There can be no life, without hope. Hope fills our mundane and mechanical life with things that will, maybe, make us happy someday. Something to look forward to in our little future. Some miracle that will make all the wrongs right and straighten out all the bad. It’s the one thing that make us look forward to tomorrow and hope it will be a better day.
My grandmother’s name is Shardamma and she is 91 years old. She has white hair and a heartwarming smile. She is perhaps the most adorable person you will ever meet. Her hearing is not as good as it used to be, but the funny thing is she will always listen to you with a lot of patience. She has seen more than her fair share of problems, but she never gave up. She never lost hope. And this is her story.
Her father’s name was Subbrayaru and mother’s was Kamakshamma. She had 5 siblings. Two of whom were her brothers, Nanjundaswamy and Nagaraja, and the rest were her sisters, Jaya (passed away 60 years ago), Aananthalakshmi (passed away 15 years ago) and Kamalamma with Shardamma being the oldest. Her oldest brother passed away over 10 years back. Her other brother ran away from home while she was young.
She was the oldest among her sisters. Her oldest brother passed away over 10 years back. Her other brother ran away from home while she was still young. Her mother passed away at a young age. And naturally she took up the role of her mother and took care of her siblings.
She regretfully recalls that her oldest brother was not a responsible man. But his wife was a very responsible and a wonderful woman. She fondly remembers her sister in law (who is 93 and still amazing!!). I remember that once she was telling my mother how her sister in law was more like her best friend and a mother. Those two remain friends till today. While she talks about her sister in law, I begin to remember the time when me, my parents and my grandmother would travel to Mysore to visit our relatives. I dare say we have several of them living there. My granny used to look forward meeting her younger sister, Kamalu, and her sister in law most ardently. This was perhaps the most eventful things she would look forward to in the entire trip.
She sometimes used to remember her brother Nagaraja. She had once told me about how he ran away from home. She remembers him to be sweet and kind. When he was studying SSLC, his friends forced him to join them for some snacks at a small hotel, Indrabhavan in Mysore. That day someone else was supposed to pay, but they backed out leaving him the bill. Since he didn’t have any money, he was utterly embarrassed and ashamed of himself. He felt that he had brought shame upon himself and their honourable family. He was no longer able to bear the shame and ran away from home. He was but 18 then. He would have been 95 if he was here with us today.
My grandmother’s father was the head Shanbogh of a small village called Nerale in Heggadadevankote taluk, Mysore district. They lived a calm and homely place and among friends and family. They had two houses, farmland, acres of fertile land etc. After her mother passed away, they moved to Nanjungud. While they were in Nerale, she and her brother had gotten married while the others were yet to marry. When they moved to Nanjangud, her father worked as a Gumastha. All the farmland that was there in Nerale was lost due to the zamindari system that came into force. All the fields were lost. Now in Nanjangud, he married the two other girls he had. The youngest daughter Ananthalakshmi was mentally retarded. And he didn’t marry her. Sadly, all the farmland which belonged to their family was lost due to the zamindari system that came into force then. So her father married the two other girls off with what he had left. The youngest daughter Ananthalakshmi was mentally retarded and she didn’t marry.
My ajji recollects that her mom was an innocent lady. She was kind hearted. She feels that she sees a lot of her mother’s nature in her younger sister Kamalu.
She has several memories with her sisters playing and studying. She remembers taking care of her sisters like a mother. When she and her sisters used to visit their father’s house, she would treat them like her kids since they didn’t have a mother then. She told me that they didn’t have any rivalry amongst themselves. Their lives were pretty simple yet fulfilling. They were happy being where they were.
When I asked her to remember more about her parents, she smiled and said “No. This much is enough. I want to talk about my life after marriage”.
Her father got her married at the young age of 15. The boy (my grandfather) lived in a small village called Mavatthuru. His name was Gopalrao. He had 4 brothers and several sisters. On the whole, they had a big family. They lived by being Shanbogh of that village. Among the 5 brothers, he was the youngest. His family lived in Mavatthuru, but he lived with a person called Gundurao and his family. He worked and studied in K.R. Nagar at his house. He had a good reputation there. He wanted to study further and find a job in K.R.Nagar. But life had something else planned for him.
Everything was good, but my grandfather’s brothers were too greedy. Since the entire family was surviving on the income earned by Shanboghtike, the brother’s greediness led to them being dismissed. The 4 brother had eaten a lot of money as bribe and were suspended from the post. Since the 4 brothers could no longer earn for the family, naturally, my grandpa was called back home to work for the family as a Shanbogh.
It was then that he married my grandmother. He was 24 years old then.
My grandmother remembers him telling her that he never wanted to be a Shanbogh. He wanted to study. He thought of getting a small job in K R Nagar and living there peacefully. But their family inevitable had to get him back. So, at the age of 24, he became a Shanbogna and earned a lot of respect. He was a very a good person (she cried while saying this).
“My husband was a brilliant and kind hearted man. He would take care of very well when we used to live separately in Kesturu. He would have to travel every now and then for his job. But he would always return home when I would have my periods. You see, in the olden days, when a woman would have her period she would have to sit in a corner and not touch anything. He would make a note of the number of days left for my cycle in his diary. He was a meticulous man. He would arrive just in time of my cycles and would cook for us and take care of me. We never fought. He loved me affectionately. He used to call me Sharada lovingly. He was very responsible. He is the opposite of your father (she laughs). How Nagendra forgets things here and there. My husband never did. He was very responsible”
“We used to go to Mysore and watch cinemas like Bhaktha Harischandra, Vasanth Sena. Sadly all his diaries were thrown after he passed away. He used to write everything. What he did throughout the day, where he went, everything.”
She was living with her husband and all his brothers in that big house in Mavatturu. While he was a Shanbogh, he bought a small house for them to live in and some jewels for my ajji. She feels that he should have bought those things in private. Making the investments public lead to more jealousy among the 4 brothers.
Ajji then told me that her husband was always enthusiastic about coming up in life. He wanted to achieve something, build a good home for her and the kids and lead a happy life. The brothers went green eye jealous about how prosperous and happy they were as a couple.
While this was a happening, a stroke of bad luck led my grandpa to take a break of 6 months from his work so that he can focus on his fields and farming for a while. It was at this time that the job of Shanboghtana went to the oldest brother. This 6 months break changed everything.
During these 6 months, all the four brothers united as one and never returned the job to him. It was said that anyone who in that office can transfer his powers for a while to a sibling. And since the 4 brothers were corrupted, the office naturally went to my grandfather. Until the eldest brother’s son came to majority, my grandfather had to take care of the job and earn for the family. After he came to majority, the son of the eldest brother had rights to claim the office. While taking the 6-month break, my grandfather transferred the office temporarily to the eldest brother.
Seeing the youngest brother prosperous, the brothers felt jealous. He even took a site in K R Nagar. The eldest brother complained that the work which was done by my grandfather so far was not right and that someone else would do a better job than him. When such a complaint came, my grandfather put a case against them and he won the Shanbogh job back. To oppose this, the 4 brothers, sued them at the next higher court.
Just as the verdict was about to be delivered, the 4 brothers murdered my grandfather.
My grandmother was then 28 years old and just 2 months along with my father in the womb. My aunt was just 2 years old.
“My father could have put a case on those 4 people, but that will not give us what we truly lost. So my father didn’t put a case on them and trusted the lord to take care of us”, was what my ajji said when I asked her why she didn’t fight more.
“They informed us that he had drowned in the lake. They burnt him in Dhanuskoti, Raamnatpura. This was on the day after Ugadi. My father brought me back home from those murderers” she said.
Since my grandfather was the Shanbogh of a village called Kesturu, they had taken a small house on lease there. “My husband’s family didn’t invite me to come back after my husband’s death. And I didn’t want to go back either. I was the youngest in the house, but they loved me for my husband’s money” she recalls.
“That was one of the most shocking moments of my life. I don’t remember how I recovered from it. It was horrifying. I felt alone. But my father came to my rescue”.
She continued “My father bought me home and I had Nagendra. My sister in law came home during my pregnancy and was there for several months after to take care of me and my child. She took care of me like a mother. It was in these tough times that we formed a strong bond. She is good natured and a wonderful person”.
“Now both my children are married and my daughter is already a grandmother of two lovely twin girls. And I have a wonderful granddaughter like you”.
She finally said, “And all these years I have lived with hope in my heart that every day will be a better day than yesterday”.
* After this blog was published my father informed me of two other things. Something that my grandmother had been too humble to skip over. When my ajji’s sister Jaya was diagnosed with TB, she came from Nanjangud and stayed and looked after Jaya in Bangalore Hospital, where she was admitted. She realised that Jaya was spending the last few days of her life in that Hospital. My grandmother went back to Nanjangud a week before Jaya passed away. Today, Jaya’s son is a well-known General Surgeon in Mysore and feels that if he were a surgeon back then, he could have probably saved his mother.
The second part was that due to the early demise of Jaya, there was no one to take care of her daughter Vijaya when she was pregnant. And as always, my grandmother took the responsibility of taking care of her during the pregnancy and after. She lived in Bangalore with her for over 3 months.