Pat and Prem Kumar family

Subtitle

My paternal aunt and her husband - Athai and Mama

Family tree links: 12 -02 Prem's ancestors and siblings.pdf  and 12 -05 Prem's paternal aunt's family.pdf

Intoduction

Athai and Mama had lived in many parts of the vast Indian nation due to the demands of his work as a senior government officer.  Both of them regarded Sivakasi (see Appendix 1 of Section 2) as their native place, but Chennai (anglicised as Madras) is the city where they spent the longest time; so Appendix 1 below provides some information on the city and on the house, Chitra which was their home for many years.

Here is a wedding picture of Athai and Mama:

 

They had 4 children – a daughter, Karpagavalli (“Mathini”), first and then 3 sons named Ananda Rajan (“DAR”), Manohara Rajan (“DMR”) and Gunaseela Rajan (“Guna”); Appendices 2 to 5 give brief details about them and their families.

Background - Athai

Athai was born in Sivakasi in 1911 as the eldest child of my paternal grandparents, Periappa and Thenammal (see Section 2); she was named Annalakshmi Ammal.  My father, Appa (see Section 4) was born next in 1913 and Chinniah (see Section 7) was the last in 1918.  They lived in Thoothukudi (see Appendix 1 of Section 2) where Athai attended school until she was 14. 

Athai had told me several times how close she and Appa always were, that they never ever quarrelled and always looked after each other.  Actually this did not need saying, because the close and affectionate relationship between them was very apparent to all the family.  She always affectionately called him Thambi (meaning younger brother in Tamil) and he called her Akka (meaning older sister).  I remember that, during 1963/64 when I worked in Chennai, DAR and I often used to have a good-hearted laugh about the way Athai and Appa greeted each other when they met after some time and again how they said goodbye on parting.  The ritual involved was extravagantly elaborate; it took a good half hour for them to greet and enquire after the well-being of all the family; saying goodbye always took at least an hour as the process usually started in the sitting room and very slowly moved through the hall, verandah, garden etc to the car.  However, it was certainly not a charade; the pleasure they took in each other’s company was a joy to behold.  I do believe that the many cosy chats they had over their long lives were some of the most enjoyable moments for them.  Here is a photo of them, with Daniel in the middle, taken at the family get-together in Chennai in 1990:

 

However, one subject which I am sure they never discussed was religion.  In Section 2 I have described in some detail how Thenammal became a “Secret Christian” when she was a school girl and indicated that this practice generally got passed on down the female line.  So Athai was brought up as a Secret Christian.  An illustration of the secrecy involved is that Athai used to keep her bible in the store-room which was never visited by Mama so that she could read it without his knowledge!  I will refer to the repercussions of this Secret Christianity for the family later in this section. 

Thenammal was a brilliant cook and she passed this talent on to Athai who took great pride and delight in producing delicious dishes for the family.  Athai was also renowned for her hospitality to all visitors, especially the family; apart from the many wonderful dishes she cooked and served, she also liked to offer the visitors special Spencer’s cakes, doughnuts, Fanta etc.  I recall that, unless you were ever-vigilant at the dining table, she kept on filling your plate with food; the trick was to keep your hand over your plate whilst she was anywhere near you!  I remember that during our family visits Arun quickly cottoned on to this; any time Athai came near him with food, he used to put his hand over his plate and then mischievously say “Anna wants more”, leaving his sister to cope with the mountain of food on her plate!

Athai was a soft and affectionate person for whom family was all-important.  As with a lot of traditional Indian families, in public she was always the quiet submissive wife but in private she certainly knew how to get what she wanted; also, she learnt well from her mother how to keep the wheels of the family running smoothly by dealing with family problems quietly and effectively. 

Background – Mama

Mama was born in Sivakasi in 1902 and had 5 sisters.  His father was engaged in the paddy business; the family lived a comfortable middle-class life but was not wealthy.  There is some evidence that the family was descended from a regional ruler under the Pandiyan kings who held court in Madurai.  Mama’s full name was Vallikutti Sendoorkalai Karuppanna Duraiswamy Nadar, but he was generally known as VSKD. 

Mama attended school in Sivakasi and was consistently the top performer there.  With the help of scholarships in 1925 he completed his BA in Economics, winning the Madras University gold medal.  Here is his convocation photo:

 

He had an unquenchable thirst for education and knowledge throughout his life; there was no limit to the breadth of subjects in which he showed an interest.  Whilst he was working he completed his MA in Economics.  He also studied law but unfortunately was unable to complete the course as he was unexpectedly posted to a different area and had more responsibility at work.  

In 1925, after a short period of teaching at Sivakasi school, he joined government service as a Revenue Inspector in Vellore, Tamil Nadu; subsequently he was posted to various locations including Chennai, Karaikudi, Coimbatore, Madurai, Baroda and Delhi.  His ability, astuteness and determination enabled him to make rapid progress through the ranks; his final 3 years in government service were spent in Kolkata (anglicised as Calcutta) as exalted Commissioner of Income Tax.  During his career in the Revenue, Mama established a formidable reputation for his ability to persuade obdurate big industrialists to pay the taxes due from them and also for assisting in the successful prosecution of some famous tax evaders.  It was also well-known that he was incorruptible; Guna has provided this example: “I vividly remember an incident when an industrialist sent a bike as a present for me, which I begged my father to keep; but he flatly refused and sent it back.”

When I was a little boy and indeed well into my late teens, Mama exuded an aura of almost impossibly high office and achievement; he was the VIP – the grand government officer going from strength to strength for ever.  It seemed that there was nothing he could not do if he really put his mind to it.

However, he retired from government service in 1958 when he was only 56.  True to the words of his biographer that “he did not retire but was liberated from a routine life to a more active life!”, he thereafter remained as busy as ever with various activities which are referred to below.

 Married life and children 

Athai and Mama were married in 1925 when she was only 14 and he was 23.  Whilst Mama was not fanatically religious, he was a practising Hindu.  He was brought up as such by his parents and expected this to continue after his marriage.  So, he was deeply shocked to discover after the arranged marriage that Athai was a Secret Christian.  He threatened to send her back to her parents for good but was eventually content to accept the status quo following the social pressures on him.  Athai was certainly careful to keep her Secret Christianity under wraps. 

However, when Mathini was born about a year after the wedding, Mama was very anxious to ensure that his daughter was not inducted into Secret Christianity by her mother and grandmother; so he kept an eagle eye on all goings-on.  He was particularly keen to avoid her being baptised secretly.  Mathini was married when she was about 17.  Then Mama and his son-in-law mounted a successful joint vigil to avoid Mathini being converted to Christianity.  In reality this was perhaps something of an overkill as Mathini was a sweet, gentle and simple person who tended to believe what anyone told her.  Anyway I think Mama was really happy that his only daughter remained a Hindu. 

Here is a picture taken in 1933 of Athai and Mama with Mathini and DAR:

 

and here is a photo, probably taken in 1949 prior to DAR’s departure to the UK, of the proud parents with their three boys:

 

Mama’s mother died a few years after his marriage, and his father died a few years later.  His sisters’ families lived in Sivakasi and his own family had little contact with them.  This was partly due to geographical factors, but he always kept in touch with his relatives in Sivaksai and helped them when the need arose.  However, his family became very close to Periappa’s (Mama’s father-in-law and my grandfather) family; there was great rapport between Mama and Periappa – the age difference between them was only 10 years, and there was tremendous mutual respect and affection.  During many Summer months they spent a lot of time together in Kodaikanal (see Appendix 1 of Section 2); both of them wanted to escape the heat of the plains and enjoy the cool tranquil stay in the hills – business of course continued to be conducted from there! 

I think that in family life Athai and Mama complemented each other really well.  She was the calm, comforting mother who looked after the children’s physical and emotional needs; he provided the necessary guidance and help on education and career.  However, he had a soft spot for the opposite sex, flirting and touching at any opportunity.  He always tried to sit or stand next to an attractive member of the opposite sex at any event, and Athai was equally devious in contriving to prevent this – she attempted to keep him under control!

In 1950 the Indian government sent Mama to London for work experience with Sir Paul Chambers (who was then a very senior officer in the UK Revenue and later became chairman of the giant ICI) for about 2 weeks.  He found the exposure to working with very talented people interesting and stimulating.  He had always been an Anglophile and this experience made him even more so.  I recall that he sometimes loved teasing Athai by declaring that he would like to emigrate to England; this would send her into a mild panic!  In 1951 Athai and Mama visited England for a lengthy stay, and enjoyed spending time with DAR who was studying in London at that time.  They also went on a sight-seeing tour of Europe. 

Here are some recollections of Guna:

“I remember the days when I was in school at Mumbai (anglicised as Bombay) when my father was emphatic about making his sons totally self reliant.  I was only 9 years old when he used to make me take a public state bus from our flat to my school which was a good hour’s journey.  He never encouraged his children to bask in the luxury of going to school in his chauffer driven car and believed that we should mix with children from different economic background.  At the same time he was a very family oriented person and whenever he had the spare time he devoted it to his family.  He used to faithfully take us to Crawford market every Sunday to do the weekly shopping, which made me follow the same routine many years later in life.”

Life after Mama’s retirement from government service 

Here is a photo of Athai and Mama, probably taken around the time of his “retirement”:

 

Following “retirement” in 1958 Mama went into timber and paint marketing (Noble Paints) businesses with Periappa’s family (Periappa and his 2 sons).  He also established various agency businesses for his own family (Mama and his 3 sons).  Furthermore he engaged in high level tax consultancy work for about 6 years advising some large clients including a wealthy English client with business interests in India. In 1963 he master-minded the establishment of Ravi Paints & Chemicals (manufacturing and marketing Ravi Paints in place of just marketing Noble Paints for a third party); this was a joint enterprise of Mama’s and Periappa’s families.

The family continued to grow; here is a picture taken at the time of Guna’s wedding in 1966 (of Mathini’s 4 children only Shanthi is present in the picture):

 

Here is an interesting account by my brother-in-law Chidambaram of an incident at the time of Guna’s wedding: 

“It was Guna and Rathi's wedding day. All the elders of the family were waiting for them at home, to receive the newly married couple and bestow their blessings. There was a mild commotion that the silver sacred ash pot (vibhuthi kinnam) was missing. I was standing near Mama; with a mischievous smile and mild anger he took me to a room and brought a new pot full of ash. He asked me to give it to Periappa saying that the Christian crowd had hidden the old one. He explained later about Sivakasi's Secret Christian relatives and how they despise Hindu customs and their intent to disrupt them silently. Later, I found his views were totally secular and tolerant; he respected true Christians and their charities.”

My sister Maheswari was a university student in Chennai for 4 years from 1960 to 1964, and lived in the student hostel quite near Chitra.  She says:

“As you know, they were my local guardians when I was studying at Madras. I enjoyed the weekends I spent with them. Mama was generally very interested in education and did his best to guide and help children of our community. He used to go through my note books and make necessary corrections. When I first came to Madras he asked me to read English books to improve my English. He asked me to underline new words and find the meaning to improve my vocabulary. He was a hard working but a very fun loving person. Athai and he used to take us (me and Mathini's children) to movies. He used to enjoy playing cards with us.”

When Mama went on a family outing to the movies, Athai invariably accompanied him for two reasons.  First, she positioned herself in the cinema between Mama and any member of the opposite sex.  Then, whenever anything racy such as a love scene came up on the screen, she immediately started chatting to the grandchildren to distract them from the ‘corruptive influence’ of whatever was up on the screen!  So there was usually some jockeying amongst the girls to try to avoid sitting next to her in the cinema!!

Mama’s characteristics and his impact on family/society 

Mama had a breadth of knowledge and experience equaled by few I have known.  He enjoyed traveling far and wide, and was always inquisitive to find out what was going on everywhere.  He was certainly the cleverest and most talented person I have known well.  He was able to grasp even complex issues quickly and explain them in simple terms.  He was a lateral and innovative thinker; so he almost invariably came up with a good solution to any problem (business or personal).  He was a very observant person with an excellent memory; so little escaped him.  He also subscribed to the philosophy of “the devil is in the detail”.  Unusually for an Indian he was a stickler for punctuality. 

I think Mama was a good judge of people.  Though he was a demanding task-master, he always looked after his employees and helped them to progress.  One example is Manoharan who joined Mama’s office on leaving school at 16 in the early 1960s; Mama trained him to become his trusted and very competent personal assistant.  After Mama’s death, Manoharan continued in the business and seemed to manage successfully the task of working for 3 masters (Mama’s 3 sons) until his retirement in the early 2000s due to ill health.  Another example is Choliappan who joined Mama’s family as the chauffeur in the late 1950s; I remember that for many years he used to drive the much-loved green Chevrolet with a split wind-screen until it withered with age.  He never left the family and now in his old age he lives in a little place within the compound of Chitra now occupied by Guna.

An interesting episode relates to an appointment Mama had made for the watchman (quite a low profile employee) to see him one morning at 10.00 to discuss certain matters.  Early on that morning an influential relative phoned Mama and insisted that he had to discuss an important matter and could only do so at 10.00.  Despite being put under much pressure Mama stuck to his guns and insisted that he could only see the relative after he had finished with the watchman.  

Though Mama was a workaholic, it was not all work, work, work.  He really enjoyed his social engagements with family, friends and acquaintances.  He was a frequent visitor to classical music and dance performances.  He was a big reader and liked to keep in touch with what was going on in various fields.  He also enjoyed taking his grandchildren to films, circus, cricket match etc; here are some interesting comments by his granddaughter Shanthi:

“Sometimes I would be able to persuade him to visit the CLS Bookshop so that I could indulge in some book collections.  There would be a clause attached to the purchase whereby I had to read the book and relate the story to granny and grandpa.  This contributed to my passion for writing and telling stories.  Grandpa was an ardent devotee of Swami Chidbhavananda (see Section 4 for some information on him) who used to come for a week’s visit and stay at the guest room of Lodore.  In the late nights we used to have enlightening discussions on philosophy and religion.  Grandpa also organised for the Swamiji to speak at the Boat Club premises on some inspiring topic.  Grandpa used to perform the introductory speech.  He used to be dressed from top to bottom like an Englishman along with a top hat.”

Mama was always keen to keep fit; he went on a good walk at least once a day.  He bought a lovely house in Kodaikanal called “Lodore” (referred to by Shanthi above) and issued an open invitation to all the close family to come and stay there whenever they wanted.  Whilst staying there, he could not only go on pleasant walks but could also row a boat around the tranquil lake.

He was interested in good food and was willing to try different cuisines.  His favourites were simple dishes like boiled spinach, curds and caramel custard.  He had a sweet tooth and really enjoyed his puddings.  Unfortunately he was diagnosed with diabetes when he was relatively young.  However, he managed to control the diabetes by injecting himself with insulin, and so continued eating whatever he wanted.  He was very secretive about his diabetes, even though his daughter too was diagnosed with diabetes at a young age, and only his immediate family knew about it.  I found out only because we once shared a hotel room.  When I questioned him about the secrecy, he said that he did not want to publicise this illness because people tended to refer to the condition as “sugar disease” derisively.  It was clearly very important to him what people thought of him.

Mama was always very generous with the time he gave to help all his family and community.  He resolved quarrels, gave sound/practical advice, made the right connections for people, etc.  His visits to Sivakasi were always a time for people to benefit from his valuable advice and help. 

In 2007 the Special Cover below was issued by the Indian postal authorities in recognition of his many contributions to society: 

Mama and education 

Around the time of his “retirement” Mama established a charitable trust called “ASKR Trust” (named after his father-in-law as a sign of respect) and contributed significant sums to it.  His main interest was in education; so initially the Trust was used to help students in the community, who did not possess adequate funds, to pursue further education. 

He then felt that there were inadequate facilities for the education of girls in his native place and wanted to remedy this.  So the Trust funds were used to acquire suitable land in Sivakasi and a small building was erected.  It was a landmark when the Sivakasi VSKD School opened in 1969 with just 6 pupils; the first school in the district for girls offering English medium education.  The school has gone from strength to strength, and became a Higher Secondary School in 1978.  It now has over 500 pupils and Mama’s family (especially DAR and his family) continues to take an active interest in constantly striving to make improvements.  With the help of funds from the Trust, the school is able to charge the pupils fees according to their ability to pay.

Mama’s granddaughter Priya taught at the school for a while during her university vacation.  The two daughters of Sir Anthony Hayward (Mama’s English client) also taught at the school for some time during their gap year.

I first visited the school with Mama in 1977 and have been there several times since.  It has been amazing to see how it has grown in terms of buildings, pupils, teachers and facilities.  Here is a picture of the school taken in 2004 when Pat and I visited it:

 

In August 2010 Anna, Jon, Ella, Sasha, Nicky, Julia and I visited the school.  DAR had indicated that he had an assignment for me at the school but declined to elaborate.  So it was a big surprise to be given a warm high-profile welcome on arrival with a lovely performance by the pupils’ band.  I was asked to garland Mama’s statue near the entrance:

 

I was then honoured to be asked to open ceremoniously the new VSKD Block:

 

We enjoyed looking around the impressive buildings, admired the exemplary behavior of the pupils and were overwhelmed by the kindness shown by everyone.  It was really good to be able to talk to the children and engage in lively exchanges.  Anna did a brief maths lesson for the 16 year-olds. Here is another photo of that memorable occasion (the lovely lady wearing the pink saree is the headmistress):

 

Sivakasi VSKD Girls School may be said to represent Mama’s most significant and enduring contribution to society. 

Personal perspective 

My earliest recollection of Athai and Mama is our family visit to Mumbai, where Mama was then working, whilst I was a school boy.  Then in 1956, after finishing my final school exams, I spent about two weeks with them in Kolkata where they were living at that time.  I think I was quite a greenhorn, having been educated at a traditional village school.  I remember that Mama tried to educate me a bit in the way of the world by asking me to do small errands like visiting the bank; he also arranged for one of his assistants to take me around interesting places in Kolkata.  I think the die was then cast; thereafter Athai and Mama had a profound influence on my life.

During the period from 1956 to 1960 I was a university student in Chennai, and I used to visit Athai and Mama on many week-ends.  I think it was Mama who persuaded Appa to send me to England in 1960 for further education, and it was Mama who secured me a place at Manchester University.  He went on to take a benevolent interest in me during my 3 year course at Manchester and we corresponded regularly.  He not only wanted to know how I was doing in my studies but also how I spent the money given to me (I know that his son Guna too went through the same treatment). 

The expectation was that, after completing my course at Manchester, I would return to Chennai and join the family business.  However, I put a spoke in the wheel by declaring in 1963 that I wanted to marry Pat.  My parents were implacably opposed to such a marriage outside the community.  Mama worked out a compromise whereby I should spend a year in India, either in the family business or in another job.  If I still wanted to marry Pat after this year, she could join me in Chennai.  In the Summer of 1963 Mama came to London (mainly for business reasons) where Guna was training to become a chartered accountant.  On his return journey to India by boat I accompanied him.  

Then for about a year in 1963-64 I lived with Athai and Mama – see Appendix 1 below for some details of my time at Chitra.  It was at this time that Mama was laying out his plans to start the grand project of building up Ravi Paints.  It was my luck that he asked me to help with the setting up, administration and finance.  Well, it was not exactly a bed of roses – keeping up with Mama was not for the faint-hearted!  He had a phenomenally agile and innovative mind.  I have never seen anyone engage in multi-tasking as effectively as he did – talking to someone on the phone, reading or writing something and issuing instructions to staff were all done simultaneously with full concentration on all the tasks.  However, he was also an excellent teacher; so I learnt a tremendous lot from him.

In 1964, when I made it clear that I still wanted to marry Pat, my parents did everything possible to stop me doing so.  Mama felt that he should help me but did not of course want to fall out with Appa; so his help was given in a low-key manner but in a practical and effective way.  Athai provided me with emotional support with her love and affection.  So from that time onwards, being estranged from my parents, Athai and Mama really performed the parental role for me.  They bought the beautiful white and gold silk saree which Pat wore on our wedding day (28 November 1964 in Manchester) – see photo in Appendix 5 below.

During the 1960s Mama made several visits to London, mostly for business reasons, and we always met up on those occasions.  I remember that he came to visit Pat and me in Manchester in 1964.  In 1965 Athai and Mama visited London whilst Guna was still there; I recall that Athai, Mama, Guna, Pat and I went out for dinner at an Indian restaurant in London one evening.  Here is a photo of Mama and me taken in London in 1967:

 

In 1969 he undertook business visits to England, the Middle East, Amsterdam and Edinburgh where he attended the annual conference of the Institute of Taxation; I enjoyed joining him at this conference as I had by then started specialising in tax. 

Mama was very keen for me to return to India with my family and join the family business.  He was the moving spirit behind Periappa’s invitation for us to go on a long family holiday to India in 1970, and made all the necessary practical arrangements for us.  Athai and Mama welcomed us as members of the family, and could not do enough to make our time enjoyable and comfortable.  We were booked into the lovely Queen’s Hotel in Chennai, Mama lent us a car and Athai kept sending us delicious dishes.  When Pat, Anna, Arun and I went to Kodaikanal Hill to spend about 10 days with Periappa, Athai came with us and looked after us wonderfully well.  All of us used to go on walks, picnics and also row boats on the lovely lake.  This was the time when a bond was established between Athai and Pat right across the barriers of age, race, culture, language etc.  

During all our subsequent visits to India, Athai and Mama provided us with invaluable help.  In 1975 and again in 1980 all my family enjoyed quite lengthy stays at Thoothukudi with Periappa.  Athai came with us then to ensure that we were looked after impeccably.  Here is a photo of Athai and Pat taken during the train journey from Chennai to Thoothukudi:

 

Final memories 

Apart from our family visits to India referred to above, I made several visits to India with some of the children.  During those occasions Athai and Mama ensured that we were treated as much-loved members of the family.  My visit to India in August 1983 was the last occasion when I saw Mama; here is a photo taken then at Chitra (Arun, Mama and Anna are sitting; DAR and DMR’s eldest son Gopal are standing; DAR’s son Ramesh is kneeling behind Mama):

 

Sadly Mama died in 1985; it was a big blow not only to his immediate family but also to me.  My wife Pat said: “I have affectionate and happy memories of ‘Uncle Nadar’ as we always called him.  He was extremely kind and understanding towards me; a broad-minded man who, with his wife, always welcomed us to their home and did their very best to build bridges between two different cultures. He showed and kept an interest in our family; we all think of him with great warmth.” 

Thereafter I continued with regular visits to India and Athai made sure that we were always welcomed with great warmth and love.  I remember that all her family ensured that Athai never felt lonely by being left to herself in Chitra.  DAR’s family provided the main carers; I remember that DAR used to visit her every day on his way to work in the morning and again on his way back home in the evening.  When Athai became too weak to run the house, Inimai helped, with Ramesh and Divyapriya being attentive to all her needs.  Whilst Saradhi was doing a degree course in Chennai in the late 1980s, he stayed at Chitra with Athai, and I am sure his presence helped her a great deal.  During the final period of her life Athai must have found it comforting to have Guna and Rathi living with her. 

In August/September 1992 all my family had a wonderful long holiday in India - whilst at Chennai Pat and I stayed at Chitra with Athai; Anna and Susheela stayed at Guna’s flat; Arun and Daniel stayed at DMR’s house.  Pat wrote in her diary: “I had quite an emotional reunion with Periamma” (Pat addressed Athai as Periamma).  Here is a photo of Athai and me taken at the family get-together:

 

Sadly that was the last time I saw Athai.  On 2 April 1994 Ramesh telephoned me with the shocking news that Athai was no more.  For me it was certainly the end of an era; since then I have felt that my ties to India have weakened. 

 Personally, my aunt and uncle had more or less adopted me into their family.  They were always there to advise and help not only myself but also my own family over many years.  It was indeed a most enriching experience to have known both of them closely.


Appendix 1 – Chennai (anglicised as Madras) 

Chennai, situated on the southeast coast of India, is the fourth largest city in India and the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  For most of the year, the weather is hot and humid. The hottest part of the year is late May and early June with maximum temperatures around 38–42 °C (100–107 °F). The coolest part of the year is January, with minimum temperatures around 18–20 °C (64–68 °F). 

Chennai's economy has a broad industrial base in the automobile, technology, hardware manufacturing and healthcare industries.  Chennai hosts a large cultural event, the annual Madras Music Season, which includes performances by hundreds of artists. The city has a vibrant theatre scene and is an important centre for Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form. The Tamil film industry, the second largest movie industry in India, is based in the city. 

Mama and Athai lived in Chennai during the 1930s and 1940s as Mama was posted there as a Revenue Officer.  After travelling around many parts of India as a result of his postings, Mama finally retired from government service in 1958 and they settled down in Chennai.  After living for a few years at a rented house called “Green Villa”, they bought the lovely house called “Chitra” on the outskirts of the city where they lived for the rest of their lives. Here is a front view of Chitra, with Guna who now lives there standing on the right, taken in 1998:

   

and here is a picture taken of the rear veranda in 1987 showing the lovely swing on which all my family have enjoyed sitting at some time or other; the people in the picture (left to right) are Divya (my niece – my brother’s daughter), Anna, Saradhi (Guna’s son), Athai and Murali (my nephew – my brother’s son):

  

When Athai and Mama originally bought Chitra, it was situated right on the edge of the city and had few houses around it.  With the expansion of the city, many buildings have sprung up and there is now a five star hotel just across the road.  However, they always took a lot of care to keep the house and garden in immaculate condition. 

During the period from 1956 to 1960 I was a university student in Chennai, and I used to visit Athai and Mama on many week-ends.  Then for about a year in 1963-64 I lived with Athai and Mama at Chitra, and was looked after as though I was the last son still living at home (all their own children had by then left).  I had a spacious bedroom on the first floor with an open veranda and bathroom, and lacked for no comfort.  I remember fondly that every morning Athai used to bring up to my bedroom a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice; she really spoilt me with delicious food too.  The close bond I formed with them during that period endured to the end of their lives.  For many years following my year’s stay there, they always referred to that bedroom as Prem’s room, and I recall leaving a few items of clothing there for future use as children do at their parents’ house.  Guna has inherited the house, and now always issues a warm welcome for me to stay there whenever I visit Chennai.  So Chitra has really been my home in India since 1963.

  

Appendix 2 – Karpagavalli (“Mathini”) 

Karpagavalli (our family relationship dictated that I should call her Mathini) was born on 4 January 1926 and was the first grandchild in the family for our mutual grandparents; she was affectionately called Pahpa (meaning baby).  She attended school mainly in Chennai and at the age of 17 she was married to Chellakani (“Annachi”).  Here is a photo of them taken soon after their marriage:

 

After working at a few locations in Tamil Nadu, Annachi settled down in the finance department of Parry & Co (a well known formerly British owned sweet manufacturer) in Chennai in the mid 1950s and eventually attained a senior position there. They had 4 children – Bhuvaneswari, Jayalakshmi, Jeyaraj and Shanthi.  I got to know the family really well during the late 1950s when I was a university student and lived at the student residence of Loyola College; the house that the family lived in “Revathi” was just down the road from the rear of the college; so I visited them frequently and was always made to feel very welcome; I was particularly fond of the youngest daughter Shanthi.  

Some time ago I wrote to Shanthi “It is always a pleasure to recall the happy times I spent at Revathi when I was at Loyola College and you were a little girl.  I especially remember the most enjoyable Diwalis we had together.  All that seems so long ago.  It was unfortunate that we did not keep in touch when I settled down in the UK as I have always been very fond of you.”, and she responded “I am glad you still remember the weekends you spent at our house because you were the most favorite adorable cousin of the Chellakani family.”. 

During any family trip to Chennai I visited them with my family, and Mathini always made a big effort to come and see us.  Here is a photo of Mathini taken in 1983:

 

and one of Shanthi taken in 1990:

    

Annachi passed away in 1981 and Mathini followed him in 1997.  Unfortunately I have since then had little contact with the family.

 

Appendix 3 – Ananda Rajan (“DAR”) 

DAR was born on 8 October 1930.  His early education was at various schools around Tamil Nadu, but mainly in Chennai.  His parents then decided, probably because of the itinerant nature of Mama’s work and the desire to give DAR a good education in stable surroundings, that he should join the elite residential Doon School in Dehradun in 1945.  

Dehradun is located at 675 meters above sea level in the Doon Valley. The Doon School nestles in the Doon Valley with the magnificent Garhwal Himalayas to the north and the Sal-clothed Shivaliks to the south. On the east and west, the Valley is bound by two of India's most famous rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna.  The school opened in 1935 in extensive grounds with the aim of providing the youth of the country with an opportunity to get an all-round education based on an adaptation of the English public school system on India's tradition-enriched soil, and has succeeded in producing several of the country’s leaders in various fields including the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.  

After completing his education at Doon School, DAR trained as an electrical engineer and gained work experience in the UK for about 7 years.  One amusing true story of that period relates to the first visit by Mama and Athai together to the UK; DAR’s landlady, Mrs Taylor, kindly provided accommodation for them in the house.  On the first morning Athai decided to have a bath (traditional Indian style) by pouring water over herself whilst standing on the lino in the bathroom, with the inevitable result that the water came cascading down the ceiling into the living room!

On his return to India, DAR worked for Parry & Co in Mumbai for a while, and then joined the giant GEC, becoming the general manager in Kolkata.  In 1958 he married Inimai at Sivakasi.  I remember the occasion well; it was a grand wedding attended by about a thousand people and lasted well over a week; here is a picture of the ceremony:

 

DAR was a keen photographer during his school days and his time in England.  He won several prizes for his lovely photos.

 In the early 1960s Mama was the driving force in setting up a family paint/chemical manufacturing/marketing operation in Chennai – Ravi Paints & Chemicals.  He persuaded DAR to join the business and accept the challenging responsibility of starting up and operating the plant unit as the Works Manager.  DAR also helped Mama with the several family business ventures, and with the setting up and development of Sivakasi VSKD Girls School.

For about a year in 1963/64, during the commencing period, I worked with DAR in the family business as the Office Manager.  We had an excellent working relationship; he helped and supported me as an elder brother would have done. 

I was always warmly welcomed into their home by DAR and Inimai.  They have 2 children – Ramesh born in May 1962 and Sridevi born in February 1964.  He was a toddler during the year I worked in Chennai and she was born in that period; they were the first children I lived in close proximity to and I became very fond of them; I think the feeling has been reciprocated. 

It was DAR who taught me to drive.  We played tennis sometimes.  We had many enjoyable family outings and get-togethers.  It was a difficult period in my life – the year I spent away from Pat before we got married – and DAR’s family helped me in many ways emotionally and practically to cope with the difficulties I faced.  I still feel very close to all of them.  Here is a picture of me carrying baby Sridevi:

 

During my subsequent visits to India with my own family, they always took a lot of trouble to ensure that we had a good time.  Here is a photo taken during our visit in 1980 of my family with DAR, Inimai and Sridevi:

 

and one of Ramesh giving Susheela a piggy-back:

Moving on, here is a picture of Sridevi’s marriage to Shenbagaraj:

  

They live in Sivakasi and have two children.  Here is the proud mother with her two treasures – Madhana and Mithun (this picture was taken during our family visit to India in 2000):

 

Ramesh has now taken DAR’s place in the family business so that DAR can slow down the pace of his life, particularly because he had a heart attack in 1994 and subsequently underwent a by-pass operation.  Here is a picture taken at DAR family’s holiday home near Chennai during the visit to India by Pat and me in 2004 of Pat, DAR, Inimai, Ramesh, his wife Divyapriya and their two children – Nandhitha (a very jolly girl) and Prasanna:

 

DAR came to England in 1968 for business reasons.  Pat, Anna (she was a toddler then) and I really enjoyed his stay at our house in Manchester for a few days.  Then in the 1990s both DAR and Inimai came to England on a holiday, and it was lovely to have them staying at our house in Buxton for some time, as we were able to reciprocate some of the hospitality they always lavished upon us.  Here is a photo taken at that time of DAR, Pat, Inimai and Daniel at our dining table:

 

Pat and I always thought that DAR and Inimai are a well-suited and contented couple.


Appendix 4 – Manohara Rajan (“DMR”) 

DMR was born on 14 April 1936; hence he is 4 years older than me.  He followed his elder brother to Doon School and went on to graduate from Delhi University.  At that point he was offered a good position in the Finance Department of Imperial Tobacco Co (later to become India Tobacco Co) in Kolkata.  He worked for that company until his retirement age, but had very varied working experience as he was posted to different places around India.  He married Susheela in the early 1960s; here is a photo of them going on a wedding procession around Sivakasi on a horse-drawn carriage:

 

They have 3 sons – Gopal, Jayant and Arun.  Gopal lives with his family in Bangalore, as does Jayant and Arun has settled down with his family in the US.  Unfortunately there has been little opportunity for me to get to know them well. 

Just after completing my high school exams in 1956 I went to Kolkata to spend a couple of weeks with Athai and Mama.  I remember that DMR was then living with them and working at the tobacco company; he always smelt strongly of cigarettes when he came home from work as the strong aroma of tobacco must have hung on to his clothes.  He entertained me when he had the time; I recall that he took me to see the classic French film “Wages of fear”; I still remember well the tense moments in that thriller. 

In the late 1950s DMR was posted to Chennai.  As I was undergoing university education in Chennai during that period, we met up from time to time; he came to see me at Loyola College, took me to his flat on the company campus just outside Chennai and of course our paths crossed at Chitra.  Soon after I returned to India in 1963 to work in the family business for a year, I had a nice break in Monghyr (which is in Bihar State in North India and where DMR’s company had opened their first cigarette factory) with DMR, Susheela and their baby son Gopal.

Since the beginning of the 1960s DMR visited the UK on several occasions, mostly for business reasons.  We always met up and enjoyed some time together either in London or Manchester.  On two occasions he came with Susheela on extended visits; it was then good to have them with us at our house in Manchester.  I recall that we once went on a week-end trip to the Lake District.  Here is a picture of DMR and Susheela with Daniel and his twin sister Susheela taken on an outing to a place near Manchester in 1984:  

We did of course meet up during the several family visits I made to India.  In 1975/76 Pat and I had a long holiday in India with our 4 children.  At that time DMR was working at Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and his family lived in a lovely house provided by his employer.  We spent an enjoyable week with them; part of the time at Guntur and also some time at Chirala where we stayed at cottages by the beach.  There were a lot of hermit crabs on the beach and I remember DMR’s boys catching some and putting them in a bucketful of water.  Whilst we were staying at Chirala, on New Year’s Eve DMR, Susheela, Pat and I went to a grand company party in the town centre some miles away from the beach.  DMR organised a car, driver and house-keeper to be with the children.  Soon after we had seen the New Year in, the car arrived with a very sleepy and tearful 3 year old Daniel being comforted by Anna!  Well, that was the cue for Pat and me to say our goodbyes and get back to our children.  DMR made the interesting observation that there were no cats around in Chirala because people there liked eating cat meat! 

In 1987 Anna spent about 2 months in Kolkata with Guna and Rathi.  At that time DMR too was working in Kolkata; he entertained Anna sometimes and introduced her to some women who would be good company for her.  Here is a photo of him in his office:

 

As Pat had mentioned, perhaps unlike most other members of my Indian family, DMR has always shown a great deal of interest and discernment over his surroundings – house décor, furniture, clothes etc. 

In December 2004 Pat and I spent just over 2 weeks in South India; our last visit to India together.  We travelled on a Lufthansa flight from Manchester to Chennai.  When the flight stopped at Frankfurt en route, we had the unexpected pleasure of meeting DMR who was travelling back home after a visit to the US.  Pat’s diary entry of our arrival at Chennai: “We had a quite spectacular and unexpected arrival.  DMR arranged for us to be fast-tracked round the 300 or so other passengers, escorted through the barriers by two young uniformed men.  At one point we were taken through a barrier marked ‘Disabled & Diplomatic Entrants only’ – not sure which of these we qualified for!”.

Since his official retirement DMR has been kept busy by various family business interests.  Susheela and DMR have also devoted a lot of time to their grandson Arjun (Jayant’s son) who sadly lost his mother over a decade ago and is very close to his grandparents. 

I have been very lucky that DMR has always shown me a great deal of warmth and kindness, treating me like a well-loved brother.


Appendix 5 – Gunaseela Rajan (“Guna”) 

Guna was born on 10 January 1940, just 4 months before me.  As the youngest of four children, I think he was mother’s pet and was somewhat spoilt.  Here is his account of early school days:  “I recollect from the time I started school in Madras when Periappa (our mutual grandfather) used to stay with us frequently. He used to get me to go to school which I was reluctant to do. It used to be a horrendous task for the family to get me ready for my school bus.”. 

In 1951, following in his elder brothers’ footsteps, he joined Doon School.  However, my recollection is that he continued to be mother’s pet until the time he finished his schooling, perhaps even longer!  I remember the story our grandparents told me about Guna going to stay with them during school holidays in about 1952 when he was 12 as his parents went on a long trip to the UK; whenever Guna did not get his way on anything, he used to throw a tantrum and cry “I want to go to my mummy”! 

Anyway, Guna is naturally gregarious and outgoing; so he made a lot of friends at Doon School.  That must be the beginning of the vast network of friends and acquaintances he has built up all around the globe.  He still has several really good friends from his school days, whereas I for example have none at all!  Guna is also very sporty and is interested in most sports but excelled as a squash player.

By 1959 Guna’s school days were behind him and he set off for London to undertake the necessary training to become a chartered accountant.  On 4 July 1960 I arrived in London by boat and Guna was there to meet me when the boat train steamed into London.  I stayed in London for about 3 months doing some clerical work at a firm of chartered accountants, before going to Manchester University.  Guna helped me to find suitable accommodation and provided invaluable assistance in settling down.  However, he was horrified when I contracted mumps (my landlady kindly looked after me for 2 weeks) and would not come anywhere near me until I was clear of it!

During my stay in London Guna met me regularly and entertained me from time to time.  I remember going to see the famous “My Fair Lady” production at the Drury Lane Theatre with him as well as the hit film musical “South Pacific”.  Well, from that time onwards we have been shadowing each other around the world for half a century.  He was the first member of my family to meet Pat in 1962.  When I returned to England in 1964 after spending a year in India, he was still in London.  It was then fitting that he was the only member of my family to be present at my wedding in November 1964.  Here is a picture of the occasion – the happy couple with Pat’s parents, her 2 sisters and Guna (the only other person present at the ceremony was my brother-in-law Jan Morgan who took the photo):

 

Guna finished his training and work experience in London in 1966.  During his long stay he had fallen in love with the English way of life; but the strong family ties ensured his return to India.  Just before his departure, he came to Manchester to spend a couple of days with Pat and me.  We hired a car and made a day trip to the Lake District.  Unfortunately I hit a stone jutting out into the road and punctured both the passenger-side tyres.  Guna walked over to find a garage to take the car and repair the tyres.  However, the cost of the repair work relieved us of all the cash we possessed (pre credit/cash card days!).  So we drove over to nearby Windermere where a colleague of Pat’s lived and borrowed some money to enable us to have our dinner!  I think all the drama just added to our enjoyment of the outing. 

On his return to India Guna joined Lovelock & Lewes (the largest firm of chartered accountants in India at that time and now part of the giant PwC).  He soon became manager of the Mumbai Office and it was not long before he became a partner.  After some years spent on successfully building up the Mumbai operation, he moved to the Head Office in Kolkata and eventually became the senior partner of the firm and steered them through some difficult times with great flair.  He retired from active practice in 1990 at the relatively young age of 50.  If you would like to read Guna’s own fascinating account of his professional life, please click on this link: D G Rajan and the accountancy world. 



Since “retirement” he has been working just as hard as ever with his many business interests, directorships and consultancies around the world.  He seems to know anybody who is anybody, and is certainly the man to see if you wanted to get something done; to his great credit, he has always been very willing to help relatives and friends.  

In 1966 he married Rathi; here is a picture of them taken at that time:

  

They have two children – Saradhi born in 1967 and Priya in 1971.  Here is a photo of Rathi and Saradhi taken in 1987 at their Kolkata flat:  

Here is a picture of Guna and Priya taken in 1990 at the family get-together in Chennai:

Guna’s home life was not always easy as Rathi had some mental health problems.  However, he did take care of her as best he could.  I know that Pat was very fond of Rathi and felt a real rapport with her; we made a point of visiting and spending some time with her whenever we were in Chennai.  Rathi was very well read and intelligent but sadly she could not realise her potential in life.  She passed away in 2007. 

Saradhi kept to the family tradition of being educated at Doon School and followed up with a degree course at Chennai University.  Then he came to London, trained to become a chartered accountant and proceeded to work his way through the financial world, achieving very senior positions.  During his initial period in the UK my family saw a good deal of him.  He spent 2 Christmases with us in Buxton and had his first sight of snow, playing snow-balls with Daniel.  Pat helped him to settle down and he always got on particularly well with Anna.  He married Nanda in the 1990s and they have 2 children – Anoushka and Karina, who are very close to Guna, and he naturally dotes on them.  Sadly the marriage ended in divorce in 2010.  Here is an informal picture of the family of four:

Priya also followed Saradhi to London for education and work.  She met Oliver (he comes from Germany) in London and they got married in 1998.  All my family attended the event and formed the main contingent of the bride’s party as only Guna and Rathi were able to come from India.  Priya and Oliver now live in Canada.  Here is a photo I took of the happy couple on their wedding day:

 

Over the last couple of decades Uma has been Guna’s close companion; she also helps him in the office.  On our family visits to India she always gives us a great deal of assistance with hotel and travelling arrangements.  Here is a photo of Uma and Guna taken in 2004 when Pat and I visited her flat:  

During our family visits to India, Guna invariably goes to a lot of trouble to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable.  The first holiday I had in India with Pat, Anna and Arun was in 1970 when Anna was 2.5 years old and Arun was a 9 month old baby; after a difficult journey, we arrived at Mumbai at 00.04 totally exhausted; Guna was at the airport to meet us and take us to the hotel; he came to the hotel in the morning to see how he could help; he was embarrassingly generous with his time and effort.  Whenever he could, he accommodated us at his flat/house in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.  In the Summer of 1987 Anna spent a couple of months with his family in Kolkata.

Guna has been visiting the UK regularly for many years, initially for business reasons and then for family reasons when his children lived in London.  Over the past couple of decades he has also enjoyed having holidays in Europe.  We always meet up when he comes to the UK.  In the late 1990s it was good to have Uma and Guna with us in Buxton for over a week though the purpose of the visit was for Guna to have a hernia operation. 

Anyone who has met Guna will know that he is a real charmer and is easy to get along with.  He has the knack of maintaining contact with people everywhere and a reputation for getting things done.  In the late 1980s when Anna was at Cambridge University, amongst her circle of friends, if any difficult problem arose, they would say “let’s ask Uncle Guna”!  I also recall that in the early 1990s Saradhi once got stuck at Budapest airport whilst visiting Hungary on a business trip.  He telephoned Guna in the middle of the night; unbelievably Guna knew somebody at Budapest airport, who was able to sort out Saradhi’s flight problem!

Here is a picture of Guna and me taken at the family get-together in Chennai in 1992:  

Guna has for a very long time been the person closest to me in India.  Though our characters are quite dissimilar, we have established a strong rapport and bond over the years.  He has been present during most of the big events (happy and sad) in my life – my wedding, my children’s weddings (all but one I think) etc; he also came to the gathering we had in June 2006 to remember Pat and made a moving speech on that occasion, and joined us on the visit to Buttermere in June 2010 to scatter Arun’s ashes.  I think all my family feel very close to him and regard him as a part of our family.

 

Prem Kumar

January 2011