As my son fumbles about bravely trying to insert his tiny fingers into every available socket, it makes me wonder what kind of stock he comes from and if, as his mother I am going to survive his bumps and bruises.
Well, I don’t have too much of a reference point, considering both my great great grandfather (on the maternal side) and throw in another great and we have the paternal side; both of whom were adopted. So that leaves me with about 3 generations worth of stories.
We will dispense with the greats and get down to the grandparents, since I have personally never had the pleasure of meeting any of the greats, and hence have heard no accounts of their heroics first hand (although my granddad’s grand mom was allegedly bitten by a snake when she was pregnant, and hence they believed my great grandma was a walking antidote to venomous bites. On another interesting aside, the lady was supposed to be pretty venomous herself…That apparently accounts for my wayward tongue)
Lets start with the granddaddy (literally) of all stories- which involves the maternal grandpop (if he could see me being so irreverent now, he’d have my hide). Well, like all middle sons of families with not a lot of ancestral wealth, grandpop landed up having to support not just his family but also those of his brothers (the elder brother having pushed off to join the INA with Netaji and the younger one going about doing a fair bit of social work and bringing honour to the family- the bread and butter was really not his forte, but think honour and you had your man!). So off he want on some project with the Brits to Rangoon. Bear in mind, this was the time of the Second World War, and once a bloke vanished to far shores, it was quite often the last time you saw him. In fact the only way you knew the chap was still slogging away at some remote location was the money orders that used to arrive home every month.
So- getting back to the slogging ancestor in remote location- Grandpa was just getting into the thick of things, when suddenly, the Japanese took it upon themselves to Bomb the S*** out of Rangoon. Naturally, working with the Brits made Grandpa and his colleagues sitting ducks. Not liking the Sitting Duck posish. one bit, Grandpa decided to take matters into his own hands. NO, he did not grab a musket and charge the Japs- he was brave, not stupid! He packed a few of his measly belongings and decided to hightail it back to India. Now, since most of the ships were filled with ladies and families, and had left port long ago, the only way into India was by land thru’ the forests.
Now I don’t want to give you lessons in geography, but From Rangoon, he made his way to a place called Pittakoon and from there into erstwhile Bengal. Naturally, like all great travel stories, this had its fair share of bombs, murder, jungle fever, thuggee and wild animals. Two months later when Grandad returned home, he’d lost half his weight and most of his hair (or so he told me- C’mon, the man’s entitled to a wee bit of creative leeway after the ordeal he’s been thru’)
The grandmum, all this while wasn’t wasting away, pining for the husband (this despite it being a love marriage- Grandmum fell in love with Granddad and decided she was going to marry him, all at the ripe old age of 12.) She had mouths to feed and children to clothe. She’s also had the distinction of being the first lady in the family to have travelled from the southernmost tip of India to the north (to the Bhakra Nagal project, as a matter of fact) alone with her kids to set up house there- all this without knowing a word of Hindi at that time.
Now coming to the paternal side- Pretty uneventful life, if you consider having lost a fortune via gambling (that was the great granddad), coming to Bombay penniless and reclaiming the lost fortune for his dad bit-by-bit as uneventful. On the way he also managed to pick up a wife and have four healthy kids.
The Grandmum- ah she was a rare one. She’d come to Bombay after marrying granddad at the age of 15. She learnt to speak and read both Hindi and marathi within a short while just by watching the telly and speaking to people. The dragon lady, as I used to call her affectionately bounced back after an amputation- and was seen pottering about the building just a few months after the operation. This, despite having unchecked diabetes for ages and a heart that functioned at 20% capacity. The lady buried a husband and a child within two years of each other and came close to losing a grandchild. They say punters lost a whole lotta money betting on her early demise.
Considering the above facts, I can safely bet on a good-ish capacity to bounce back after setbacks from Pickwick. Now if only this bouncing-back thingy hadn’t skipped my generation…