My grandmothers’ great-grandfather David Ananjann was a legendary figure in Vellamadam, a small town in Alwarthirunagari Taluk, Tuticorin District, Tamil Nadu. David Ananjann was a self-made man; a person who started from scratch and became a huge landowner within the next 50 years through sheer willpower and hard work.

His story starts around the year 1825, when he was born in a village called Nanganeri
in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. He was just another illterate field hand like the
lakhs of other poor farmers in India. But what made him different was that he strongly
believed in justice and had a sense of fairness. Trouble came to the young man when he stood up for the rights of a fellow worker with his zamindar (landowner). He was swiftly dismissed, his rented land seized and he was given marching orders to leave.

Ananjann, a young man in his early 20s, then left the land of his ancestors to come to the little village of Vellamadam with his wife, daughter and son in tow. His wife, unable to adjust to the change, swiftly succumbed to illness and dies. Shortly afterwards his teenage daughter (*1)  whom he had given in marriage to a fellow labourer also died.  Ananjann was now left all alone in the world with a young son to care for, virtually penniless and grief-stricken with sorrow.

Ananjann’s love for his wife was so deep that he never again got married. His tombstone in fact reads that he was “a man of virtue” – a startling innovation in itself as in those days it was a wife’s virtue (in not marrying and being “immune to desires”) that got praised or highlighted.

He worked hard and wanted to leave an inheritance for his grandchildren. Something he felt his son Gnanakannu was incapable of. Nevertheless the young man did pass himself off creditably, so much so that his second daughter Anamuthu   (his other two girls were Chellam, , Nallamuthu) – named two of her children Gnanmbal and Gnanadoss in memory of her father. This Gnanmbal Sundaram is my grandmother and a fierce, redoubtable doctor, who served for decades with the government; who overcame widowhood; the handicap of providing for four children to finish her M.D. and D.G.O in medicine – but that of course is another tale – to be told another day.

Now I am not sure how much the next half of my ancestor Ananjann’s tale will go down in secular/revisionist India. For the record – I think religion is the root of all evil – and am an avowed atheist. And for the record, I do find Hindu mythology more intriguing and fascinating with its myriad of interweaving tales and its moral ambiguity than Christian mythology with its linear narrative and black and white definitions of morality and heaven and hell.

So here goes…So one night, when my ancestor was sleeping, the Goddess Esaki, whose abode was nearby started haunting him. She was apparently displeased (let’s all politely bear with the story) because Ananjann had heard the gospel first from some Christian missionaries in the Salvation Army. A British missionary by the name of David Cott guided him through his initiation into the new religion. Ananjann with the whole-heartedness of the new convert changed his name to David as that of his mentor and started attending the Salvation Army church in Nagercoil; a church to which many of his great-great-grandchildren still attend to this day.


Now when the Goddess Esaki kept haunting his dreams, he told her, “I have now found the one true god – and I will not be your disciple anymore.” The saddened goddess apparently ceased to pay visits to him after this.

My ancestor linked her departure with the rise in his fortunes. He first started working in the other fields as a “pattan” for kuthagakai in Vellamadam village, Karayankulli. In those days, landowners were atrocious sorts who’d rent out their land to a more enterprising labourer and then that poor man would have to borrow huge sums of money to pay for labourers, equipments, and the inevitable increasing rents the landowner would capriciously impose. But despite having the cards stacked against him, David Ananjann got a reputation for being able to turn even a field of thistle (mullu veli nilathayum) into a fertile paddy outcrop . Ananjann would often quote Genesis chapter 6 that when Issac sowed he got back a 100-fold.

Now our man apart from being a devoted servant of God, was also a canny mortal. There was no bus service back then, so travellers would go from place to place on their bullock carts. Now Anajann built a “pettai” so that both man and beast could shelter there. He also had water pits and pots of buttermilk kept there for those weary with travel. And the next day, when they left he’d have half a cartful of manure to be be sown into the rich alluvial soil of Palayamkottai.

In his later years, when he’d earned as much as he could ever want, apparently his interest in the pettai changed. He no longer viewed it as a source for free natural fertilizer, he started empathising a lot with the wild swings of fortune and the general vulnerability of the human condition. He started offering food, shelter and buttermilk free of cost to anyone who’d come by. In his will, he provisioned for the produce of two fields to go only towards this “annadanam”. A tradition that remains to this day – carried on by his ancestors – though only once a year, unlike the everyday affair it was in David Ananjann’s time.

Adjoining the shelter for travellers, there was another pettai – and the front two rooms of these were always let out to shops to sell their wares. One of his other trade secrets was that he always worked along with his labourers even after he had made his fortune. While mean minded people could think that he did this to spy on his workforce, for him it was because he enjoyed the work and the camaraderie of other workers. For years later, he would tell his grandchildren “work together, the hours grow short; work apart and the day will never seem to end.”

Anajann’s one great wish was to see all of his grandchildren married splendidly. And he did just that. He died at the ripe old age of 101 years, after his daughter Anamuthu got married and he got into tonga to see off the marriage party. A life well lived and with no regrets, except to meet his maker.


I have always loved and admired the spirit of Vivien Leigh. These days I find too many articles on her mental illness and her private life – than on her acting abilities, her presence on stage, her cats or her hobbies like knitting.

So it was such a pleasure to come across Kendra Bean’s article “Vivien Leigh: A Star in Wartime.

She says, “One of my favourite items on display in Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration is the eye-catching issue of LOOK magazine from 17 December 1940. Earl Theisen’s striking cover photograph of Leigh posing stoically against a loud red, white, and blue background whilst knitting for Bundles for Britain highlights one of several interesting ways the actress used her fame to contribute to the British war effort.”


Another tantalizing glimpse is provided when Ms Bean says,

“She also appeared at Red Cross charity events in New York where she and Olivier ended an unsuccessful production of Romeo and Juliet, and knitted clothing for British soldiers as part of the Bundles for Britain initiative headed by Natalie Wales Latham.”

Olivier Leigh

Vivien3“Leigh’s first unofficial wartime assignment was the 1940 tearjerker Waterloo Bridge, for which she was loaned to Hollywood’s most powerful studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.”

And Vivien Leigh doesn’t seem to have stopped knitting for her men in war even while on the sets of Waterloo Bridge. In these pictures, you can see how her needles clicked non-stop in between takes.


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Currently reading “Jinnah-Creater of Pakistan” by Hector Bolitho. Treasured this little anecdote about the love of his life:

///Mrs Ruttie Petit Jinnah was spirited and told off more than one Viceroy.

When Lord Reading told her “I am very anxious to go to Germany, but I am afraid I cannot do so”
Ruttie asked: “Why not?”
Reading explained: “You see the Germans will not like us, the British, any more after the war and I cannot go there.”
Ruttie said “Oh!” adding, “How is it then, that you came to India?”////


 I also love this little vignette in their love story

///Mrs Jinnah wore a low cut dress that did not please her hostess, Lady Willingdon, who asked an ADC to bring a wrap for Mrs Jinnah, in case she felt cold. Jinnah rose, and said, “When Mrs Jinnah feels cold, she will say so, and ask for a wrap herself.” Then he led his wife from the dining room; and, from that time, he refused to go to Government House again.”///

By SJ Jeberson

The Following Personalities have excelled in United States Of America and other countries in various Fields. But a many of them dont know that Their ancestor E.Benedict DeLannoy Lived and lies buried in Nagercoil, India. He(E.Benedict DeLannoy), hailed from a small town in northern France called Lannoy near Lille, the same ancestral town of Roosevelt. 
E.Benedict DeLannoy first arrived in India at Cochin in 1737 as part of the Dutch army. He had been a part of the Dutch force that invaded Colachel harbour in a move to capture it but later withdrew in May 3, 1741. On learning of the Dutch armies defeat, he deserted the force and joined the forces of Bala Marthanda Varma. There, he trained the forces in European warfare and rose to the position of commander-in-force and was known as the architect of the Travancore dynasty. His maternal forefather Philippe De Lannoy was a direct ancestor of Sara Delano, mother of the American President. Famous persons who share the common ancestral lineage with Roosevelt and Eustache B Lannoy through Philippe De Lannoy include President Ulysses S Grant, President Calvin Coolidge and actress Diane Delanoto to name a few. Over the years the name DeLannoy had got anglicized into Delano. Though these personalities are spread over many countries and are hailed in many places, their ancestory E.Benedict DeLannoy lies buried in his tomb in the yard of a church in Nagercoil, India. The following are from E.Benedict DeLannoy’s lineage.

(From Left-Right: Franklin.D.Roosevelt, Diane Delanto, Ulysses.S.Grant, John Calvin Coolidge, Columbus Delano)


Made My Day

MaximusIt had rained and muddy puddles greeted us everywhere last Saturday, when I was doing the usual doggie-baby-ma walking routine. Baby-ma was strapped on my back in her carrier and Maximus was pulling hard at the leash and ju
ng into every muddy puddle that he could spot….

And then there came a girl, who looked like she had stepped out of the covers of Vogue – very pretty, very chic and very elegant in her boots & thigh-length dress. And then there also came Maximus who splashed her thoroughly. I restrained the dog and gingerly moved upto her to offer an apology, when she bent down and patted Maximus. Baby-ma too popped her head out to see the reason for the halt. And that’s when the girl looked slowly at me, the kid, the dog and asked “You are just surrounded by cuteness aren’t you?”


In our family’s private circle of church friends and relatives, my grandfather Dr E.J.C.Job’s sprawling plot of land in Mandaveli was always referred to as the “Garden of Eden.” And indeed it was an overwhelmingly lush and green spot. My grandfather was such an enthusiastic, scientific gardener that if one were to call him a horticulturist it wouldn’t be far of the mark.

Another irony is that despite my grandfather’s deep love for the soil and all kinds of flora and fauna, he spent the majority of his life on the high seas as an Indian Naval doctor. It was only after his retirement as Surgeon Commander I.N.S that he was able to revel in his life-long passion for botany by converting his house into a veritable paradise.

If I remember right, we had 5 coconut trees, 2 jackfruit trees, 1 really top-of-the world alphonsa hybrid mango tree, a neem tree, two drumstick trees, stalks of banana in the backyard, papaya, Ram Sita (sugar apple), pumpkins and custard apple. We also had our own lime tree and I still love the fragrance of crushed lime leaves; even today while rambling through Russell’s market I can buy a whole cartload of lemons if I spot them with their leaves intact. We also had a sapota tree and one lovely nellikai/amla tree, which was nearly 2 stories high. My grandfather unfortunately cut it down later when he felt he couldn’t deal with the hordes of school boys descending on us and almost breaking their limbs in their quest for amlas.

My grandfather used to garden everyday – meticulously pruning, shaping, fertilizing and generally coaxing his wards into good health. He would also casually mention the scientific names of animals and plants as I followed him around the garden like Mary’s little lamb. For me if I can remember off-hand names like clitoria ternatea, Annona squamosa, Phyllanthus emblica (mixed up in my child’s mind as umbilical cord), Panthera leo, panthera tigris, Canis lupus, Felis catus – it can only be because like Enid Blyton I had in my grandfather a deep connoisseur of nature.

garden2My grandfather was also a strong believer in letting children learn for themselves. So when my 8 year old father got stuck climbing a mangosteen tree, my grandfather just casually told him to come down the same way he went up and walked off; even as my worried-sick grandmother hovered around shouting frantic instructions. My father finally plucked up enough courage to make the attempt and descended in safety. It was the same with me – when my grandfather told me not to climb the drumstick tree I didn’t heed his advice. Later when I had huge welts on my skin from coming into contact with the stem-boring caterpillars, which had made the drumstick tree their domain, he never told me “I told you so.” But there was a twinkle in his eye as he ministered to the swelling, which sealed our own private pact of discovery and growing up.

We also had a lot of flowering shrubs – white, magenta & violet december flowers, gundu malli, jaddi malli (jasmine), kangambaram (red & orange firecracker flower), fiery red roses, spreading vines of pink button roses, Idli poo (jungle geranium) and abundant bushes of Vadamalli. The Vadamalli was a plant that my grandfather had never fancied much, but then nature finds its own way; and this abundant crop had grown from the discarded garland of one of our dear departed relatives.

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Come March and we had the Easter lilies! The Easter lilies adorned the edge of the lawn facing our house and my grandmother used to faithfully cut them every Easter to occupy pride of place in our drawing room. And these Easter lilies were huge ones that were almost a hand span in diameter. Now I wonder if they were that huge as a result of my grandfather’s experiments as I’ve never come across any to rival them in terms of sheer size.

 Another lovely thing about the garden was that it was the pleasantest place to be in if my grandmother set me down to finish my embroidery or knitting exercise for the day. It used to be so pleasant to sit under the cool shade of the neem tree, with the wind tousling my hair and listening to the low hum of local gossip as our street watchmen gathered under it like me on the other side of the fence to take their afternoon siesta. Many of them used to also pluck the neem stems to use as toothbrush & toothpaste – such a healthy habit, which I never picked up because of the intense bitterness of neem.

Despite being a gardener, my grandfather never once resented the predatory and destructive activities of my cats and dogs. He always tolerated their mischief in the manner of Issac Newton and his dog; “O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done.”

During the jasmine flowering season, the garden smelled heavenly with the smell of ripening mangoes, the jasmine and the sweet pink button roses (traditionally used to prepare attar).We used to string together the abundance of our garden flowers to adorn the heads of our care-cell members and my own unruly, tight oily plaits. I used to love this job and one of the few things I’m good  at it – is stringing flowers together with the speed and professional ease of the road-side flower girls!

My grandfather also loved his ferns, edible tubers (maravelli kizhangu, sakkaravalli kizhangu) & kitchen herbs (coriander, pudina). We also had plenty of medicinal plants too – like aloe vera, Kuppaimeni, Kathalai, Ceylon Spinach (that I really wished my grandmother didn’t include in her menu) and Manathakalli – it must be more than 10 years since I last had those wonderful berries, but I can still distinctly remember their taste.

garden3One of our maids Dhanam hailed from Vaniyambadi and was a farmer herself. She used to be thatha’s assistant in harvesting our sundakka trees (turkey berry), grafting the rose bushes, taking a burning torch to the caterpillars on the drumstick tree, etc. But she really came to life only with our coconut tree; she would painstakingly split the leaf stalkes down with her pocket knife and hem and haw at them till they produced nice, thick broom sticks, she would fashion kitchen scrubbers from the coconut matting and little monkey faces for me from the coconut husks.

I think for my grandparents it was a marriage made in heaven. They perfectly complimented each other in every way. Apart from their deep, abiding love for each other they were also very supportive of each other’s hobbies and interests. I can still remember how my grandfather even at the age of 70 would go clambering up a ladder with a long stick & wired net to pluck mangoes for my grandmother’s jams and pickles. My grandmother was an amazing cook, who used to produce the most dazzling array of pickles, chutneys, squashes, jams, relishes and alwa from the flood of fruits that used to descend on us with each passing season. There used to rows and rows of salted limes or mangoes laid out on clean white sheets on the terrace, on the balcony, on the window ledges, on the garage roof to be dried in the sun and later turned into bottled goodness.

Before the family’s finances permitted my grandfather to pursue his medicine, for nearly a year he studied at the local agricultural college. He was passionate about horticulture and was open-handed and generous with the efforts of his labour. Every visitor to our house – would leave with gunny bags brimming with coconuts, mangoes, jackfruit or whichever fruit was in season. For some of our friends – who were not country-born – there would be this big jackfruit-cutting session with oiled knives, newspapers and cordoning off of kids and dogs with grubby paws.

I think my grandfather’s garden was a testimony of his overflowing love for plants, animals, his family and his friends and it is with the fondest memories that I view these pictures of the halcyon days.


I was recently very hurt, surprised and shocked, when I recently got ear-marked for dog abuse – all for the crime of owning a Siberian husky. At Pets Stepin where on occasions I’ve put up my husky for boarding – I’ve seen other huskies happy and playful and the “husky owners” treated with respect not contempt.


Now is it a crime to own a husky? Actually it is a crime to own any pedigree dog or mongrel – if one does not have the time, money or resources for the dog. Lately it has become a trend to claim “dog saintly-ness” because of the ownership of street dogs, while lambasting and rail-roading pedigree dog owners for their “snobishness”, “stupidity,” “callousness”, “cruelty,” “insensitivity” and general lack of research about “pedigree dog needs.”


Individual attacks on husky owners will not solve the problem of Siberian huskies being bred in the tropics. Or for that matter solve the problem of irresponsible breeding of any other breed. Do you think it is responsible to breed GSDs with super-sloping hind legs so that they cease to be the active working dogs, but become show-prize winners for extreme angulation? Do you think it is ethical to breed bulldogs and pugs so that they carry over their plethora of health problems to the next generation? Or do you think it is necessary to over-breed Golden Retrievers to the point where breeders in Bangalore are finding it difficult to locate homes for their 6 month-plus puppies?



What about eco-friendly breeds? I think everyone will agree that we need to promote the breeding of our native dogs. As much as the Rajapalayam, Chippiparai, Kombai and Kanni are great dogs and ideally suited to the climate of most cities in India – there is the question – Are you the right owner for a hound? Most sight-hounds are one-man dogs, and I’ve known a Rajapalayam to pine away and die when its owner left it for two weeks to the U.S. Also without proper socialization and when under-exercised, Rajapalayams like Dobermanns can turn vicious.


Now, I think it would be near impossible to go up to each prospective husky owner and try and dissuade them from buying the breed. But what is possible is a social and political movement seeking to ban the breeding of huskies and other high-risk, high-maintenance dogs.


More serious than the husky (a gregarious, generous, child-loving soul) is the problem of breeding dogs that can turn vicious without an experienced handler. Dogs like the pit-bull terrior, Presa Canario, Neopolitan Mastiff, American bulldogs have actually killed or fatally injured people leading to their own deaths and outright bans in several countries.


As individuals we can’t do anything about irresponsible breeding or the puppy mill. But the Kennel Club of India and the many animal welfare groups have the political clout and influence to get things done in the right direction. 


In India you cannot have a tiger in your bedroom like in the U.S. or organise hunting parties to shoot your pet big cats. We have a strong Wildlife Protection Act – that does not spare even celebrities. In the same vein, we can also try really hard to get a ban on the import and breeding of foreign dog breeds that might suffer in India!


Otherwise it is very difficult to resist the appeal of a Siberian husky. They are the most handsomest creatures in the dog kingdom. They also have a heart of gold and are extremely good with babies and children. They are friendly, playful and highly-intelligent on top of which they are too beautiful for their own good.


Shaming, name-calling, criticizing people won’t keep people away from huskies anymore than you can keep bees away from a honey pot. We need to a conscious movement towards more responsible breeding and adopting of all dogs