Monday, February 27, 2006

Blast from the past

An uncle of mine just dug-up this photograph from the MIT archives. It's circa 1936. The "girl" on the right is my maternal grandmother, to her left is her sister and the boys are their cousins. The picture was taken at MIT where the boys were studying. My grandmother and her sister were at Boston University, having just transferred from Mills College in Oakland. I never saw my grandmother; she passed away when my mom was 21. Her sister "Kamumashi" lived in Ahmedabad, and we knew her to be a highly intelligent, gentle soul. The "boy" in the middle is Manumasa, who I met at the Parekh-family get-together last year. At 90+, he still looks the same, has the very same smile, and is vivacious, articulate and a very fun person to be around.

I saw this picture last night, and dug-up a few more "hard-copies" in my album, and found some from the middle-to-late 1800s. It is astonishing what a few pictures can do to put you in touch with your roots, and the real you.

My uncle writes:

I am speechless beyond belief. What incredible courage it must have taken for Ba and Kumamashi to manage a graduate education in the U.S. at a time when it was unusual for WHITE WOMEN to have such opportunities. And they did it as diminutive Indian women, strangers in a strange land, vegetarians, and with limited command of the English language.

Furthermore they managed to start in California, decide that they wanted a change, move to Boston University and complete their education there. And all this as Indian women in the 1930s in the U.S. I am so proud of them.

I have to say that our uncles look great as well. In the picture they project such self-confidence and self-assurance. I am sorry only that in my adult life I did not have the opportunity to talk to them about their experiences in the U.S. Sadly, I rather suspect that they must have experienced not only good times but also racism that is not reflected in their happy postures in the pictures.


My mom writes:


Yesterday, I rang up our cousin Varsha in A'bad and talked about the MIT pix. She had seen the pix and had the same moving reaction as we had. Both of us were steeped in nostalgia. From her, I got Manumama's phone number in B'bay and rang him and read Kumar's 2 emails to him. He was very happy to be sharing all this with us and warmly invited me to come for a visit at his house in B'bay. He is a widower and lives by himself in a plush flat. His two daughters who live in B'bay, keep an eye on him, much as I used to look after Dadaji. I too invited him to come stay with me when he is next in A'bad.

Manumama is 93 and is not only in full possession of his faculties,but also does consulting!! Can you beat that? He visits Kotah in Rajasthan every 2 weeks for a Birla concern! Raja and Mandar, you could be doing the same at 93!!