Sunday, Sep 12, 2021 07:45 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Sep 12, 2021 02:08 [IST]

In search of roots

S. BALAKRISHNAN

Oh, no! I am not a native doctor roaming in the mountains & jungles in search of herbs and roots. I am just an ordinary man in search of roots of my family which is neither of a royal lineage. For that matter, it is not a joke to become a native herbal doctor; as a Tamil saying goes, one who has discovered thousand roots (and their uses) is only half a doctor. After retirement, instead of sitting idle, I hoped to do something that would be of some use to the present and future generations of our family at least, if not to the whole humankind. At least I wanted to pretend doing something busy to escape my wife’s commands to do this or that household chore. The Corona pandemic that had kept all of us under house arrest is also another reason to finally take up this grand task of drawing up a Family Tree. It involves preparing mine as well as my wife’s (could I afford to miss out her side!) maternal and paternal family trees, in all four.  I started with my maternal family and what an experience!
Once we set up our own family, we generally tend to lose touch with our immediate first cousins with whom we spent our vacations together at grandparents’ houses, not to speak of second cousins.  So I hesitantly called up my cousins who welcomed the idea enthusiastically; many of them invariably told me that they had also been toiling with this idea since long (like me), probably to emphasise that this was not my own unique idea.  With WhatsApp it was really fast to exchange facts & photos.  I also dug into my archival collection of old photos and documents. I was keen that the maternal lineage of every female member married into this family should also be reflected in this document.
It turned out to be a historical document of seven generations, which is collectively called a ‘paramparai’ in Tamil. If only the male lineage is taken into consideration, then it is a record of six generations, with the seventh generation baby boy (God willing) expected within a year. If we go by my grandfather’s first wife’s generations, then it is an astonishing record of eight generations.
The initial block was that nobody knew the names of my grandfather’s grandfather, i.e., great great grandfather, and his wife. Suddenly I remembered about some old documents I had gathered from my grandfather’s house; some 50 years ago, just out of curiosity and as philatelic collection, I had picked up documents of British era. Eureka! One of these documents revealed his name as Seshachalam, to my great joy. His third grandson had been named after him, but nobody knew it. The third grandson of Seshachalam Jr. has also been named thus; he was ecstatic upon discovering the root of his name. He rang up and shared his happiness. But I am not lucky with the name of his wife, the grand old lady.  Hence my decision to include all female members – both married into this family and those married off from this family.
The photographic documentation of members of this grand family begins with a rare photo (or is it a drawing or a touched up photo) of my great grandfather Shri Gopal. He is seen wearing wooden footwear and the traditional vetti (dhoti) and thundu (angavasthram) with the sacred ‘ramam’ on his forehead, being a Vaishnavaite. The family even owns a small Vaishnavaite shrine in the village. So the male members were given only Vaishnavaite names, at least until my generation. Similarly, naming the child after the senior members also stopped with my generation.
My maternal grandmother had a long innings of 103 years! There are many super seniors of 80+ years in the big family of 147 members (both living and dead).  The youngest is just around 2 years.  The document runs to 21 pages as it includes details of my granny’s elder sister’s family and my grandpa’s younger brother’s family in which assimilates the details of my grandpa’s first wife’s daughter also.     The traditional house built by my great, great grandfather is still in use. It must be around 200 years old; it stands as a mute testimony to the history of my grand maternal family of landlords of the past, with the younger generation in various fields but not anymore in paddy field! Times have changed, indeed.                        
(… krishnanbala2004@yahoo.co.in / 9840917608 Whatsapp)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi