Sunday, June 10, 2007

Remembering my father

This may be my last trip to USA and I have been meeting more relatives and friends than usual. I have been hearing some stories about my father that I did not know. Very early in my life our interests and tastes diverged and though I kept in touch with my father, I never got to know him well. I knew that many of his students liked him; they even erected a statue in his honour after his death. Some came from distant villages to study in his school, some stayed in our house and many spoke of his help in studies and jobs. He could be charming and was sometimes an engaging speaker quoting from Chalam to Shakespeare but for me he was silly, weak and insufferable. I was always irritated by the way he rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous. One group of very rich relatives were only related by his first marriage and I was always surprised by the regard and affection they showed him.
On this trip, I learnt the story about his first marriage from two different sources. It seems that the marriage to K, who came from a rich family, was very brief and took place around 1937-38. The first night after marriage, K told my father that she was in love with a muslim boy and was married against her will. Apparently my father realized that in that society even after a divorce it would be difficult for her to marry the one she loved and took upon himself to arrange her marriage and succeeded.
The next incident happened around 1992 about two years before my father’s death and when my father was old and sick. He seems to have met K again at a common relative’s wedding. K had children but her marriage did not last long. Apparently K expressed her regrets and felt that she made a mistake. She introduced her children who started calling my father ‘nanna garu’. They gave their addresses and requested him to visit them in Hyderabad. May be my father felt that he would not be able to make it; he left the addresses with my cousin and asked him to look them up some time. My cousin says that he tried to do that on his next trip to Hyderabad, could find the street but could not locate the factory that K’s children owned.
My brother seems to have inherited my father’s helping nature and I hope that I have inherited some of his qualities.

P.S. (6/12/07) After a few days of mulling over it, I still find it difficult to believe the story above but it may be true. According to my brother, the sources were my father himself and a nephew of K who explained to my brother the high regard their family had for my father. Another cousin says that he saw some pre-independence correspondence between my father and his friends which was very different from his later letters which always started with "By the grace of Lord Venkateswara...". May be big events and youth bring out the best in some people and family and responsibilities weigh them down.