Grandma’s Tale
Feature Articles

Grandma’s Tale

December 31, 2019
  • Title : Rajammal
  • Author : Bharathi Ghanashyam
  • Pages : 235
  • Price : Rs. 200 for Kindle version with a free Kindle reader;  Rs. 508 for paperback.
  • Publisher : Self-published on Amazon

By Gouri Satya, Sr. Journalist

Rarely do we come across a great grand-daughter writing a novel thinly based on her great grandmother. Bharathi Ghanashyam of Bengaluru, I am happy to say, has done this. Confessing this, the blurb of her book says, “Rajammal, loosely modelled on the life story of her great grandmother is a dream she has nurtured for over 20 years.”

 Bharathi serialised her novel on Facebook and many of its readers insisted her to have it published as the story she had woven was interesting. I was one of them who read her serialised chapters and felt it should come out in a book format. After hesitating for some time, she has got it published. 

While reading the novel I was taken back to the days in the 1950s and 1960s when Mysuru was a real cultural city. One could see families strictly adhering to customs and practices, which they had inherited from their forefathers, the senior-most in the family guiding the younger members of a family on following those traditions. This was interwoven in our lives and we never felt it was something special and unique.

Today, when we look back to those days, we find, rightly or wrongly, we have lost much of that tradition-bound culture. Many of them have disappeared over the years, particularly from the 80s onwards. The fatigued train journey, clothes and faces turned black from the smoke of rail engines, the spacious bungalows with a fountain water spouting over a statue of Radha – Krishna and flowers all around, the wedding rituals and a mother educating her daughter about her role in a new family to which she is going as daughter-in-law have faded out today. Bharathi Ghanashyam takes us back to those days while beautifully narrating the life of her great grandmother, giving us a glimpse of the society that existed then, in particular among the Tamil Brahmins.

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 Despite being traditional and religious, many mothers and grandmothers were accepting things as they happened, bearing in mind the practical aspects of life. On such occasions, they would advise others in the family who felt difficult to accept or adopt themselves under such circumstances. These grand-mothers had to face challenging situations in a society of rigid norms. In such situations, they asserted themselves asserting their superior position in a joint family. These elders played the role of a unifying force in a family, particularly when joint families were common, and kept the members united despite differences among them. They commanded respect and admiration, particularly from the juniors.

In a way, they were role-models to others, who would recall the way their mother or grand-mother lived and managed the household affairs. Eighty-eight-year-old Rajammal was one such great grand-mother, who saw the practical aspects of life and adopted herself to the changing circumstances.

 The story is set in pre and immediate post-Independence days. Rajammal, the main character of the novel, was married off as a child to a man more than twice her age. She was saddled with step-daughters older than her, her marital home presenting to her a bewildering plethora of demands — a task she found herself unequal to as a child. Over time, with the support of her husband, she sculpted a life for herself even in the face of societal derision and opposition, says the blurb on the back jacket of the book.

 The well-written story in 235 pages, Rajammal, keeps the reader glued as he moves on from page to page. “Rajammal, my book, was born out of an urge to write about a strong woman such as my great-grandmother, who I had heard about from several members of my family. However, barring the name and the fact that she was a child bride, I had no micro-details about her life. So the book is fictional and none of the incidents have any resemblance to her life,” the author says.

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Grand-daughter of Dr. M.V. Gopalaswamy, who was a well-known Professor in the Maharaja’s College and famous for launching the ‘Akashavani’ Radio Station from his house in Vontikoppal in Mysuru in 1935, the first private radio station in the country, and Kamala Gopalaswamy,  Bharathi Ghanashyam is a journalist, who is well-known for her writings about social interventions across the country. Her passion is in writing on health and she is a recipient of many awards for her health-journalism, including the Thomson Foundation Award of Excellence in Writing on HIV. Prof. Gopalaswamy established the Department of Psychology in the University of Mysore in 1924. It has the distinction of being the second oldest Department in the country. 

Published last March, her paperback has earned six ratings in Amazon, where it is available both in paperback and Kindle editions. “The book is a kaleidoscope of emotions, incidents, stories, human failings, and strengths. It makes no excuses, it offers no judgments — it just seeks to draw the reader into the journey of Rajammal and travel along with the story,” it says there giving a brief description of the novel.


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