• Tuesday, August 03, 2021
India Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 424,773
Total Cases 31,695,958
Today's Fatalities 422
Today's Cases 40,134
Pakistan Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
Total Cases 31,216,337
Today's Fatalities 3,998
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Sri Lanka Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
Total Cases 31,216,337
Today's Fatalities 3,998
Today's Cases 42,015
Bangladesh Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
Total Cases 31,216,337
Today's Fatalities 3,998
Today's Cases 42,015
UK Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
Total Cases 31,216,337
Today's Fatalities 3,998
Today's Cases 42,015
India corona update 
Total Fatalities 424,773
Total Cases 31,695,958
Today's Fatalities 422
Today's Cases 40,134

Column

Telling family stories

It is also about the im­portance of putting down family histories, because stories should be passed on from one generation to the next before they are lost (Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images).

By: Radhakrishna N S

By Amit Roy

IF THESE months of liv­ing through the lockdown have demonstrated any­thing, it has been about the fragility of human life.

It is also about the im­portance of putting down family histories, because stories should be passed on from one generation to the next before they are lost.

At his home in Col­chester, my uncle, the last surviving member of my late father’s generation, but younger to him by many years, has been fin­ishing off his memoirs, which is by way of being a family history.

He has called his book, Not On Your Nelly! be­cause that was the dusty answer he got from my aunt-to-be when he first asked her to marry him.

She was born Shriya Devi in British Guiana, which was renamed Guy­ana after independence in 1966. But she was known as “Sylvia” in Col­chester, where she worked as a senior sister in the now closed maternity hospital. There she at­tended the birth of some 4,000 babies, according to the Essex County Standard, which paid tribute to her after she died from ataxia in 2007.

My uncle’s book con­tains a lot about my fa­ther, who edited several newspapers, including the Indian Nation in Pat­na, Bihar, when India was still under British rule.

At the age of 30, he was foolish enough to write a leader comment, “The heartless governor”, after the Kosi River, known as “the sorrow of Bihar”, flooded, bringing devas­tation. The governor, Sir Thomas Rutherford, called in my father who apparently said, “Your Excellency, I won’t take out a comma.” The gover­nor put pressure on the paper’s owner, the Maha­rajah of Darbhanga, who had no option but to fire my father.

There is also an enter­taining passage about how my uncle had to des­patch a king cobra which had snuggled under my pillow during the mon­soon season.

He is writing the part which, for him, is the most difficult – Sylvia’s funeral. Since there was no Hindu temple in Col­chester, she was in the habit of popping into church. She expressed the wish that her funeral should be a mixed Hindu- Christian service. The lo­cal church agreed, only to then withdraw the offer with an apology after a neighbour objected on the grounds that Sylvia wasn’t Christian.

Ironically, Sylvia had saved the man’s baby, born as a result of an af­fair. Without seeking per­mission from her seniors, she summoned an ambu­lance and accompanied the desperately sick baby to a hospital in London with the medical exper­tise required to save its life. Sylvia was hauled up before a disciplinary committee for breaking the rules – she said there was no time – and only the intervention of my uncle’s friend and solici­tor saved her job.

My uncle is consulting friends as to whether he should include this epi­sode because the neigh­bour is still around and looks a little sheepish when they bump into each other.

All Asian families should encourage their elders to tell their stories. A small tip – a tape re­corder is a marvellous thing. Times passes all too quickly.

Eastern Eye

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