Grandfather Ramabrahma , who famously lived by the clock, and loved to note the time he did anything, also wrote a diary. probably every day of his life. We chanced up two, for the years 1964 and 1966. His children mostly remember him as a self-centred man-in a positive way, if such a thing is possible! And it is!
I mean, he writes of the comings and goings of his sons and daughters, and their spouses, the birth of his grandchildren, and their cradle ceremonies and birthdays , and the little presents he gave. The letters he wrote and received, neighbors and siblings, and festivals , and how my mother, Thulasi celebrated his 81th birthday. He writes that he went to Harsha Stores to pick up the cake that was ordered, and that Thulasi had invited the family over for afternoon tea!
Basavanagudi, Kanakapura Road, Ratna Vilasa Road, Gandhi Bazar and MNK Park, were his little universe, as he lived his twilight years at Mahadev Vilas, and to us, it brings back the Bangalore that once was.
There is gossip, though he’d be surprised to hear his entry about his brother’s cook being ill, due which said brother Dr Subramanyam had to take his meals at our house, being termed gossip. Somehow, the image springs to mind of Ms Marple of St. Mary Mead putting away this important factoid in a corner of her mind, while solving a murder mystery which nobody asked her to solve, any way!
Ramabrhma was not just a man of few smiles, and speaking for/by the clock was his way of announcing his arrival and reason thereof. The unflappable Mrs Venkamma Ramabrahma, with a sense of humor minted in Tirupattur (the ten-village town) of great antiquity in Vellore, Tamilnadu, who managed her brood that ranged many age-groups adroitly enough to leave him thinking that it was all his doing, often took recourse to droll little utterances that ridiculed his devotion to punctuality. But it was many, many years , when they retired to life in Bangalore, before his wife thought to rib him by asking, “who is hungry, you or the clock?” Mr Ramabrahma ‘s response, one imagines, was a Narasimha Rao-like- inscrutable silence.
His 83rd birthday entry speaks of Cousin Bharathi and children ( of Vesteras, Sweden) came to tea. I think that is when my doll Gita Papa arrived , as a gift from Bharathi. I still have her, and she stands on the book shelf, wearing a frock and matching shorts sewn by Amma. Here’s the post about Gita Paapa.
FROM THE DIARY OF M. RAMABRAHMA
DATE: DEC.8, 1964
Grandfather Ramabrahma turned 81 on this day, December 8, in 1964. Fifty-two years ago. He also enjoyed it immensely, and basked in the attention of his children and grandchildren, who attended the tea party in his honor at Mahadev Vilas, his home on the corner of Ratna Vilasa Road and Kanakapura Road.
Tatha’s 81st birthday celebrations, as per his diary began on the night of Dec. 6– My Birthday falls on Dec.8, he says, a Tuesday. Thulasi ( my mother, and his daughter-in-law) will arrange for a tea party at 4 p.m., inviting only the members of my family. We decided what the menu should be.
An earlier entry for the day notes that Lalshmi Mami, a lady who used to come by every day and read to Tatha, mostly from the Upansihads and the like, had been to Kutti’s place and had brought back his Rastinon tablets, for his diabetes.
On Dec.7 the birthday eve, it was a very busy day. As decided yesterday night, writes Ramabrahma, I went to the Gandhi Bazar and placed an order for plum cake at Harsha Store.and khara bundi at the sweet Thulasi has invited all my daughters who are here, and Pandu and family for tea after 4 p.m. tomorrow.
Went to Gandhi Bazar in the evening, and brought the cake and the savory preparations. Received an invitation card from R.Ananthasubramanyam for the marriage of his grandson. Received an invitation from S.S. Kumar fro tea at Woodlands on the 11th.
AND THEN, its Dec. 8. My Birthday, he says with an underline. “I have completed 81 years of my life. My neighbour K.S.Ramaswamy was the first to offer me birthday greetings. Then I met Lakshmi and her children who offered me greetings. Went to the Canara Bank and withdrew RS. 115/- from my pension account. My pension for November had been credited.
Received by post the brithday greeting from Bharathi and Bala at 4.15 pm. (That would be cousin in Sweden, Bharathi ,daughter of our aunt and his second daughter Mangala.)
I had tea with those came at 4 pm. The writing gets illegible here. but I think Mangala and Nanjundaiah arrived, followed by Kutti (his first-born, a doctor) at 5 p.m. Vimala his third daughter and her husband Bobby, and his elder son Pandu had their refreshments at 8 p.m. My sons and daughters gave me useful cloth(?) presents. Vimala and Bobby gave RS. 101/-
Two years later, Ramabrahma is ready for his 83rd birthday. I was there, not quite two-and-half years old. I was there at his 81st too, barely 5 months old, also the only grandchild whose birth he recorded in some detail, in his diary. But that’s a story for another day. )
Dec. 8 , 1966
My 84th birthday. I completed 83 years of age, and my 84th year begins today. The children (that’s us, Big Brothrs Subri and Bunty, and the little toddler me) and Thulasi offered me birthday greetings when I went in for my morning coffee. I gave sweets (Parry’s toffee) to all of them.
TVS Iyer came home at 8.10 and wished me many happy returns of the day.
Issued cheque for Rs. 166/- in favor of Sheshagiri (Appa) . Of this amount, Rs. 100 is for household expenses and Rs. 40 for my personal needs. Kutti came here at 11.30 and gave me birthday presents (1 umbrella and 2 biscuit packets) Nanjundaiah, Mangala, Bharathi and children came at 4 p.m. and offered me greetings and presents.