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Janaki and Swami

The magnificent temples of Trichinopoly

The magnificent temples of Trichinopoly

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Gender bias

Gender bias

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British rule in India

British rule in India

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Puberty

Puberty

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The newlywed

The newlywed

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Swami in Burma

Swami in Burma

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The spread of the British Empire

The spread of the British Empire

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Burma, the land of Pagodas

Burma, the land of Pagodas

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The family man, Swami

The family man, Swami

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War service in Iraq

War service in Iraq

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Love birds

Love birds

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Education

Education

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Janaki's graduation

Janaki's graduation

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A good life

A good life

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Sail back to India

Sail back to India

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The Royal Palace at Bikaner

The Royal Palace at Bikaner

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The ghats of Benaras

The ghats of Benaras

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Janaki and Swami's first born

Janaki and Swami's first born

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Practical skills of Swami

Practical skills of Swami

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"Ramnivas", the residence of the Swamis at Benaras

"Ramnivas", the residence of the Swamis at Benaras

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The Swamis' daughter and son-in-law

The Swamis' daughter and son-in-law

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Maternity home

Maternity home

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Refugees from Burma

Refugees from Burma

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Medical Institute at Vienna

Medical Institute at Vienna

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Vampire aircraft of IAF

Vampire aircraft of IAF

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The Swamis' younger son

The Swamis' younger son

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Painting by Dr S Janaki

Painting by Dr S Janaki

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The friend, philosopher, guide, guardian, and host

The friend, philosopher, guide, guardian, and host

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Janaki and Swami at Benaras (early 1960s)

Janaki and Swami at Benaras (early 1960s)

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A stricken Janaki

A stricken Janaki

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The passing away

The passing away

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In remembrance

In remembrance

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Included below is a personal homage to late Dr.Janaki and late VK Swamy by a visitor to the Hub page who was closely known to them. Being a four-page hand-written document, it was too long to be with the other comments. Also the written matter of this note, in my opinion, was qualitatively appropriate to be part of the main content of the presentation rather than being a comment. The picture below shows the first of the four pages and is followed by typed copy of the contents of all of them.

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janaki-and-swami

New York, 5th Nov'2017

My dear Sridhar1,

On reading your brief story in verse of the life of late Janaki Athangar2 and Swamy Athimbair3, I felt morally compelled to write a few lines. My memory goes back six decades ago (Dec of 1953). They were my angels guiding my destiny - a couple exemplary in every way. I have very special and pleasant memories of their association. Not a moment passes each day without thinking about them. In life's journey, one meets a few who make an indelible impression that leaves a sweet fragrance throughout your life. Our family greatly benefited much from their generosity of spirit and their magnanimity of heart. When my family consisting of my parents and three siblings landed in Chennai in Dec 1953 from Malaysia, we hardly knew anyone. Perhaps it was divine intervention that brought us into contact with Ramanna Athimbair3 and Nagamma Athai4 who were solely instrumental in my marriage, Both my dad and Ramanna Athimbair3 being in the same teaching profession, immediately struck a chord and became fast friends. My father's first duty was to proceed to Benaras to perform the obsequies for his departed parents. Incidentally, he was able to meet Swamy Athimbair3 and Janaki Athangar2 who came forward to guide him in the selection of priests etc., in an unknown place. I must consider myself greatly blessed and privileged to have had their blessings and guidance especially when my parents were away in far off Malaysia. Each time we visited Benaras, we were greatly overwhelmed by their outpouring of love and hospitality. Their exceptionally altruistic nature made us feel greatly humbled. In those days, for women to emerge successful and come to the forefront was very rare and unusual. Credit goes to Swamy Athimbair3 for his unflagging support. Seeing the great potential in his wife, he gave unflinching encouragement to pursue her dreams. Despite her illustrious career, she remained humble, simple, and unassuming, which reflects her nobility of character.

Variety is the spice of life they say, and I found Athangar2 a repository of many branches of art namely music and painting. Her unflinching enthusiasm and zest for life was amazing. Since playing on the violin was my forte, I found her company exhilarating and refreshing. In one of my visits when I had a longer stay, I had the opportunity of meeting her tutor Dr. Rajam to whom she went for her violin lessons. I remember learning a Kriti6 on raga Begada from Athangar2. After the hectic schedule at the hospital, no matter how late it was, she would sit down to practice pieces on the violin. She had spare violins as her eldest son (Chandra Athimbair3) I heard was also very good playing on this instrument. Another incident I very vividly remember is the boat ride on the river Ganges followed by visits to the temples - Vishwanath and Sankatmochan. Their house just outside the BHU campus was a welcome haven to all our relatives including my brothers Swaminathan and Viswanathan who graduated from BHU. I still remember the day she breathed her last (I think it was the 13th July 1969) at the Military Cantonment Hospital, N. Delhi and accompanying the body along with other relatives to Balu Mama5's house in Greater Kailash for the last rites. Now, in my 84th year, I have learnt by observation and experience that when you allow things to unfold, you come to realize the purpose of life. I am thankful to the almighty for the countless blessings, his immense grace and the well wishes of so many elders in the family. Really very gratifying and fortifying.

Last but not least I wish to pay homage to the wonderful couple, especially to Janaki Athangar2 by quoting Wordsworth's poem 'A Perfect Woman'.

"The reason firm, the temperate will,

Endurance, foresight, strength and skill,

A perfect woman, nobly plann'd,

To warn, to comfort, and command;

And yet a spirit, still, and bright

With something of angelic light."

With love to all at home. Your affly,

Sundari Subramanian

Footnote:

1. The letter is addressed to the author of this article, Ram Ramakrishnan, which is his official name. At home, and among family, the author goes by the name of Sridhar. The writer of the letter is the author's maternal aunt.

2. 'Athangar' refers to father's sister's daughter in Tamil

3. 'Athimbair' refers to a sister's husband in Tamil

4. 'Athai' refers to father's sister in Tamil.

5. Mama refers to mother's brother in most Indian languages.

6. Kriti is the word for a composition.

Comments

manatita44 from london on November 18, 2017:

You write intelligently and your poetry is great.

A truly generous and sensitive narrative with supportive letters. A noble look at your grandparents lives.

Geetha Singh on November 17, 2017:

Excellent story told with poetic brilliance.Great reading!

C R Ramesh on November 14, 2017:

Wonderful! This needs to be shared.

Archana Schoeneman on November 12, 2017:

Bravo, fabulous. Brought tears to my eyes.

C. Swaninathan on November 12, 2017:

Your eloquent pean to the memory of your illustrious grandparents, Dr. Janaki and Shri VK Swamy evoked gentle memories of my transition from raw boyhood in relatively protected Johore Bahru, Malaysia into the rough and tumble of the very different environment but “holy” dust-laden city of Banaras. Nothing had quite prepared me for this personal journey virtually into the unknown, except for the confidence, belief and prayers of my parents, and particularly my Athimbair and Eldest sister, Sundari, that I would make “good”, whatever, that meant!

Now, looking back to that five-year eventful sojourn through the prism of more than fifty years away from the “holy land”, I cannot, but recall with immense gratitude the small but immense acts of kindness, I was always subjected to every time I called on the “threesome”, Dr Janaki, Shri Swamy, or Shri Ramaswamy.

Saddu and I frequently cycled to ‘Ram Nivas’, not merely for a welcome difference to our degustation regime, but more for the enormously peaceful friendly and protective cultural “umbrella” that was in store for us, with Ramana Athimbair often gently chiding me as to my relative ignorance of Tamil, on the one hand, and then hilariously asking Saddu, whether the mangoes had already ripened, all these often without any intention to make fun of us.

Dr Janaki and Shri Swamy, on the other hand were always more in the background, but providing sagely comments, whenever they were necessary. Suffice it to say that each visit to their midst provided me with sufficient emotional “charge” to last for months!

In the middle of 1967, after I had graduated from the IIT campus in Kanpur, Dr Janaki visited my sister’s place in New Delhi. She appeared in good spirits and in good health. As usual, she was her quiet gentle self, ever-smiling, as always. Little did I realize then, that it was the last time I would ever see her alive again. The gentle spirit that had inspired so many even common villagers to trek to 'Ram Nivas' to seek her gentle touch, who even organised ‘melas’, while camping in front of her residence, was suddenly no more. It seemed then as if Mother Ganga had ordained that her healing presence would now be more relevant to the guardians of Heaven...Rather, her cycle of births in our firmament were finally over, and she had more pressing duties in a much higher plane..elsewhere!

Jaishree S on November 12, 2017:

Wonderful! My parents had immense love and regard for them. I remember them from my childhood days. They were true role models!

Rajini Devarajan on November 12, 2017:

Really nice to know about the journey of your grandparents.

R Subramanian on November 12, 2017:

She was a very smart and capable woman. I remember seeing both of them in Benares during 1960-61. Considering that conservative era, it was a remarkable achievement to become a doctor.

Manjari Rajender on November 09, 2017:

What a life it must have been! I have only heard very fond and strong memories of them from my parents. There is entire generation in Benaras who are called Dr.Janaki's children.

sundaram on November 06, 2017:

a touching poetic homage to your grandparents who were truly progressive!

S Shankar on November 06, 2017:

The manner in which you have presented in verses with such wonderful sketches makes it an engrossing story-

You can be very proud of your grandparents- they were unique in their own ways- and now I know what inspired your children to pursue medicine !

It is amazing that you have so much details about your grandparents - we have failed to collect even this much details from our parents even though there were so many anecdotes but not all dots connected - as far as our grandparents are concerned the picture is very vague except for memories of our trip to the village before electricity reached there and " enjoying " the summer holidays without light or fan at night! Lovely piece- look forward to reading more! God Bless

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on November 05, 2017:

A very beautiful tribute to your forefathers who did so great service to the nation and humanity. I congratulate you for being born in such an ideal family.

Suresh Srinivasan on November 05, 2017:

Superb eulogy to a couple who were truly way ahead of their times. Thank you for the very poignant verse. Keep the ink flowing!

Mathew Selvam on November 04, 2017:

Great achievments in those days by Indians.

Great reading.

Lalitha Manjunath on November 04, 2017:

Great reading!

Krishnan Rangaswamy on November 04, 2017:

Simply excellent! Had a lump in my throat towards the end.

Sharath on November 04, 2017:

Excellent story told with poetic brilliance. Good one Ram.

Chandramouli Rajagopalan on November 04, 2017:

Great recapitulation Ram ! of your roots...

Anand Ravi on November 04, 2017:

Absolutely superb - a touching account of personal family history on a vast canvas of social and cultural sweep, riding deftly into the reader's mind - thirsting for more!