Dr. S. Minakshisundaram: A Daughter’s Tribute By K. Girija

K. Girija

My father was born in Trichur, Kerala in 1913. He was the blessing and boon after several years of penance performed by my grandparents. They had visited several holy places, temples and had taken a vow in Guruvayur Temple of Krishna. My grandmother though married by the age of eight years as a child she connceived at the age of 24. In those days it was considered very late and probably she had to suffer the ill social talk also. Naturally the birth of the boy child brought great joy. Being Saivites the child was named Minakshisundaram. He was called Jeja by the fond parents . Jeja meaning God. The vow at Guruvayur was fulfilled. The infant was taken to Guruvayur placed on the large weighing scales. Equal weight of butter was offered to the deity of the temple.

Girl children are most loved and petted in the family. Till the age of eight, he had long hair. My grandmother would comb and braid his hair. In the traditional way the religious ritual of Upanayanam was performed at the age of 7. With the thread ceremony the long braid became a Namboodiri Kudumi. Living in Kerala for several generations Malayalam was the language spoken; yet Telugu was spoken at home in the adulterated fashion of Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. The life style, food habits and religious rituals had the Malayalam and Tamil influences in the family. My father had no sisters.

My father was educated in Madras. His S.S.L.C. education was from C.R.C. High School, Perambur, Madras. His two younger brothers were educated in the Ramakrishna Mutt School, Mambalam, Chennai. Education in that school was free and in the next street from their aunt’s home. After school my uncles did not opt for higher education due to monetary difficulties. Both looked for small jobs. My father with his brilliance was able to get monetary assistance and scholarships for further education. Naturally though the amount was paltry he lived and pursued in higher education within the means happily. He cared for his father who was too ill to move. He would help his mother in the household chores. If his mother was ill or followed traditional ways he would cook and wash clothes of his parents.

Their life style was economically backward, traditional south Indian -Dakshinadhi- Brahmin Community. Since my father was born in Tirchur and spent his childhood in Kerala, they spoke Malayalam at home . Shifting to Chennapatnam-Madras- Chennai- because of his father’s job in the BritishRaj, Tamil became the mother tongue of the family. so to say. But the original ancestors hail from Andhra and shifted to the deep south . Telugu is basically the mother-tongue and ‘ arva-telugu ‘ was and is dominant in the family. In fact till recent times ancestral landed property was in Peddapuram near Samalkot. Verdant, fertile, flourishing, prosperous fields which the middle men looked after. Independent India and Land Ceiling Act helped them to grab the lands.The family was not aware, even though my father and one uncle migrated back to Andhra. I was born in Guntur and grew up in Visakhapatnam. During my childhood I heard my grandmother and father converse at times in Malayalam. The teaching faculty of Andhra University had many Tamilians in those days. So the contact and touch with Tamil persists.