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Monday, 25 November 2019

NaBloPoMo 2019: Day 25: Seeta – RAM Kaho!

I realized I haven’t mentioned Amma’s name anywhere in this blog series. She was named “Seethamma” although everyone called her Mani. And what a gem she was!

But, one can’t talk about Seeta and ignore Rama, right?

Appa’s full name is Rama Iyengar. And I’m writing about him today because it’s his birthday. And although writing about him will need a month, too, I’ll try to do my best in this one post.

Appa studied Geology – quite an unconventional subject to take in the 1940s. Working in the mining industry was an exhausting job. Standing in the hot sun for long hours in the mines at Bellary, Redi, and Goa. Trudging around in gumboots through the sludge created during the heavy downpours of monsoon. He did it all without complaining.

Appa in his karmabhoomi

Appa with a prize he won for Mines Safety Week

At times, he stayed near the mines while we kids and Amma lived in another town because he did not want our education to be affected. At such times, he would cook by himself on a kerosene stove; during the weekend when he came home, he would enjoy Amma’s cooking.

His pay wasn’t very great, and there were so many of us. Yet, he never hesitated to spend money on our education or for buying books to fill our home, for food, for travel or for clothes. Forget us, he even went out of the way to help other people in difficulty.

I think you remember how we hosted the two young boys during their SSLC exams. Even when we had the shop, Appa’s generous heart was not very good at making profits because he would be moved by the sob stories of people and gave away books, pens, food, etc to young kids for free.

When my sister Vatsala, who’s a physician, started her own clinic in a place called Kunigal after her marriage, Appa wrote her a letter.

"Don't charge poor patients, or charge them very less. Your grandfather had helped many poor students. We too have come up through difficulties only. You have become a doctor to serve the poor; always remember that!"

Vatsala’s husband was pleasantly shocked to see Appa’s spirit. Especially because he’d had some relatives telling him, “Your father-in-law has made 2 daughters complete post-graduation in medicine, so he must be quite rich.” The reality was that all of Rama Iyengar’s daughters studied with merit seats, and only because fees were not very high in Goa, and because everyone in the family sacrificed a lot of comforts.

Although people kept telling Appa not to educate his daughters because then he wouldn’t find grooms for them, he stuck to his stand and educated us well. Whether we got husbands or not, he wanted to make sure we could fend for ourselves.

Appa and Amma and my nephew Sriharsha at Komala's Ph.D convocation. Appa had severe leg pain and yet, he went from Bangalore to IIT Madras to witness that glorious occasion where his daughter not just graduated, but also delivered the 'pledge'.

Even in his workplace, Appa had some revolutionary ideas. For example, when he was Manager, he knew that some employees were drunkards and would waste the salary on drinks. So, he had instructed the cashier not to hand over the salary to them. Instead, their wives had to come to the office when Appa would also be present and the cashier had to hand over the salary to the women in his presence.

Appa was very honest and forthright, even quoting the rule book to corrupt inspectors who were looking for bribes. While he helped many of the employees get loans/ donations/aid from the company MD to buy a site, buy a house, etc, he never ever asked anything for himself.

Indeed, Appa and Amma always lived by the philosophy of his favorite quote, “Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha!” 

Amma and Appa by river Ganga during one of their yatras
Appa last week, with his youngest grandchild
Between our parents, Amma was always the one to keep cool while Appa would get very emotional. If ever we got late reaching home (when there were no telephones – or at least not in our house – to inform home about our delay), Appa is the one who would be pacing up and down near the front gate. Amma simply carried on with her work, saying, “God will take care.”

Between the two of them, Amma and Appa brought us all up to be independent, courageous, caring women, imbued with our parents’ sense of living on the path of Dharma. For that, we are eternally grateful to them!


  1. Happy birthday uncle. 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏
    What a lovely couple. ❤

  2. Wishing him a very happy birthday and a healthy life....

  3. Indeed Iyengar is revolutionary. He entertained people of all cast and creed without any bias. With sheer determination he was able to educate all daughters more than decently. You can rightly be proud of wonderful parents.
    Wishing a very happy birthday to Appa.

  4. Happy birthday to Appa...
    With all 3 of us daughters, we received similar encouragement at home, in spite of the economic problems..... Thanks to them, that we are such independent but grounded women...


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