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Friday, 8 November 2019

NaBloPoMo 2019: Day 8: Tough times…Tough people

When Amma got married to Appa, a geologist, he was working in Sandur Mines in Bellary. The rest of his family lived in Kyatsandra (in Tumkur) which is famous for the Siddaganga Math, and his father Kashi Srinivas Iyengar was the first Principal of the Siddaganga Samskruta Pathshala. For about 3 years after their marriage, Appa had left Amma at Kyatsandra with the family, with the intention that she should serve Tatha, and get his blessings. Appa stayed alone in Bellary, with occasional visits home. 

First person to reader's left with Thirunamam - Kashi Srinivas Iyengar.
Pic taken at Siddaganga Samskruta Pathashala in Tumkur by my cousin Kodandaram M. 

The family was a big one, and there was always some or the other work to do for Amma. I remember her recounting how she and her two co-sisters would do all the housework together. There was a definite hierarchy in place, and these daughters-in-law would cook breakfast, but get to eat it only after all the menfolk (including the younger brothers-in-law) and the younger sisters-in-law had eaten – by then, it was time to get the lunch ready and by the time lunch was over, it was time for evening coffee and by the time that was over, it was time for cooking dinner…busy days full of the hard work of caring for a huge family.

There were no toilets inside the house (or even outside for that matter), and I remember Amma describing the travails of the ladies of the house who would “go outside” together after darkness fell or before the day broke.

I remember Amma narrating one incident when I had pestered her to tell me more about those times. On one of his visits home, Appa had bought a bottle of snow for Amma. In case you don’t understand, “snow” was the dainty name for “face cream” in those times. Amma had perhaps used it just once or twice, when her sister-in-law saw it, and coolly claimed it for herself, and Amma never saw it again.

I demanded to know what she did. “Nothing – what was there to do?” 
“Why didn’t you complain to Appa?”  
With that typical patient smile, she said, “What for? It was such a small thing. And we never bothered our husbands for such things in those times. And she was a young girl, so she must have wanted it badly.” 
Still in her teens, Amma herself may not have been much older than that ‘young girl’ in terms of age; but I got a glimpse of her maturity even then.

In due course of time, at 18 years of age, Amma was pregnant, and in keeping with customs, was sent to her parents’ house for the delivery. They still lived in that isolated house and as the days passed, Amma started getting worried about how they would manage the actual delivery. Her main concern was that her stepmother’s father’s health was steadily deteriorating and if anything untoward happened, she would go there, and Amma would be left alone.

Even as she fretted over this, her favourite aunt, Chinattai, came to their house for a few days. She took good care of Amma, but couldn’t stay for long. In what must have been the first of a life filled with tough decisions, Amma insisted on going with Chinattai to her house in Holenarsipura because it was a small town, and it would be easier to get the necessary medical help. At 19 years of age, she officially became “Amma” for the first time.

In writing this post, I can’t help but reflect on the spirit of people in those times. Dedication to parents, serving them, living in joint families, giving up personal comforts at times, making sacrifices so that life can go on …how different conditions today are!



  1. No wonder they say, maturity is not in the numbers, it is in the ability to handle every challenging situation (big or small). So much to learn from aunty. 🙏🙏🙏

    1. What an insightful thought, Shilpa! Thank you so much ❤️!

  2. Beautiful.....
    Trust me joint family is the best provided if ppl have the maturity like your Amma too the otherwise trust me it's a complete disaster.

    1. Thank you! You're right - maturity or at least the ability to adapt is definitely required.

  3. Their generation was really strong and tough....


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