Wednesday, November 02, 2016

When history was the present

My maternal grandmother was 19 when India gained independence from the British in 1947. How I long now to ask her about life then. Of course, being 19 then was vastly more 'adult' than it is now. She'd been married a year and was pregnant with her first child, my mother. Her husband was 11 years older than she was. She was not expected to pursue a career, although she had a razor-sharp brain and came from a long line of distinguished lawyers. 

Sadly, that never-told first-hand account of life in British India is lost to me forever. Why did I never have those talks with her? During the last years of her life I saw her quite frequently. Those were the good days of cheap flights in India (I once got a ticket for a rupee) and it was a short hop away. We developed a friendly, almost mischievous relationship in which I would tease her mercilessly about her various suitors and the effect of her cleavage in obtaining super-fast and efficient home-delivery for her groceries. 

Now I'm finding that I am simply blazing with curiosity to hear about what India was like in the 1940s. It's one thing to watch a glitzy t.v. show or read a well-crafted book, and quite another to hear it from someone who lived it.

Maybe this sense of lost history is another insidious way of realizing that I am now older. History means something entirely different to me now. 


Anonymous said...

When did your grandmother pass? It made me sad to hear the missed opportunity of hearing about her youth...but the relationship you DID have seemed beautiful (and I can completely picture the mischievous part.

Her suitors? Had your grandfather passed quite a while before?

Anonymous said...

Never thought of it that way. My grandparents lived in French Africa for a while. Too late now.

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