Hartland was a place for family members to congregate during the vacations.Hema and the girls came every year and so did Aruna & Cho. Hartland was always full of fun and bonhomie when the folks were around. Aruna had a very special way of lighting up the place with fun and laughter. One of the most memorable times was when we all met for Venu’s wedding. Hartland was full to the brim and we spilt out for the night into the out house of Dr ANK Menon’s residence.The official residence of the Dean of Madras Medical College.
Some how the friendship (and kinship) formed during those boyhood days endure all through life. There were really long periods when we didn’t get to meet but the memories of those wonderful days remained warm within our hearts and it seemed as if we never parted when we meet on infrequent occasions. Such was the enduring relationship I had with Cedric & Srini, Mohan & Paul, and Aruna & Cho and off course all the near family members.
Cedric migrated to Melbourne, Australia and I was really fortunate to meet him and his wife Cheryl when I had gone to Melbourne for a short holiday with Bobby & Gillean. It was really a pleasant surprise as I had no idea he was there. Post his graduation in B.E. Mechanical from the College of Engg, Guindy he worked for a fair length of time with Metal Box before I lost touch with him. We met at Melbourne after more than 20 or 25 years!!
He had a fairly hard struggle in the initial days in Australia working as he said at the bottom of the rung in the Transport Department.He gradually rose to become an Inspector and now has moved on to Rockwell International in the Training & Development Department. Much much better I should guess. Now as we are e-mail & mobile phone connected we are more in touch and that’s truly wonderful.
Srini, another old pal from the St Mary’s,Loyola College & Guindy days joined the Atomic Energy Commission and has been with them all through his career starting with BARC, Mumbai and now with IGCAR,Kalpakkam. I didn’t get to meet him for 20 years till I surprised him by attending his daughter’s wedding at Hyderabad.Since then we have been meeting on and off and now that his daughter Vidya and son in law Sankar are based at Gurgaon I’m sure we will meet more often. E-mail and mobile connectivity will make the world smaller for us.
Mohan has gone on to carve out an exceptionally successful career as a diabitologist. He has now gone several notches above the considerable achievements of his father Dr M Vishwanathan and is well recognised in India and internationally .
After a gold medal winning stint at Madras Medical College, he married his classmate Rema and together they founded the Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Hospital and Research Centre. I was fortunate to be able to attend the ceremony in Chennai where his research centre was formally recognised by the Chairperson of ICMR. This is one of very few private institutions to be recognised and supported by the ICMR as a research facility.
I meet Mohan from time to time but infrequently because of his very busy schedule. We do however keep in touch.
Paul, a class mate of Mohan and part of our childhood gang has had a fairly eventful career. He had a strong desire to study medicine and sincerely tried three times,once even working in a leprosy clinic to gain more points, but some how couldn’t get selected. In disgust he turned sharply to a new line and completed a Diploma in Mechanical Engg from Central Polytechnic, Adyar and simultaneously completed a course in Marine Engg. It was a very gruelling four year period for him.Thereafter he joint the Merchant Navy and had the best and most lucrative phase of his career. He got to see the world and made lots of money in the process.
Some where along the line he ran into rough weather and fell foul of some of his ship mates and eventually decided to leave the merchant navy. He now has a shore job but hasn’t been the same ever since and make be a victim of depression. Paul has stayed with us at Delhi on a short vacation but we have been out of touch for a long time now.
Aruna and Cho were also frequent and welcome vacation vistors. They brought a great deal of fun and laughter every time they dropped in which was usually for a period of a week or so during vacation time. Cho is doing very well for himself and is now the CEO of Reitzel India , an export oriented unit for gherkins. He was associated with the site selection and setting up of the plant. I have meet Cho on and off over the years. Now we are more in touch and hopefully will meet more often.
Aruna was the apple of every ones eye !!! There must have been several suitors for her, of them the leader in the pack was her cousin Pradeep. She in turn found him agreeable and the two would have married but for the opposition from her parents.Her Dad was very keen on her marrying a doctor and so she did,to Prabhakar and relocated to Abu Dhabi. I lost touch with her there after and it was only after a period of over twenty years we meet again.Since then we have been in touch more often and Aruna has even come over and stayed with us at Delhi.She even made it to Seema’s wedding . It was very good of her. Her husband went through acute health problems and passed away some years ago. Aruna went through very tough time but to her credit she came through with flying colours and continues to be as cheerful and fun loving as ever.She will be relocating very soon back to India and will base her self at Calicut.
Nothing prepared me for the sad night when Dad passed away. Mom woke me up just after midnight on the 11th Jan ‘72 to say that Dad was unwell and that I should call Dr Vishwanathan.I knew then that Dad was very seriously ill as he would never complain of any discomfort or pain. I rushed off at the dead of night to the Vijaya Nursing Home just two houses away from home and demanded of the intern on duty that he wakes up Dr Vishwanthan and get him to come and examine Dad at home. He finally did so after a fair amount of persuasion.
Dr Vishwanatan took one look at Dad and said we had to take him to the hospital immediately.He helped drive Dad, Mom & me to the Stanley Hospital. Soon all important relatives who had been informed, Madhuettan, Detchiedthi, Radettan, Chandraedthi, Amaman & Co started arriving at the hospital. I was the only sibling available at home as all the others were based out of Chennai at that time. Hema rushed down from Coimbatore along with Vijayettan but would only reach the next morning.
Dad went through a long operation later in the evening, a delay caused by the general believe that the operation should only start after “rahu kalam”. He almost collapsed on the operating table but was revived. Chandraedthi being a doctor was present all through the operation.At one time she dashed out to get additional blood.We all knew that things were very serious.Eventually when the operation was over, the Doctors seemed visibly happy but said that Dad’s chances of survival were 50:50 .Later that night less than 24 hours after I had rushed to get help from Dr Vishwananthan, Dad passed away.
The next day, as the only son present, I carried out all the funeral rites and lit Dad’s pyre .. a duty I still feel very grateful for.The next day as I sat alone in the drawing room at Hartland, I suddenly began to cry and sob aloud. Hema came to me and asked me to be brave and strong.I nodded and wiped away the tears.That sad event more than any thing else was the turning point were I bid farewell to childhood and hesitantly stepped into the world of adulthood.
Education and food were top priority for our parents. Hema was an MA Literature graduate from Miranda House Delhi. Very few women of that period would have such an education to boast off in India. I went on to graduate in B.E. Electronics and Communication from the College of Engineering,Guindy and then completed PGDM at the prestigious IIM Bangalore,an alumnus of the very first batch of this institute.All of us had decent education at top notch colleges and institutions of learning. Mom & Dad had to really struggle hard to do this for us. Borrowing money from family members and even from neighbours.Terrible as it seems, but they did it for us
.Dad’s financial woes started when he had to leave his job as Jt. Controller of Imports & Exports for reasons I was never privy too. Repaying the loans for the house, financing the families education, and Hema’s marriage all took a heavy tool on Dad’s savings .Our Fiat car,then the pride of the family,had to be sold to partially make ends meet. Eventually Venu, Ravi, Jaya, Gopi & I would start earning and sending back money home and the fortunes of the family revived.
My youth therefore was spent with little or no luxuries although all our needs,good food and reasonably good living were some how or the other managed by Dad & Mom. How they managed is still a huge mystery to me. How many members of the larger family lent a helping hand (or those who refused) I never came to know. I can only silently thank all who did help in those tough dark days.
Venu, Revi ad Jaya were the principle sources of financing for my PGDM. I chipped in as I received a stipend of Rs 500/- for three months during our project term and tossed in what meagre savings I had and a bit of the PF money I received from ITI and some God sent refund of Income Tax!!! .The cost of education was much more reasonable in those days than it is today. I may never have made it at today’s costs.
I sent home,a modest Rs 50/- per month out of the stipend of Rs 500/-pm I received while working at ITI B’lore, and subsequently increased it to Rs 75/- when my emoluments marginally increased.Dad & Mom passed away long before I could reach a reasonable position of stature in the Corporate world and in society and they never got to see the fruits of all the struggles they went through for all of us.
I have always regretted never being able to look after my parents and giving them a feeling of pride and happiness at my modest achievements in my career.