~ Reflections of my inner self ~

Archive for the ‘yesteryears’ Category

Early years of my career – Rising Sun

without comments

Calcutta is an important entry in my life’s diary. It is here that I started working with the ICI Group and also the place where we set up our first house. Oh! Calcutta! was a film released at that time, which played to full houses for many months. A beginning which always brings back fond and pleasant memories.

I was staying with my brother Ramani in Chennai looking for possible job opportunities after my post graduation, when a letter came from the ICI Group asking me to appear for a preliminary interview in their Chennai office. The date was very close as the letter sent to my home address was forwarded to me by my parents who had no inkling about its content. Call it a very lucky break as they were doing these preliminaries all over India and only the short listed candidates were to go to Calcutta. I was one among 20 they had called for the interview at a south regional level. My record in the college spoke for  itself and I was one of the four selected (one was a staff from their department under consideration for elevation). Ramani was a great source of support, guidance, and help. He gave me a steel gray blazer and a striped tie to wear and I was off on my own to an unknown city, with hope, aspirations and great dreams. I travelled first class for the first time! My mind told me, you are beginning to feel as if you are somebody already, for those days first class travel by trains was something only the rich could afford and I was not anywhere near that category! Two nights and one day travelling appeared to be a very long journey for I was in a great hurry to reach Calcutta.

According to our plan I checked in to a simple South Indian hotel near the Chowringhee office of ICI, a day ahead of the interview date, to get over the travel fatigue and be fresh the next day. A total of 15 candidates had been short listed for the position they called “Management Trainee, Agriculture Division”. The day started for us with a briefing, then some written tests followed by a group discussion, to assess leadership qualities, all in the morning under the watchful eyes of their HR team. I had decided to take a middle path. Neither to dominate nor take a back seat, but to present my views boldly, and clearly, in minimum time (for I knew they would ask me to elaborate further in a personal interview). We were then taken to an executive lunch room. There was a bar too, and many of the Managers were having a quick pre lunch cocktail/drink or two and catching up with gossip! I was quite comfortable with all this (because of my planters background) and pretended to participate in the idle talk. My mind was preparing for the afternoon and for the real interview- to face three of their top managers in a do or die situation! I was called after four candidates and was subjected to a barrage of questions, many of them provoking, but I kept my cool posture and answered them all smilingly. The department Manager asked me in one of his questions “what will be your aim, if you were selected?”. Promptly I replied- “To reach your position in the shortest possible time!”. He wished me luck in return. I returned to my seat, fairly satisfied with my performance. At four thirty pm the staff advised the rest to return home and I was asked to stay back. I was informed by the department head of my selection and was advised to stay back overnight and come next morning to formally meet the Chairman and Managing Director Sri AL Mudaliar! He also enquired whether I was comfortable with the place I was staying (I said quickly – no problem) and also offered any help needed for canceling and re-booking tickets, if so, the travel department of the company would take care of it. I felt I was being treated as a staff member already! I thanked him, smiling broadly, and escaped quickly for I was bursting with excitement thinking all which came in to my mind at that time. After reaching the hotel and changing over to casual dress (for I needed the coat and tie next day, it was my only jacket!), I raced to the telegraph office to send a telegram to my brother Ramani informing him of the news. I knew he would inform my parents. I celebrated with a beer and bhel puri sitting on the lawns of Chowringhee grass maidan. I returned for an early supper, for tomorrow was to be a great and eventful day. In my dreams I visualized how the chairman would look, what he would ask, how his room would be. My sleep was full of dreams that night.

Back in the ICI office the next day, one of Mr. Mudaliar’s secretary told me he would see me around 11.30 am. I could wait or go and return later. I preferred to go out to see the museum close by to keep my mind occupied and returned in time. As expected it was a short courtesy meeting. He greeted and congratulated me and expressed his happiness that a candidate from the southern region of India had succeeded and been selected. He said he hoped that I would live up to the standards of ICI and wished me all the best in my career. I thanked him and promised to live up to the expectations (which I did over a span of 9 years). Sri Mudaliar was the first Indian Chairman in ICI India (A subsidiary of ICI UK) and was a descendant of the famous Mudaliar family from Madras, a pioneer family in the education and industry fields.

Back in Coimbatore, I waited for my appointment letter to come (I still have it) and it arrived asking me to report to the ICI office in Madras. This I did and I soon found accommodation at the YMCA Royapettah, a central area in Madras. I shared a large room with another in a double storied block. I opted for the ground floor, facing our football court and tennis court. The tenants ran the food department and divided the expenses equally. I settled down quickly, anxious to establish a routine, and reported for work in official dress which was a sleeved shirt and tie. I soon settled in to a 9 to 5 routine, Monday to Friday. My boss, the regional sales manager, was an experienced sales veteran who had come up the hard way, rising through the ranks in ICI. A pleasant person with a high degree of humour, strong willed and much admired and respected by our colleagues in Calcutta. The Madras region accounted for more than 40 % of the sales turnover and profits of our division and here my initial training began. There were half a dozen office staff, over 6 senior field representatives, junior assistants and over 50 major distributors and stockist covering the four southern states. There were other divisions like Pharmacy, Paints, Plastics, Explosives, Rubber chemicals and a trading division all supported by similar teams of people, working under the administrative control of a senior sales manager. We worked in a centrally air conditioned building, with two canteens, an executive dining room, and a staff dining hall.

During the initial weeks of orientation I went through all divisions to familiarise myself with their activities before settling down in to my own division routines. Having an Agriculture degree and plantation work background helped in the learning the process particularly from a technical angle, but the commercial and marketing was new to me. I had to learn the hard way, travelling with the field and experienced staff almost 15 days a month, and reporting my observations for validation by the manager. I managed to send money home every month to my parents, and also bought gifts for my elder brothers and sister from my first salary with enough surplus cash to lead a healthy life of a bachelor. I played tennis in the YMCA courts early morning three days a week, went for weekend swimming in Savera hotel, and for films in the nearby cinema, mostly English, and in the process became a well accepted and admired figure at the YMCA.

After six months, I was instructed to report and join at the head office in Calcutta for further orientation and training. This meant I had to pack up just as I was beginning to enjoy my days in Madras! A new phase was about to begin which lasted for the next 9 years.

Now in the management cadre, I was entitled to air-conditioned first class train travel whilst going on a transfer. I boarded the Calcutta mail after a send off party by office colleagues and another by YMCA friends. Ramani and Padma had come to the station, along with a few of my ICI colleagues and travel department staff. I checked in to the Spence’s Hotel Calcutta as arranged by the company, a three star western hotel to stay till I found my own accommodation (a maximum time of 2 months was allowed by the company). I reported to the Manager of the division and started my routines. Certain specific tasks were allotted to me, in addition to assignments given by the manager and General Manager of the division. Writing letters and communicating Head Office decisions to regional mangers was uncomfortable initially as they were seasoned veterans and many years senior to me! However, I acted as a neutral go-between, particularly in sensitive issues giving the devil it’s due. Being at the corporate Head Office I had to learn many things fast and act quickly, for lethargy and delays were not excused. But I managed to overcome any issues, as my approach with seniors in the regional office paid good dividends. Fax and telephone calls came to my help many a time (there was no e-mail at the time!).

I managed to get accommodation in the Central YMCA which was walking distance to the office, sharing a room on the third floor with another. It was a large self contained room with bath and a personal valet (who attended to four such rooms). My chap was a senior man from Orissa named Munda, I liked him from the start. My roommate was a quiet chap named Banegal (a Parsi), many years senior to me. He worked in an engineering company in supply and distribution. I became friendly with the YMCA Secretary, one Mr. Mukerje who had a lot of respect and appreciation for ICI (ICI and ITC were the two majors and Indian subsidiaries of UK concerns). It was fairly easy to get permission to do some cooking and entertaining in the room (quietly of course) at the weekends- some good gifts did the trick! Breakfast was cereals, toast, eggs and coffee. Lunch was at the office, and evening dinner was chapattis, vegetables and a fruit or a pudding. Not bad, for all for we paid was around Rs 600 per month for board and lodging. On week days I spent my free time writing letters, reading, or shopping in the new city market close by. On weekends I played tennis at the ICI lawn courts. Friends and I would arrange to get together in my room where we would cook Rasam and Sambar or go for eat outs in the compact Chinese restaurants or else would have Pani puri, Cutlet/Katchori on the maidan. We would also go to the cinema (there were 4-5 movie houses close by).  I used to send money home to my parents regularly and would also send special funds or gifts for their Birthdays. I bought new clothing on a regular basis – shirts, ties and shoes – maintaining a standard as per office protocol. In addition I had to buy special clothing for the Calcutta winter of four months.

I was never good at saving money all my working life as I was an impulsive and hasty buyer. Perhaps it had a connection to my past. When I was young, fancy and luxury goods were out of bounds and not in my reach. Thus, I acted in a great hurry to catch up! Fortunately this tendency is a thing of the past now. Now I am trying to make amends for that mistake and I feel I am facing in the right direction. My writings will support this faith and belief. Nothing is too late if you are prepared to work at it with all your involvement. In such cases wealth accumulation is only part of the game (to meet your needs and leave a good portion to your children and grand children), where satisfaction and achievement are the true goals.

However I do not want my children, friends and well wishers to commit to this major block (of not saving) and should save a certain portion of their monthly income (at least 25%). It will come handy for your rainy days, retirement, any special requirements and to help the needy too. It is also a fact that I was always happy to allocate some money every month to my parents, my way of saying thank you to them and I am grateful for my wife Geetha who also thought on the similar lines and supported me whole heartedly. She used to push me to buy the needs of our parents whenever we were on a holiday to Coimbatore, much to the delight and happiness of my parents. I am fortunate that my sons are acting and thinking on similar lines and it is our turn to feel delighted! Blessings of our parents are above any expression and comes all the time, any time, to support us. I could not have even dreamed of my present house without my parent’s blessing and I have been  seeking their guidance and support every day, in the past, now, and will do so in the future.

Back to my YMCA days. Some three years of my life rolled by gracefully. I could have easily added an MBA degree by postal course, as my friend Asok Roy in the next room did. He even coaxed me, but I said no, I had had enough of studying for now and ICI, my company, was not going to recognise my MBA knowledge, for they had better practical training methods and systems.

Back to my working life. Trips from Calcutta to regional offices were a regular affair. Problem solving trips, need based assignments and so forth. Such visits called for preparation of notes and background information and I became very busy before and after such trips. This was a “Henry Kissinger” type job, preparing a balanced objective analysis without wounding or finger pointing at anyone. I was always a part of the team when regional managers were called in to Calcutta where accumulated and bilateral issues were involved. Another very interesting session was the bi yearly and annual conferences for reviews, budgets, sales forecasts and plans for the next year. We had very experienced office staff at Head Office who attended to the day to day correspondence, product planning, liaison with plant managers, orders, dispatches, inventory schedules and collections. I was given opportunities to manage the regional functions when the managers went on their annual leave or seconded to overseas assignments in the short term. In such situations, I was accommodated in the posh company guest houses, and was treated to all benefits applicable to staff on tour. These were very interesting experiences for me particularly in the Delhi region (Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh ,Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Rajasthan) and in the Bombay region and East India (Assam, West Bengal, Tirupura and Magalay).

After about 8 years I was transferred to the Bombay region, to help and support the region after the retirement of the then regional Manager Sri Khare, a very good guide and mentor of mine. They filled the gap with the appointment of a more senior colleague of mine and I was shifted to Chennai in a nationwide re-organisation. I was happy (for I could support my parents better), but the happiness did not last, as in a further move they wanted me to take over plantations in Karnataka. I agreed even though it was another shift, and requested to be based at Coimbatore or Bangalore instead of Chikmagalur, an isolated town in Coorg. This became a prestige issue and a point of disagreement with the Management. I resigned, after securing a senior position in a developing company. I had expected my boss at Calcutta to support me, having worked very closely with him for 8 plus years, but for reasons unknown he remained unsupportive. However, I was young, experienced and capable of doing something substantial to many growing companies in my line of profession. This I did, with the support of my wife, and young sons (Vivek was 4 years old and Arjun was just born). I worked hard to increase the sales turn over of the company by ten times and gave them an all India presence. There were plenty of sacrifices, including twenty days travel. In the end the company (a family group), became rich and arrogant and did not fulfil any of the promises made to me. One such person was to become Managing director of a new subsidiary, and at this point I realized that the situation was no good for me and I left the group. In all my following jobs, I decided to do more of a consultancy role with cash down payment offers and in the process helped three groups in the Orchard and Farm sector.

One of my dreams and desires was to become a resident manager based in India or anywhere else for an international company. Two such opportunities came very close but did not click. Call it my destiny, what else! However the positive side of it all was that there were many learning points:

  • Self organisation
  • Planning and preparation
  • Allocation of responsibility
  • Financial planning
  • Organising support systems and backups
  • Central control
  • Review and compliment the performers, encourage the others

Britishers have taught me among other things that to organise others, you have to be better organised first. Perform first and then expect performance. You first set examples and ensure it is followed. Be lavish in giving the right compliment where needed and above all never be afraid of failure. Review, re-look, till you get the right answer and therefore success.

The rising sun also has its descending phase, but only to rise again the very next morning.

Written by Raghuraman

June 3rd, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Posted in yesteryears

My colourful college days (1962-1968)

without comments

After doing my Pre-degree at the State Arts College, Coimbatore, it was time to decide on the future direction of my education. There were many problems and obstacles primarily because of the rules of the state Government which gave preference to students based on a caste system, an ill conceived biased policy which gave low priority to students, such as myself, who belonged to a forward class. In spite of good grades we had to fight for a seat on any professional course. My first priority was to go for medical colleges. I was not successful and therefore I focused all my energies to get on to agriculture courses. Thank God, with the help of my eldest brother Ramani and the state Agriculture Secretary, I managed to get a seat of admission at the Agriculture College, Coimbatore. After some nervous waiting I took a secret vow to get back at the authorities by excelling in studies far ahead of the 90% of the students who had entered through the back door. A performance which I was able to fulfill all the 6 years, with the support and guidance of the Gods of my understanding: Marudamalai Muruga and Vauputhra Anjaneeya.

I enjoyed a satisfying performance with awards, medals, recognitions, positions of importance in college committees and games teams. Whom should I thank for all these? My teachers, my gurus, my parents, especially my mother and my supportive brothers and sister. As they said, you do your part well and God will take over the rest- and it happened! Besides, it was a lesson learnt. Whatever you do, if you do it with your complete commitment and involvement you will succeed. Well proven all through my later years!

It was a resident course with a few exceptions given to students who had their residences close by and I was one of them. Our house was 6 kilometres away from the college and I had a bicycle to cover the distance, generally four trips. A typical day started at 5 am as we had field practical classes all week from 6-8 am in subjects like Agronomy, Horticulture, Animal husbandry and Civil/Mechanical engineering. We were required to report at 6 am in half sleeve shirts and trousers in field Kaki colour with our pocket notebooks and pencil. In a class of 400 students we were divided in to three batches AB, CD, EF and allocated per name initials. I was in CD group, the only Raghuraman. Thank God for it, for there were many students with the same name and we had to call them by their different initials. In the process I was also given the name TVR, easy to identify and address!

Let me talk of some of the colourful classes now. For Agronomy we had to report in the central farm of the college. There were four blocks in the farm each with 100-200 acres of land. There was a farm manager and field supporting staff, all separately treated as a profit/loss centre under the overall control of a senior farm manager. There were huge go-downs for storage of grain and harvested produce, stores for tool and implements, sheds for manure and pesticides and many rows of cattle shed with huge animals for field work and many tractors. After a quick briefing session by our teachers we would go to the fields for the days class work. It could be anything, any operation going on in the farms we would participate. We would undertake and learn the work. Sometimes it could be the preparation of the field involving bullockor tractor drawn ploughs, levelling, irrigation, sowing, weeding, interculture, fertiliser application, harvesting, packing and transporting to the yard. The animals were well trained and soft in behaviour and knew their jobs better than us. We had no problems with them after we overcame their initial fear. I was half the animal’s height and would look insignificant compared to their girth and stature! They sometimes bothered me but would listen to my direction most of the time. Some days I would quietly carry some treats for them well hidden in my pockets which would be gladly accepted!

I vividly recall a few incidences. Once we were given training in Guinea grass cutting. We were taken to a large lush green grass field where grasses were ready for cutting. We were given a plot each to cut, tie and shift to a tractor trailer. Even though they had drained the water from the field earlier the ground was slippery. It was fun initially, but after some time it became a little tiresome, so we were allowed a breather and a drink of water. Back to work, and in a mood of over confidence, I cut the grass and pulled it closer, far too close along with the sharp sickle and down went the blade of sickle deep into my leg about half an inch. I screamed in pain, was given emergency treatment at the farm and taken to a nearby hospital for ATS and a proper dressing. It took almost a month to heal and I was nicknamed “jumping jack”! After that I was fairly careful with implements, particularly the sharper ones!

Many a day I used to go to these classes in the early morning after a glass of hot chocolate. My mother had not liked this at all and was persuading me all the time to eat a breakfast which she was willing to make for me even at five am! But it did not work so she tried another way. It was a time when my elder brother, Das, had come home on leave. He was in the Foreign Service working for the central Government and had the opportunity to work in many places including the Far East, Middle East, Europe and US. His visit was one that all members in the family looked forward to, as he would bring utility and electronic goods for the home and many gifts to each and every one of us. Much to my surprise he had come one day early morning to my field class in Agronomy under the pretext of seeing our classes and was chatting with my class teachers. He smiled at me good naturedly and waved. I was working in the middle of a muddy paddy field. What transpired between him and my teachers I did not know until I was given a nice dressing-down by my teachers for coming to field work classes without having breakfast! Though I was annoyed with my brother initially, I gradually started to get up early enough to eat a breakfast before going to classes. In the process mother was happy, my endurance went up, and this habit came in handy for me in my later years as an orchard/plantations manager when early breakfasting became a routine!

For practical lessons in Animal husbandry we would go to the college veterinary hospital early morning and were taught procedures to diagnose sickness, medicines and administration techniques. The animals involved were cattle, goats and poultry. I learnt with fascination how the doctors there effortlessly treated other outpatient animals (dogs, cats and horses). I liked this subject and used to score very high marks in the class and won many prizes. However the civil engineering practical was a bore. The mechanical engineering was tolerable as it involved tractors, pumps and farm machines and this field knowledge helped me a lot later. I dearly liked chemistry and we were taught physical chemistry and organic and inorganic chemistry in both theory and practical forms. Horticulture was another subject I excelled in. It was a delight working with orchard trees like mango, sappotas, grapes, bananas, and lemon. For training in hill fruits like apple, pears, plums and pineapple we were taken to farms in hill stations.

Four years rolled along effortlessly, the bottom line being I came out with first class grades with many a distinction in selected subjects. I was among the first ten of a class of 400 students. Prizes and medallions were conferred which made my teachers, parents, and well wishers proud. I was also involved closely in college dramatic and debating teams. In field games I was the college cricket captain, and a reserve player in hockey and tennis teams. We won many inter-college cups in cricket and once we won a hard fought tournament called the Rukmani memorial trophy in Palakkad, competing with many colleges of Kerala. My college sports authorities awarded me the college colour in cricket for this achievement, an award which goes with some golden stripes that I had to wear for special occasions.

In those days jobs were given by the state department for those who had written the final exams, as there was a severe dearth of staff in the agricultural field. I received my order of posting to go to Ooty, a hill station, for a special project on a soil conservation scheme and a farm experimenting with hill vegetables. I was thrilled. A salary of Rs 300 per month felt great. Off I went to join the project, staying in a hotel/boarding house sharing a large room and bath with two other officers. All expenses including food came under Rs 200 leaving a surplus of money to buy things for my mother and father during my monthly home visits along with a big basket of hill fruits and vegetables much to the delight of my parents. It was a great pleasure seeing my mother fill up the fridge and kitchen shelves saying when Raghu comes home, the entire market comes home!

Each and every father and mother give their best of what they can to their children and in the process endure many a strain and tension without a complaint. They expect nothing but a kind word in return. Every son and daughter should remember this all the time and ensure that their words, acts and deeds reflect a care and concern for their parents to make their life as pleasant as possible, now and at all times.

Written by Raghuraman

May 27th, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Posted in yesteryears

Memoirs of Wayanad – My green pastures of Kerala

with one comment

Wayanad, a land of hills and valleys is located in Kerala, Gods Own Country. The height of the hill towns range from 3000-5000 feet above sea level, the base town being Calicut. The Western Ghats as it is called is a very scenic place. Moderate temperature year round, thundering rains, slightly chilly winter and smooth summers are the weather indicators for these lovely towns. Agriculture is the main occupation, particularly plantation crops like coffee (Robusta), Citrus, Pineapple, Ginger, Bananas, Passion fruit and Avacado. Settlers, mainly British, were the owners of many of the plantations and even now some are managed by the descendents of early owners. Every now and then I go back to those days, pleasant memories, rich and recharging me all the time, any time.

Father, a medical doctor by profession, was in charge of the hospital at Ambalavayal, a compact hospital with 30-50 in-beds, an outpatient department and an isolation ward. He had a staff of 10 people under him, including a compounder, midwife, nurses, patient care staff, orderlies, drivers and security. We were given a nice huge bungalow close by. A white 6 roomed house with raised asbestos roofing and weather proof internal roofings and large yards in front and back. One of the rooms was father’s office at home to treat patients who called at odd hours. My father’s day would start at 8 am at the hospital with rounds of inpatients and then back to the busy and waiting outpatients. The hospital team would get busy attending to the needs of patients coming down from all over the hill towns surrounding the hospital. Lunch would be around noon. After some rest he would get busy with administrative matters, staff meeting, letters, reports, budgets etc and would get back home by 6 pm on non tour days. Otherwise on two days a week he would go to the primary heath centres (there were three of them) which were 2 hrs away, to attend to patients coming over there. Medicines needed for the first line of treatments were kept there and administered by 3-4 staff members attached to the centre. He was given a huge jeep (a military type vehicle) with a driver and cleaner to maintain this in condition. The tyres used to come up to my shoulder! On tour days he will leave Ambalavayal by 3 pm and return by 8pm. A very busy man, sought after by the community, a caring Doctor, for him every thing was secondary to duty and patient care. So my mother had a major role to play every day, and she used to do it equally well managing a busy man, school-going son (yours faithfully doing 7th grade), a grown up daughter (my elder sister) at home, and our favourite two cows and calves. Believe me, being the town doctor’s wife she was also an equally sought after person!

After a light breakfast and a packed lunch, I was required to leave by 7 am every morning 5 days a week to catch the bus going to Sultan Battery. A 45 minute ride by winding roads downhill, most of the school-going children use this bus, 15 to 20 of us from Ambalavayal and Meyppadi. We then walked 3 kms from the drop off zone of town Sultan Battery to reach school in time for the prayers, followed by 4-5 sessions/classes every day with a lunch break and back to catch the bus at 5 pm. Home by 6 pm, a quick change and off to our club. A semi circular roofed space of say 200-250 feet in length and 50 feet in width, it served as the officers club for the area. We had two outdoor badminton courts and card, carom, chess tables and a library in doors. My father would also join on non tour days, with other officers and staff from other state departments. Farm owners would also join in the action, relaxation, and fun for 2 hours. I used to be good in carom and would even get a chance to play elders. Sometimes bets will also be placed, the losers having to buy masala tea and hot vadas for all! Men will be all concentration in card games, “no noise please” was the message. 2-3 petrol lights illuminated the club. We all returned in groups taking the two main roads for home, a 10 minute walk for most of us. We had an elected committee of office bearers who looked after the administration of the club. We used to have matches played with other clubs in the nearby towns. All of us would help in the preparation of our team for the matches and we would go as an outing in hired vans with family members joining the picnic.

Once a month Father would take us to the big town Calicut, a drive downhill of about 4 hours and 29 hairpin bends. Key activities of the trip would be shopping of items that were not available in our area, special clothing needs for the season, maybe a movie, eating out in popular cafes or hotels, orders and purchases of special hospital needs and buying books/games/special food items. While we bought for the needs of our friends they would also do the same for us during their similar trips. A great fellow feeling prevailed all around.

Written by Raghuraman

May 16th, 2007 at 7:30 pm

Posted in yesteryears

Tirunellai – My village in Palakkad, Kerala (1944 – 1954) Part 1

with 10 comments

Our village, Tirunellai (Palakkad), has a long train like structure with a row of independent houses from east to west. There were approximately over 100 houses split in two sections, eastern and western parts. My house was located somewhere in between! We had the benefit of the good and the bad of both groups! While each house maintained a high degree of individuality, equally high was the contribution to common causes or village welfare activities, a close parallel to the modified Kibbutz of Israel! Almost everyone owned land/property around and in close proximity to the village (generally passed on from father to sons) where crops of rice are grown in seasons, with some area for vegetables and other pulses/grains, banana etc. Besides, each family had one or more gardens in the house to meet the needs of many food items. With a river running parallel to the village, food and good water was never a problem!

The entire family lived as a joint family in each house, sometimes the number going from 6 to 9! In our own, apart from my father and mother, our family consisted of four boys and one girl. My father, being a medical doctor by profession in state service, was transferred quite frequently to different district hospitals in the state. We therefore lived in the village with mother running the show, and father managed in his place of work with cooks and servants. We visited him during our annual school holidays.

The design of our house (like most of the houses there) consisted of a foyer room to meet and dispatch people. It also served for studies and homework. This led to a walk-in, which led into a large room which was partially converted to go down to store annual or bi-annual receipts of grains, pulses and seeds from the farm which led to a large room called Koodam with a portion for a prayer room. This was a very important room in each house, ventilated and well lighted. This room served various purposes like a place for conducting functions, festivals, group chanting, serving food for say 50-100 people if need be and was also our place of sleep at night! The next room adjoining was our large kitchen, with a row of mud ovens, place for storage of food, cooking items, plates and vessels, vegetable cutting area etc. There was no fridge, mixer, grinder or microwave in those days. Food was cooked fresh every day, as per needs, and leftovers were given to servants the same day. There was a wash room next to the kitchen, where manual grindings were done for the food items to be prepared! There was a staircase near the large hall which led to the first floor, mostly two large rooms, for storage of linen, clothing, important items and things related to the home etc. No visitors here! Some houses have a dug well and water system installed here.

Following the wash area was a garden where we grew bananas, coconut palms, yams and vegetables of the season. This led to a shed for our milk animals (we had three cows and a few calves), a large dug well, space to de-husk grains and dry them, storage rooms etc. Following this was our garden for large trees, more coconuts, tamarind, jack, mango etc. Bathrooms and toilets for the house were in the rear section here!

We took turns supporting and assisting our mother in various house jobs like washing clothes, ironing, and water delivery, shopping at weekend markets, house errands etc. Besides these we had special allotted jobs to do on a regular basis! Children from joint family living understand the meaning of give and take, care and concern, faiths and fellow feeling, work and dignity, respecting values and traditions etc which goes a long way and help them to take right decisions in their lives.

Living in a Hindu culture we have many festivals and celebrations round the year. All children and elders participate in such festivities which augur well for the society. Our village temple was a Swami Ayyappan temple (a daily visit is a must for most). Its festivals were village events with all sections contributing in some way or other with smiling faces. These can never be forgotten by me.

Written by Raghuraman

April 28th, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Posted in yesteryears