View From The Other Side.

My niece Nitila and her husband Viren visited us last weekend. Her mail to the family via our family group portal is reproduced below to show how a visitor to my humble abode feels.

Thatha in our language Thamizh is Grand father. Mama is maternal uncle. Mapillai is son in law. Chinna Mapillai means Junior Son In Law. The Son in law has a very special status in our culture. He is usually molly coddled. I sure was.

Now, over to Nitila.

“Viren and I were in Pune over the weekend as his family was getting together there. We visited Ramana Mama and Thatha on Saturday.

Ramana Mama is now walking with an elbow crutch and is quite mobile. He has also lost a lot of weight since I last saw him.

Thatha was in full form and quizzed the Chinna Mapilai and me on all possible aspects of life – health (thyroid, blood pressure), careers, house help, logistics, work travel, etc. In order to be able to hear all our responses properly he went inside to put on his hearing aid. At the end of all the questioning he declared Viren to be unchanged since our wedding (when he last saw him) and was kind enough to attribute this to the fact that I must be looking after him well.

He then proceeded to make enquiries about his own Mapilai: health (diabetes, blood pressure), career (teaching, Loyola, etc) and seemed reasonably satisfied by the responses provided.

He was very pleased with his new sweatshirt which he wore promptly and also liked his new diary so much that he said he would not use the one bought by Ramana Mama the previous day. He then started working on filling the diary with all sorts of important information so that when I visited yesterday again he made Ramana Mama write down all the birthdays (except Jai’s because he said he was sure of Jai’s birthday).

Yesterday he also informed Ranjan that I am the baby of the family : I am therefore wondering what the status of my four younger Rajgopaul cousins may be.

Since I was well advised by Ramana Mama to declare myself to be in the best of health, Thatha had to find some other prescription. Consequently I have been told to acquire a Chinese dress on my next visit to Hong Kong or Singapore.

He is now awaiting his next visitor (Barath Mama).

It was a fun trip!



Welcome to the Loose Bloggers’ Consortium, where every Friday, some of us post on the same topic. Today’s topic “Family”, has been chosen by Conrad.

I would like to write about India’s most urgent problem of the family. If India’s family planning strategies could only work, our prosperity levels would be more equitable.

In the India that I was born in, large families were the norm. Family planning was unknown and the only abortions one heard of were miscarriages. Joint families of scores of members were quite common in the rural parts though in the cities not as many. Today, even in rural parts, such families have made their way for unitary families due to land holdings being parceled out to all heirs. The growth in total population however has been phenomenal. At the time of independence in 1947, we were around 350 million. We are now in excess of one billion.

Identifying the problem, even then as an important one, immediately after independence, the Indian government aggressively decided to promote family planning with a “We two, Ours two” policy.

This thrust shifted to a one child norm subsequently.

I suppose that it is some bureaucrat’s idea of parenthood that, the father is shown with that miserable look on his face!

Many strategies are in place including legislation for abortion being legal. Free sterilization surgeries in government hospitals, including regular camps for the same in rural areas with additional incentives, monetary or in kind, achieve some success,  but we are yet to reach satisfactory levels. In the 1965-2009 period, contraceptive usage has more than tripled (from 13% of married women in 1970 to 48% in 2009) and the fertility rate has more than halved (from 5.7 in 1966 to 2.7 in 2009), but the national fertility rate is still high enough to cause long-term undesirable population growth.

The problem is to take the message to the rural illiterate population. In the cities and towns success has been achieved, but where significant action is needed, the progress is slow.

Unfortunately, India being a democracy, the kind of intervention that China was able to make has not been possible. During the infamous emergency period, forced sterilizations were carried out and the ruling party paid dearly for it after the emergency was lifted and elections were held.

So, we now have the urban phenomenon of different types of families; DINKS (Double Income No Kids), DISKS (Doble Income Single Kid), SINKS (Single Income No Kids) and SISKS( Single Income Single Kid) and other variations of family planning on the one hand, and unplanned production of children in the rural and illiterate population of India. My own small family was among the early adapters of DISK which eventually became a SISK. Now, it is a TINK(Triple Income No Kid)!

The many types of large families that I have seen in my childhood and youth have all but disappeared but we still have a long way to go to reach sanity.

An Outraged Friend.

On Sunday, a friend who makes a monthly visit to me to let off steam and to recharge his batteries, inevitably on Sundays when he has his weekly off, came over to rant about his latest outrage.

My friend, let us call him KD, is an atheist born in the Roman Catholic tradition. He is a bon vivant who is totally secular. He is divorced from his wife who is a non practicing Protestant Christian and daughter of a pastor of one of those prolific evangelical Protestant sects that dot the Indian landscape. Her family has many pastors in it and most other members are devout and have slogans like “Jesus Saves” and “Praise The Lord” on their vehicles.

With that background, the story will now become clearer. KD has a step son, from his exe’s previous marriage. KD has three children from his marriage, all now grown up and away in many other parts of the world. The step son, the eldest, got married recently to a girl from his mother’s religious sect for which all the children had come to Pune.

After the marriage, all the children, with the new daughter in law, went to pay their respects to their maternal grandfather who has been catatonic for the past eight years in a hospital. When he became aware of the children, he opened his eyes and just asked one question to them – “Has K been saved?”. The children returned on Friday from their visit and reported to KD about this and KD went into a state of total rage and could not sleep.

This was followed by a dinner at KD’s place for the new bride’s family on Saturday during which, the family did not exactly endear themselves to KD with their frequent prayer and oft repeated “Praise The Lord!” during normal conversation. Before the meal started, the senior most of them asked permission from KD to pray and just to be polite, KD agreed. The dinner was no better with very solemn and silent eating at the end of which, permission to pray was again asked when KD who had had enough, said “No thank you.” The guests were aghast and quickly excused themselves and left.

KD stewed again the whole night and decided to come to his friend and confidante to share these two stories and to ask whether he needed to be saved? He cheered up quite a bit when I said, “yes, from these people”.

I have nothing against people holding on to their beliefs and practicing their religion to the best of their abilities. But surely, they should have the sensitivity to leave such behaviour aside on social occasions among people who either believe differently or do not believe at all?

Ansooya Rajgopaul – A Tribute.

amma and Pad2

To the left is the apple of the eyes of the Rajgopauls, my sister Padmini who many of my readers would know from some of her comments on my posts. To the right is our mother, the late Ansooya Rajgopaul, who left us ten years ago. Had she been alive, today would have been her 87th birthday and this is a tribute from her four children, grand children and great grand children, who hope that she will read this wherever she is.

She was the cement that made the four of us and all her grandchildren what we are today. A close knit and loving family despite distances separating us. Thanks to modern communication methods, though we are not physically next to each other, we are all in touch and meet as often as we can to just be together. Had she been alive, perhaps, today we would have all gathered somewhere to celebrate her birthday.

May she bless her children, grandchildren and great grand children, none of the last of who she ever got to see.