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Archive for the ‘The Muses’ Category

David Ananjann – Part 1

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.

 

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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?”////

ruttie_jinnah2

 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.”///

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I was really excited to find the original source for Rhett Butler’s farwell off-to-the-wars speech to Scarlett at the Gone with the Wind Scrapbook Blog

“‘I could not love thee, Dear, so much, loved I not Honour more.’ That’s a pat speech, isn’t it? Certainly better than anything I can think up myself, at the present moment. For I do love you, Scarlett, in spite of what I said that night on the porch last month.”
Gone with the Wind, Chapter XXIII
Rhett-Butler-Scarlett-O-Hara
Original source:
Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breasts, and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such,
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.

       –To Lucasta, Going to the Wars

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Ernest Hemingway claimed the most essential talent for a good writer was simply a “built-in, shockproof shit detector.”

“Great authorship is all about truth. To write the stories of our lives as honestly as possible, we must thoroughly reject crap. This is especially useful when cruelty masquerades as kindness. Some of the most merciless behavior ever perpetrated looks very nice. The sweeter a lie sounds, the meaner it really is”

“Honey, people are whispering about your weight.” “Stop talking back, or you’ll lose that husband of yours.” “Oh, sweetheart, that’s way too big a dream for you.” Statements like these may be well-intentioned feedback—or spite. The difference is that honesty, even the tough stuff, makes you feel clearer and stronger, while meanness leaves you mired in shame, despair, and frailty.

Excerpts from – Why mean people are mean
Didn’t read anything truer!

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Isn't my husky the best?

Isn’t my husky the best?

Life has been a roller-coaster ride over the last one and a half years and my shock absorbers are yet to re-function properly.  One of the things that upset me was my blog getting hacked. But luckily the super-efficient people at wordpress have been able to restore my blog to me – after I filed a police complaint. It took them a week, but man were they efficient. So here we are back in the world of blogging!

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Vimali’s Day Out

I was reading one of my friend’s short stories for children. I was so delighted with them that I just had to share..

Vimali’s Day Out

Vimali, the water drop, was bored to tears. She stared glassily at the sky as she lay on a lotus leaf. The only excitement around here was when the fat green frog on a nearby rock jumped into the pond and crawled back to sun himself.

“Hmmph,” she said aloud, “This is no fun. I’d really like to see the world.” So although her water drop friends had told her not to venture to the edge of the lotus leaf, Vimali did.

PLOP!

And, Vimali fell into the pond. It gave her a strange, squashed feeling. She hazily wondered if she was herself or had become the pond. It was quiet but a sort of deafening quiet. Just as she was getting all drowsy, there was a pop and a gloop in her ears and Vimali was hoisted into the bright sunshine.

http://www.justfemme.in/Children-Water-story-Vimali

Hop on, Little Tailor

When I was twelve, I believed a lot in luck. If I were lucky, the Chemistry teacher would be absent that day and the class test postponed. Or I would win a prize in that painting contest.

I don’t know how exactly I worked it out, but I knew that whenever a tailor bird visited the neem tree in our garden I turned out lucky. You must have seen a tailor bird, no? That little green, white and brown, tiny-beaked bird that goes wichee-wichee-wichee when it hops about? I like the way it cockily holds its tail upright as if to say “I am busy, don’t disturb me.”

The tailor bird was a frequent visitor to our garden. I was very pleased whenever I heard it before I set off to school as that meant a whole day of luck. Sometimes, I saw it only in the afternoon

http://www.justfemme.in/Children-tailorbird

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Following wide-spread media coverage, we at the Mad Hatter Times are proud to re-hash & report that Ethiopia has solved its food crisis, Muammar Muhammed al-Gaddafi has turned a Mother Teresa, world unemployment rates now resemble Katrina’s size zero……In short all the problems of this world and the next have been solved, resolved and dissolved beyond dispute thanks to the Osama Bin Laden’s death, following close on the heels of the Royal Wedding.

Elsewhere in a move bound to bring joy, light & happiness in the lives of Tamils’ worldwide, T R Rajendar has promised to stop acting in Tamil films thanks to his rapidly expanding fan base in Hollywood, after a recent facial surgery considerably reduced the South Indian bombshell’s  resemblance to a full-grown panda. Even as Hollywood critics groan in dismay at India’s unleashment of its secret weapon of mass disruption, the actor was heard to say, “I go Hollywood, because I love Kollywood, I go North, because I is South.”

As further proof of the fact that the world’s problems are solved, “rationalist“ Mr M Karunanidhi in a dispute with his sons, sons-in-laws, daughters, daughter-in-law, nephews, nephews’ sons, wives & companions has disowned one & all concerned & exchanged his yellow shawl for saffron robes at the Vellore Golden Temple; dogging the footsteps of the superstar to the Himalayas.  Ms J Jayalalithaa has of course forfeited all her claims to green shawls, the Kodanadu estate, Jaya TV, Jaya News and V N Sudhakaran (in the face of media claims that she had done this years before).

In another stirring development, Lalit Modi has been re-named as IPL Commissoner, following a news poll that the majority of India finds him more entertaining that the combination of Poonam Pandey & cricket.

In a breaking news report, which is a Mad Hatter Times exclusive, we report breaking news that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has abdicated the high seat in favour of Mr Lal Krishna Advani on the premise that being a stooge of the government or Madam Sonia is a uni-lateral, bi-partisan issue that has to be supported by all parties. Soniaji has of course been given the Padma Shree for pulling off this stellar example of horse trading.

In another startling development, the Karnataka Government has decided to publish meteorological reports free of cost to the Tamil Nadu Government, in a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie to help the TN government file its 35,000 page reports on the Cauvery dispute. This move has been welcomed by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, which has been facing severe criticism with the felling of thousands of trees; needed for the compilation of Arundhati Roy’s 50,000,000 page report on Maoists in the tree-denuded jungles of India.

The Ministry of Tribal Welfare, in a move to conserve forests and curb the activities of Arundhati Roy’s has banned The Hindu, The Outlook & Tehelka from re-publishing Ms Roy’s reports – a move which has been welcomed by the Readers’ Circles of all leading newspapers even as it has dented the profits of the publishing & paper industry.

Now, we will take a short-commercial break, before we continue our coverage of how the world’s problems have been solved because President Obama sorry Osama is dead.

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