when I am having that she will be sitting right next and eating it one at a time. Always keeping a close eye on the remaining quantity. Once it comes down to say 5 or 6, she simply picks the bowl and moves away.

That set me off, here’s my reply:

just fanTAStic. Enjoyed that SOOO much.

The difference between the personalities of two children in the same home was brought home tellingly to me once. Our upstairs neighbour had a son and a daughter, 3 and 2 years old. First the 3 year old boy came down, and I gave him a toffee. “One for Tallu!” he said, so I gave him one for his little sister, and watched as, without eating the one he had, he rushed back upstairs. A little later, the little girl came down and said, “Toffee?” I gave her one, and she said, “One for Adit!” so I gave her another. She then retired behind my front door where she thought I could not see her… ate both, and then went upstairs.

This is going to be a post on my LJ. Fie on you Mr Prem Kudva. At 1.30 am I was just going to sleep when I thought I would just check my friends’ list and now because of you I must make another post. Very bad, very bad.

Your children are angelic even in their devilishness!

Read this word for word in my LJ. ;))))

post inspired by

January 25, 2007

suzan_s talks in her latest post about God-in-a-box…many people want to put God in a box and limit the deity and post a list of ingredients…but to me, and to some others as illustrated by this story, God is a little more than that…

A king (as it might be Akbar) once banished a subject from his kingdom. His court jester (as it might be Birbal) remarked admiringly, “Oh, great King, you are able to do something which even the Almighty cannot do!” Pleased but curious, the King asked what it was about the banishment that was so great…the jester replied, “How can the Almighty banish someone to a place outside His domain?…only you can!”

Thank you, suzan_s, for bringing this neat little anecdote to mind!