A slice of family history


Thanks to messaging apps and social networks, families and friends have come closer. There is a joy in reconnecting with cousins, aunts and uncles, and knowing that you are family.

This afternoon, on my husband’s maternal cousins’ group, I saw a few photographs. Some of the cousins had visited the family’s ancestral home, and the village temple nearby.

The house, though occupied by other people, has stood the test of time – teakwood staircases and doorways, and lots of memories.

As I saw the photographs, my husband casually mentioned that he was born there, in that house. While I knew that he was born in that small village, I had not made the connection to the house.

That transformed the way I looked at the pictures. This was a part of our family history. My imagination soared.

Then I imagined how my husband would have walked up and down these wooden stairs on chubby legs, being chased by an aunt or his mom; how he would have played with cousins and watched the hens clucking in the yard. The home had a barn, where there was a beautiful cow named Radhamani, who was loved and cherished by all the family members. After my husband’s parents moved to the city, most school holidays were spent in this house.

Four other cousins were also born in the same house. Lots of stories and memories there.

I only know the husband I met nearly two decades ago, but starting from the ancestral home he was born in, and the lovely family who surrounded him, there were so many factors that have made him the person he is today.

It was nice listening to interesting family anecdotes, and to realize that there was a time, when my husband and I led independent lives, unbeknownst to each other.

My Doll Display – Part 4


Today’s featured dolls are from The Masai Maara Tribe in Kenya, Africa, from our trip there.

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We visited the Masai Village on our trip to Kenya, a couple of years back.  These dolls are from there.

We spent a fascinating afternoon learning about the Masai Tribe, that has lived in Africa for centuries.  Their culture runs wide and deep, and is steeped in a lot of beliefs.

The Masai live in settlements called ‘Manyatas’ or villages.  The village is surrounded by a bramble bush and stick fence to protect the tribe from wild animals.

The Masai men performed a welcome dance for us and crowned each of us in turns, with a top-hat made of lion skin.

The Masai have stopped hunting wild animals, as hunting is banned in Kenya.  However, they do kill the odd wild animal, if their cattle or tribesmen are threatened.

The Masai guide ‘Philip’ wore a chain that had a lion tooth pendant.  He claimed to have killed a lion; the pendant was a souvenier.

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The guide spoke good English, the result of a drive by the government to make education mandatory.

The Masai are mainly cowherds, and each village has sheep, goats and cows.  The village we visited had 67 tribe members and over 300 cattle.  The central village enclosure is where the cattle stay at night. The place is filled with cattle manure, used extensively by the Masai.

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Men mainly graze cattle, build fences and protect the village, while women fetch water, cook food, build and repair the house, care for the children, and make jewelry.

Polygamy is an accepted practice, with a man having about 6 wives.  The man pays a dowry to win his woman – 10 cows per woman.

The main diet of the Masai include milk, blood and meat.  Their main tools are the sword, the spear and poisoned arrows.

The Masai houses we visited were made up of tree branches and cow dung.  The houses are tiny and have areas earmarked for various activities.
The houses have a small opening to sky to let light in. At night, they use a kerosene bottle lamp.

The Masai make fire using the branches of the olive and acacia trees. It was amazing to watch.

After this, we were taken to the village handicraft exhibition, where we bought these dolls and some lovely bracelets and chains.

A piece of another culture added to my Golu through these dolls. So many memories here!

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Weaving a tale – A short story


The rain beat down mercilessly; it had been pouring the whole week. Flashes of lightning captured snapshots of a group of people standing in the pouring rain, with the Banyan tree under which they stood offering only some semblance of cover.

But even louder than the noise of the falling rain was the loud pounding in Devan’s head, as he was berated and belittled by his community.

Devan stood with a bent head, as he heard things that seared through his heart.

Devan, and all the people who stood there that night, belonged to one of the oldest weaving communities in the country. Their history dated back to hundreds of years; they had been weavers for kings, queens, princes and princesses, and now in 1975, they wove for society’s elite. Their weaving techniques were a closely guarded secret, passed on from generation to generation.  They married only within the community, to protect their craft.

Devan’s daughter, Chella, had done the unthinkable. She had chosen her husband from outside the community; an act that the community considered treacherous; and one that could threaten the very fabric of their existence.

Chella had been forced to leave the village, and had been banned from ever entering it.

Devan’s wife had died when Chella was 9 years old. From then on, Devan had been both mother and father to the girl.

The people threatened to ostracize Devan if he attempted to revive ties with his daughter.

A broken father stood, facing his fellow-men, as his heart broke into a hundred pieces, as he thought about his daughter. He had not been given any time to talk to Chella, or tell her anything. The news had spread like wild fire in the small village and even the pouring rain couldn’t put out the fire.

It was a long night.

The sun rose the next day, and slowly life limped back to normal. Devan missed his daughter and ached to talk to her. The village has only one phone and that was in the Headman’s house. He resigned himself to his fate.

In their community, there was a practice that each time a girl got married, her father would weave the bridal saree, with motifs of all the things that the girl liked.

As Devan went about his chores, an idea took shape in his head. After his usual quota of weaving everyday, he started weaving a bridal saree for his daughter – every warp, every weft, woven with love and the agony of separation.

In a few weeks his gift was ready. On his next day off, he met a very old friend of his from a neighbouring village and sought his help in passing on the gift to his daughter. The friend swore his secrecy and took the saree with him.

Devan hoped and prayed that his daughter would be happy to receive the gift.

The friend made it to the small town and located Chella’s house. New bride though she was, the girl looked unhappy and sad. She perked up when she saw her Dad’s friend.

She cried for her father and his plight. She was happy that he was not mad at her and thrilled with the saree.

After her Dad’s friend left, she opened the saree and cried, as she saw each motif that her father had woven into it – from sunflowers to butterflies, lollipops and colourful ribbons, bits of her life leaped out at her. As she studied it, her trained weaver’s eye saw that there was a written message woven into the saree.

It read, “Chella, my dear. I love you and bless you with every happiness in your life. Have a good life. I bear no anger towards you. Believe in your dreams. You have made the right choice. I love you. Blessings – Papa.”

The burden of having chosen an untrodden path slowly fell away from Chella’s shoulders.

She smiled – a wide, beautiful and confident smile.

The Toothless Granny – A Short Story


The village of Marakad was far away from any town or city, comprising a small community of farmers who grew rice. Life went by at a pace dictated by the planting season and the harvest season. The people of the village were a happy lot.

In this village there lived a granny – who was in her late nineties – its oldest living member.

She lived with her sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The village folk called her ‘The Toothless Granny’.

After her retirement from active life, she took on the role of investigator and village observer.

No incident, however small escaped her hawk-like eyes. She sat on the open verandah, anytime after 9 am in the morning, after a breakfast of rice porridge.

She sat with her legs stretched out and her back against the wall for support.

She had a small iron cup with a small pounding rod, in which she pounded cloves and cardamoms that she chewed throughout the day. The metal rod’s ‘ting ting’ sound alerted the village to her presence.

She stopped women, who were on their way to the market, asked about their shopping, gave liberal advice to squabbling neighbours, took away and hid the cricket ball that hit her once, when the boys played cricket, played with babies and sang songs to them in her cackling voice.

She ruled her family with a constant barrage of words, had a comment for anything and nothing, and from her vantage point, lived the lives and experiences of almost everybody in the village.

Her family put up with her various moods and chatter, the villagers tried to avoid her, but sometimes she sent word for them, and they came, if only out of respect for her age.

She took care of her health and appearance, and pulled up young ladies for their sloppy dressing. She was a matchmaker and a walking almanac of prospective brides and grooms within a 10 km radius of their village. Such a personality was she!

As with everything else, change came to the village. The village had suddenly become quiet. For the first few days, nobody realized it, then people started wondering. Then they heard that The Toothless Granny was unwell, and ailing with a bad chest congestion.

People dropped by at all hours to visit her and they could not bear to see her, so frail and quiet. They prayed for her recovery. Somehow the village had lost its charm, without their granny to chide them, scold them and watch them.

Somehow the key to the soul of the village’s happiness seem to lie with The Toothless Granny.

Ten long days went by, and then one morning the villagers heard the most joyous ‘ting’ of the granny pounding her mouth fresheners for the day.

People queued up to talk to her about the mundanities of their lives, their petty squabbles and everything else.

The village was alive once more.