Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My paatti!!

I had gone to Trichy for a 5 day vacation, after a long time. It was an eventful trip, though I was not able to cover 90% of my to-do list.

The event of the trip is the ShivaLoka prapti of my PitaMahee.
Smt. Lakshmi Ammal, W/O Shri.T.A. Swaminatha Iyer. [Born, Thai Pooradam, Pramadeecha varsham 1914A.D. Died: Purattasi, Shukla Ekadesi, Paarthiva varsham, 2005]

She had to relocate from Perungulam[one in the Navatirupati of tirunelvei], up north[that is how she calls it ] when she got married at the age of 7, to the 15 year old post master of Tiruvanaikovil.

Widowed at the age of 30, with 5 children aged 9,7,5,3,1 [Yes, my granpa was calculative ;)], and absolutely no money, equipped with just the will power and dream to build a generation, her struggle with this world had begun.

The seed she sowed then, has grown big and has reaped nice and tasty fruits, and lots of offshoots. She slept last Thursday midnight having seen her dream accomplished.

As everybody of the earlier generations, she had struggled a lot in the hands of her in-laws and even her un-understanding husband, but that made her stronger and built her will power.

After the diwali night of 1944, when my grandpa left them literally in the streets, she had no option but to struggle. Her only choice was where to struggle. She chose the familiar Tirunelveli town and moved into a small non-brahmin street there. [Yes, this was a revolutionary move she took.] Her brothers were against this, and stopped any help. The reasons, she told me was, one, the then chaps of the agraharams were all big land owners and lazy bones, associating with whom would have a corrupting influence on her children. Second, her brothers would start helping her and use her children as unpaid servants, thereby breaking their self respect. ‘Self respect is what is needed to succeed’ – is what she says.

It was not the best of times to loose a child to Typhoid, but it made her work for lesser number of stomachs. Day and Night, hard labor, continuously for years, first to get both her daughter married, then to get both her sons educated well.

Twenty years later, she moved back to Tiruvanaikovil. By then, all her in laws, wanted her back. She was their only hope.

She told me of her move - ‘from the day I got married to your thatha, TVKovil is my home. Tirunelveli is just a temporary resting place. I want to live in the house, where ur thatha lived, die at the same place as he did, and be cremated at the same ghat as he was.’

After about 61 year, she accomplished what she wanted to, at the same house, in exactly the same place, and at the same kollida karai rudra bhoomi.

She was the proponent of the Samsaram Adhu Minsaaram concept of ‘Nee sowkiyama Naa Sowkiyam’. We stayed within a couple of kilometers distance from her. But she would never come and stay with us unless there is an occasion. We used to visit her almost every alternate day, and she would visit us often. She was 91+ when she died and it was the same story. She lived independently. Having said that, she would never celebrate a festival or pooja alone, she would always join either of her children’s homes.

She is the most respected in our families. Born as the 14th child to a wealthy couple, she even had some of her nieces and nephews elder than her.
For the last 10 years, she was the only survivor of the 14. Thus the descendents of all of them, numbering hundreds looked up to her as their parental figure. All of us heeded what she used to say. The following is what she had to tell as the lessons she learnt from her experience in life.

1. Believe in yourself and only in yourself
2. Do not let down your self respect and self esteem
3. Self control is the key to driving yourself to your goal
4. Sacrifice is the only way to success. You cannot have the cake and eat it too.
5. Do not attach sentiments to life.
6. Labor always bears fruits.
7. He is all powerful.

Now, coming back to the Wednesday, 12th Oct, 2005, I had just landed in Trichy after 6 months [Even then I was on a week vacation only]. I have read lot of blogs saying ‘received a phone call saying ‘paati poitta’’ and she was this, that, yada yada. All through the last 3 years I had been thinking, it would be the same case with me. One fine day I would get a call and would shed some tears and get back to work. It was not to be.

I met her on Thursday noon sharp, in the same hall outside the swami room in our ancestral house in Tiruvanaikovil. She had grown weak since I last met her 6 months before, and was bed ridden for the last one month. It was my privilege to clean her change her clothes, pour my love, kiss her, whisper in her ears, and gently rub the bottom of her feet. She opened here eyes, I saw the same brightness in her eyes which I saw 10 years before. She tried to move her limbs, gave a big smile and went back to sleep. All the neighbors and relatives, who were around were surprised, for she had not smiled this big for last so many days. For me, it was all the same paati.

I then went around meeting my other friends, and suddenly got the call saying that, paati’s breathing has got heavy, and the panting was growing noisy. It was sometime by 9 pm in the evening. My other cousins who work in Trichy had gone out of town for official work, and me who was hundreds of miles away was just sitting near her. Gave her some milk and made her sit with support from my shoulder. The panting had then reduced maybe due to change of posture. So I let her sleep and made sure I too slept there. I about an hour, I could hear the panting slow down. Took her head on my lap started reciting bhagawan nama. And within 5 minutes, it was all over. The pulse had died down, the breathing had stopped. An era had come to an end.!!

She is the seed from where a new generation took life, and her life is a text book lesson for the art of living.

Shambo Mahadeva!!


At Tue Oct 18, 05:07:00 AM CDT, Anonymous balki said...

Really good TJS. fantastic. It was like a real biography on paati. Well narrated - well coined and really well explained.

Credit to you..!!

I slightly differ on the lines of mention on granfa, on the following reasons.

1. We can understand that it could be highly psychological issue to patti, when a lady with 5 kids had been left without any resource for survival. The outburst, perhaps made her to picturise our granfa, on every incidents to be un-understandable person(as you mentions).
2. When the whole society had been moving differently in that time span (torture from in-laws), there is no necessity to mention that the same and thereby her husband is un-understandable.
3. In reallity, the seed personality is not along paati but thatha too. Hence, to glorify one, why to pull down other.

I strongly recommend and reconsider, to remove those lines on grandfa, as such we are here to further enlighten our family values rather than highlighting things in public domain...

I am sure you are the best judge to judge our family values and glory.

Article is excellent.
All the best

At Tue Oct 18, 05:29:00 AM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear TJ,
moving post..reminded me of my paatti who left me when I was barely eight years old. I have never placed the same amount of love on anyone else. in fact i somehow think that this event had a major role in making me a seeker of solitude and I can tell you that it has been a curious occurence in my life that I am never allowed to get attached to anyone.. I was discussing this with my mother yesterday and we came to the conclusion that Narayana probably intends me to develop detachment.
those leesons are indeed valuable for all.. great post dude.

the relationship with a grandmother (or a grandfather) is indeed more love-based than most others.


At Tue Oct 18, 06:37:00 AM CDT, Blogger ada-paavi!!!! said...

really good post TJ,
atleast u ere lucky that when u patti died u were in Tk, not in england,

really enjoyed reading ur pattis vazzhai varalaru

At Tue Oct 18, 06:41:00 AM CDT, Blogger Chakra Sampath said...

Lucky that you had an inspirational figure as a Paati and also that you were near her when she breathed her last.

Heartfelt condolences on the loss, TJ.

At Tue Oct 18, 07:24:00 AM CDT, Blogger Ravi said...

Hi Shyam

Msg from Ravi. Excellent narration, except about thatha. As Balki said, please remove the narration about thatha, so that it will give more excellence.

with love

At Tue Oct 18, 07:53:00 AM CDT, Blogger WA said...

So nicely written Tj, she sounds like an amazing lady. To have brought up 5 children with little or no help would have been so difficult in those days, found the post very touching.

Heartfelt condolences on your loss.

At Tue Oct 18, 09:07:00 AM CDT, Blogger Arjuna_Speaks said...

My heartfelt condolences on the loss, TJ. I was wondering y u havent turned up in my blog - now I know y :(

At Tue Oct 18, 09:09:00 AM CDT, Blogger Arjuna_Speaks said...

Morever I am happy for u that u were able to be there near ur patti - since only last week u came from London! See this is what is called God's divine grace!

At Tue Oct 18, 09:48:00 AM CDT, Blogger Ganesh said...

Heartfelt condolences on the loss, TJ.
Reminded me of my own patti

At Tue Oct 18, 09:48:00 AM CDT, Blogger Nithya Swaminathan said...

Awesome! I thought at first that U had flown down to India after hearing the news... But it was indeed divine intervention that you cud see her alive..:)

My deepest condolences... take care..

At Tue Oct 18, 01:30:00 PM CDT, Blogger thennavan said...

Tj, you took me down memory lane to the year 2001. Amma and I were here in the US and when we left for here itself, we were not that sure about the health of my paatti (amma's amma). A couple of months after reaching here, we got the news that she had been hospitalized. We rushed to Bombay where she was and the brave lady that she was, she even underwent a tracheostomy at 86.5 years and survived it. We thought she would come around and brought her back to Chennai and she stayed with us thru Deepavali. A couple of days later she had to be again hospitalized and she breathed her last there. Amma and I were there with her throughout and I was the only peran (among her grandhcildren who are all scattered in India and abroad) who had the fortune of holding the neipandham for her on her last journey. Your post brought wetness to my eyes. May her soul rest in peace.

At Tue Oct 18, 09:42:00 PM CDT, Blogger Ram.C said...

My heartfelt condolences to you, TJ.. You are lucky enough to stay near your beloved grandma during her last journey. You had narrated your feelings well..

At Tue Oct 18, 10:59:00 PM CDT, Blogger Ranj said...

A very moving and inspiring post TJ. I read it several times yesterday and today. I am quite speechless... My heartfelt condolences to you. I haven't lost my paattis yet, but can relate to how I felt when both my thathas passed away. I truly admire the women of that generation and I hope that the younger generation can get inspired from such lives ... Best wishes TJ.

At Wed Oct 19, 01:43:00 AM CDT, Blogger krishna said...


A great post befitting a great paati. Enney vivegam and dhairyam ? that too in those days..

I am in awe for you paati. May her soul be united with the Paramaathma ,if not let it have a better life in her next birth and take her to HIM.

At Wed Oct 19, 08:09:00 AM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear TJ,
I have noticed that nowadays, you seem to comment on my blog only if I comment here first...enna TJ , namakkulla idhellam vendaam.
both of us seek the establishment of Dharma on earth and are similar in outlook.
besides nowadays I am being pushed to work against crappy deadlines and I don't even get to post regularly..
the best thing you can do in honour of your grandma would be starting some good organsiation in her name... !
maybe TJ , when I am through with some issues in life and am capable of contributing to society we could team up and bring about dharma.

At Wed Oct 19, 08:14:00 AM CDT, Blogger mysorean said...


May her soul Rest in Peace! She has lived in a way that shows future generations the way to live.

I bow to her!

If I say I got emotional on reading the post, that would be an understatement.

Divine intervention [as Nithya says] is what made you be next to her when she was living her last moments. God is great!

At Wed Oct 19, 08:15:00 AM CDT, Anonymous Dubukku said...

heart felt condolences TJ. hmmmmm very touching post. Looks like she was waiting for you hmm

At Wed Oct 19, 01:12:00 PM CDT, Blogger Kasthuri Srinivasan said...

TJ, Kindly accept my condolences. It was very touching. I know its a grave moment when you hear someone so close to u depart. And if its a sudden news (thank God its not that here), no one can get solace from this fleeting world.

At Wed Oct 19, 03:37:00 PM CDT, Blogger Priya said...

Heartfelt condolence tj!!

A moving post and her life is a great lesson.. and this post is so motivating to stay independent and respectful..

At Wed Oct 19, 10:19:00 PM CDT, Anonymous Sundaresan said...

Heartful condolences, TJ! The post kindled my memories...

At Wed Oct 19, 11:12:00 PM CDT, Blogger TJ said...

Thanks. I very much agree with you that thatha is equally important in rebuilding our lineage. Even the url of my blog is 'thenathans', identifying ourselves with T.A.SwaminathaIyer, and is descendents. Whatever reference i made was completely in true sense and never intended to pull down one. Hope this clarifies.

Yes, Death preachs more philosophy than anyother class room. Detachment, contentment, sacrifice yada yada..

yes, i would not term it as luck, but as her blessings, that i was with her when she breathed her last.

Thanks for your concern.

Thanks for ur msg. I hope the clarification i gave to balki is sufficient to convey my intentions.

Every story of her stuggle, which she used to say, is inspiring.

It is indeed divine grance and her blessings.

Thanks very much.

Thanks. It was like, she was holding her breath to see me.! Divine intervention indeed.

At Thu Oct 20, 12:30:00 AM CDT, Blogger TJ said...

So, you too had the privilege of neipandham!! For may paatti, though i was the only peran, in her death bed, all other counsins of mine, excpet balki, who is in Lucknow, had reached in time for holding neipandham. Even while she was alive, she used to tell me, 'only if u carry the neipandham, i will be able to see my way to heaven, else i will be lost'. It was indeed a privilege for holding that.

Thanks for the concern! Yes, i consider myself divinely lucky.

Thanks. We are still identifying learnings from her life. She has given us thumbrules to handle every little crisis in life.

Yes, She would definitely unite with Him. The irony is that, though she was an orthodox 'Vesham potta' paatti, she was not very ritualistic. Her decision to relocate to NB colony[which was not common in 1940s], and the equality she showed so much so that, the CycleShop bhai, Oil Mill Chettiar, Milk Man Konar, and the TV Kovil temple florist, all refer to her as their mother.
She was a social revolution in herself.

I really did not have any such intention. If at all any such thing is perceived, that i comment only after u comment, is highly co-incidental.
Infact, over the last 2 week, i just have got a couple of hours for blogging, since back here in india, i donot have either an internet connection or a computer at home.

At Thu Oct 20, 03:05:00 AM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry for the comment... I was just curious as to whether my stand on Vedantahad offended you (which has never been my intention).

are you in India? will you be coming to chennai?


At Thu Oct 20, 03:43:00 AM CDT, Blogger TJ said...

Thanks Adi. This event, will be dear to me, for a long time to come.

Romba correct! Enakkaga dhaan wait pannindu irundhaalo nu thonaradhu.

Thanks for your concern. Even in this moment of grief, i am thrilled by the way, He brought me to her bedside at the time of her end.

Thanks! Indeed, as i said earlier, she was the epitome of self control, self respect and sacrifice.

Thanks very much sir.

Irrespective of the difference in philosophical acceptance, i bow to your knowledge, and i am a regular visitor to your blog. If i dont make a comment, it is just that, all that is in the blog is oneway traffic. Continue the nice work! I am in India, but plans have been just communicated to me that, i will be flying out of India on Sunday night.

At Thu Oct 20, 04:43:00 AM CDT, Anonymous Kannan said...

Hi Shyam,

Thanks for getting me onto the blog. Although not in the direct lineage, I grew equally fond of her as I did my own grandma. I do believe she enjoyed our company and her visits to Bangalore as well.

Heartfelt condolences from all of us. See you in Trichy on 22nd.


At Fri Oct 21, 12:35:00 AM CDT, Blogger sukhanya said...

wow..what an amazing lady.....you r lucky to have a paaati like that.

My prayers for her soul to rest in peace.

At Fri Oct 21, 08:48:00 AM CDT, Blogger Random Access said...

Truly inspiring !!! Reminds me of my own...

Random Access
The search has just begun !!!

At Sun Oct 23, 11:12:00 PM CDT, Blogger Venky Krishnamoorthy said...

A very emotional post. You should be blessed

At Mon Oct 24, 11:11:00 AM CDT, Blogger Ramana Siddharth said...

may her soul rest in peace!

At Mon Oct 24, 01:14:00 PM CDT, Blogger TJ said...

Thanks for attending the function at trichy and getting blessed by paatti.

Truly, we are lucky to have her. It was only because of her will that we are what we are today.

Yes, if we look closely, all of our families would have similar examples, which we shud remember always.

Thanks! She shud have by now been in heaven :)


At Tue Oct 25, 02:47:00 PM CDT, Blogger Saravana Kumar said...

TJ very inspiring personality.

A living story to say that "Kadavul nallavangala sodhippan, ennaikkum kai vida maattan"

At Tue Oct 25, 05:24:00 PM CDT, Blogger AF said...

My prayers are with your family.. Reminds me of my paati.. she underwent the same, she had 10 children to support..

At Wed Oct 26, 07:47:00 PM CDT, Blogger TJ said...

Yes, truly she was inspiring!!


At Mon Nov 28, 04:57:00 PM CST, Blogger bhooma said...

Heart felt condolences..Me and chakra just visited our paati a month before she passed away.For having worked out an unplanned trip to India..I felt as if I was gifted to see her last before she left all of us..

At Wed Jun 21, 12:51:00 AM CDT, Blogger kavitha said...

A very touching story indeed... brought the same feeling i had when i heard the story of Mangalam Pati.

This lady waws brave and seelf respecting, qualities i look for in women, and worship it.

Its not easy to be a woman, and lead the life she led..

A few good lessons and am really happy you could share it with us.

Thank you

Kavitha Kalyan


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