When it's all in the family

From the albums

When it's all in the family

It was a regular event every year to take a picture in the month of March when both my brother Jojan and I would celebrate our birthdays.

This family photograph with my parents, brother, cousin Lucy ‘chechi’ and our caretaker Ammini was taken in 1973 at a studio in Yeshwanthpur, close to our rented house in Mathikere. Jojan was three years old then. We loved birthdays for the new clothes we got to wear, the sweets that my mother would prepare and this outing.

Like many Keralites in the 1950s and 60s, on being selected in response to advertisements for employment at Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), my father N J Joseph and mother Rosy Alappatt had moved to Bengaluru.

In the 70s and 80s, the city had many gardens and parks and the weather was mostly cold. The days were rare when we went to school without a sweater, a scarf or a cap.

It was a time that saw people ‘disappearing’ into the mist every morning!
With no parents, my working mother struggled throughout, bringing us up. Since we children would mostly be alone after school, my mother had employed a girl from her hometown, Ammini ‘chechi’, who stayed with us for a while and would take care of us until I was in first standard.

Since my father was the oldest brother and came from a large family of six sisters and a brother (as also my mother), we always had either an aunt, an uncle or cousins staying with us, for employment or education, in our single BHK rented houses. Although my parents’ monthly salary would have been between Rs 150 to 200, yet I always remember that my dad never said ‘no’ to anyone who approached him for any assistance — to the extent of even taking loans to help his family and friends. His magnanimity, I believe, has been our life’s blessing!

My parents purchased a house with a big garden in 1976, on a 50 by 40 plot for Rs 15,000, near MES Road (now Muthyalanagar), off Ring Road, Jalahalli. Until the mid 1980s, we walked beside ragi and corn fields that stretched for about two kilometres, along MES Road from BEL Circle, to reach our house, close to Muthyalamma temple.   We were a Malayali Catholic family and our immediate neighbours were Hindu Maharashtrian (vegetarians) from Pune. Yet our friendship with them and their two girls, Ujwala and Ulka, ensured the best time of our childhood and teenage years. Stark differences in our states, communities and food habits never came in the way of our friendship.

We respected each others’ tastes as well as cultural differences. Their grandparents R P Katre (‘kaaka’) and Shantha (‘ajji’) and parents Umesh (uncle) and Kusum (aunty) became our extended family. Their baby brother Prasad was born when I was in seventh standard.
 Many afternoons were spent playing ‘rummy’, ‘banker’, ‘ludo’ or ‘chowka baraah’ as we listened to the Binaca Geet Mala and Vividh Bharti on AIR, hosted by the popular Ameen Sayani. Tuitions were uncommon in those days and most children played outdoors, almost everyday, until dark. Years later, we also formed a ‘kho-kho’ club under the guidance of Prakash uncle, who played for BEL. Dance, plays and cooking competitions would be organised by us during the annual holidays.

 Our days at MES Road brought us friends who spoke Kannada, Hindi, Punjabi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Tulu and Coorgi. We not only learnt a little bit of each others’ mother tongue and culture but also celebrated Deepavali, Christmas, Holi, Dasara and New Year with great fervour. Lessons of love, tolerance, compassion and respect came to us naturally.

 Between 1992 and 1994, we completed our postgraduation, quite rare then, especially for girls. Ujwala and Ulka did their MSc (human development); they chose to be homemakers and settled in Pune. Jojan, my brother, was perhaps the first from our circle to do an MBA in marketing and human resources by 1994 from Pune University. He worked in various cities in India, travelled abroad and presently lives in Hyderabad. Having completed my BSc from Mount Carmel College and MA (English) from Bangalore University, I taught briefly at MES and MLA colleges in Malleswaram. Later, I joined LIC, where I am now employed.

 With time, IT (information technology) and communication became key words in our rapidly changing city and the world at large. Ironically, IT diminished ‘face-to-face’ communication, relegating interpersonal relationships to a distance. My parents moved from MES Road and reside near Sambhram College, Vidyaranyapura. Most of our neighbours and friends have either changed cities or country and we meet or call, but occasionally.

However, the nostalgic memories of childhood and adolescence help us brave many a storm.

(The author can be contacted at josyclara17@yahoo.com)

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