Old Records And Identity
“What a mess! Old records?” Lulu, my parrot shouted. “What’s going on here?”
“I am clearing old records. I knew there were many old documents in that blue bag on the attic and I decided today that I will keep the necessary old records and discard the unwanted.” I picked up two old files and put them on the table.
“Old records are like wine; they become saturated with nostalgia with every passing day,” Lulu descended on the table as he spoke.
“You said it, Lulu. Now look at this photograph. My eldest brother appeared before the Air Force Selection Board in October 1961! Eventually he joined Air Force, was trained as a fighter pilot, and eventually retired as Group Captain. He was at the front in 1971 war.”
“Looks very young in the photograph”
“He was only seventeen then and he passed away at the age of forty-nine. So, this photograph is very precious for our family. And the newspaper published at Pen, our hometown, ran an obituary on him. Small towns are always proud of their worthy sons and particularly of those in the Armed Forces.”
“And what’s that? It looks like a certificate”
“When my father passed away, my mother reminded the doctors that as a Rotarian he had wished to donate eyes. He was the President of the Rotary Club of Kalyan.”
“Oh…. I appreciate your mother’s courage. In the moment of deep personal shock, it is not easy for anybody to think of donating eyes.”
“My father’s friend was a New Zealander and he wrote a condolence letter. I found it today! I met him as a four- or five-year-old boy when he was staying at Khopoli. He taught me swimming! All those memories came flooding my mind….”
“And what’s that booklet? The pages have turned yellow now, must be very old”
“My mother was a qualified midwife. It is manual of midwifery issued by Bombay Nursing Council. Interesting it is!”
“And here is her passport. And there is a surprise to me. I never knew that my mother was born at Maindargi.”
“We know so little about our parents and their times and life. I can tell you that people know more about father’s family than mother’s, and look, you too did not know her birthplace.”
“That’s true. Apparently, my maternal grandfather had taken up a job at Maindargi in Solapur District. And I know precious little about that branch of the family.”
“There is this nostalgia which comes attached to the old records, and we love it. But it also points to something uncomfortable.”
“That the next generation will not value importance of the records, because it does not get discussed at home. An eye donation, participation in war, midwifery work in villages tells us about what is valued in the family, and it gives identity. In a way it also shapes their responses to various situations in their lives. But we ought to remember our parents and relatives of his generation and their work beyond the call of duty.”
“As Patricia Briggs says, ‘Identity is partly heritage and partly upbringing but mostly choices you make in life.‘ I guess serving the nation by joining Armed Forces and donating eyes by my father – and I would include my mother too for she was the one who called the doctors – all these choices, I would like to believe, were influenced by the fact that my grandfather was a freedom fighter, and who set up a free maternity hospital for village women – they could not afford hospitalization.”
“When you discuss such rich lives of your family members, of your brother, mother, father and grandfather, you are inculcating certain values in them. ‘This is what we stand for’, you seem to suggest. That’s so important.”
“You said it, Lulu.”
“Someday I would like to understand how these people have influenced your life and the choices you made in your life.”
“It will take many a night of thinking, Lulu”
Lulu looked at me and started looking at the old papers in the bag.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” “Aroehan: Creating Dream Villages in Mokhada by 2025: “No Malnutrition Deaths, No Child ‘Out of School’, Reduction in migration by 50%.”
Feature Pic Ben Sweet on Unsplash
While love for parents and siblings is pure, their true influence on and value to us hits starkly and clearly when the time elapses and when you have acquired ability to assess life, including your own. You are fortunate and therefore grateful of your inheritance! Its a life well lived!
Wisdom is dynamic. Your writing shares from what you learn from others’ lives. The effort to learn and reflect is your own. Yes. You own it. Most of us run away from our own selves. That’s why your blogging reminds us of untapped potential within each of us. We are fortunate in being able to access your writing. The art form it has reached is inimitably attractive, generative and joyous.
Sir I never knew your brother was in IAF.may be in the same period my father had also joined IAF 1957 precisely. When I remember him I take out his old service book,his school leaving certificate to know he studied in a famous school named Benson school Belgaum.That school still stands at the same place.i too have preserved my old school.certificates that have got yelowed.Its a nostalgic feeling
Dear Vivek, Good morning and so true. We tend to know very little of our own personal heritage because no one speaks about the same. yet, we are what we are at least partly because of that. These journeys are stories of lives lived, values cherished and passed on and makes you realize that every journey is unique and has a lot to teach us. I think history told as stories remains embedded in our minds but taught as a progression of dates does not endure. I think it is important to listen to these extraordinary stories. Your blog made me think of what I have been wanting to do.I have an uncle who will be 99 and I thought that one day , I will just ask him to share his story and I am sure that I will be not only richer but emerge as a better person from just doing that. Thank you
Thank you sir for sharing your personal and inspiring memories of your parents, brother. I believe you are carrying on further the legacy of social service by helping weaker sections of society thru your work in Rotary , Aarohan and HR field. Very nice share. Regards
Lovely as always…. incidentally this is exactly the response I put up in response to a post on old Bombay talking about the service rendered by a doctor to kolis of mankhurd. And how his family returned the dispensary through which he operated to the officials with no strings attached. As I said even there. Yethe kar majhe julati ?
Dear Vivek, When you blog you awaken in me some thought,feeling or emotion that was waiting to be shaken from a slumber. What you shared is inspiring and en-kindles a deep respect for each of our pasts and the power of human legacy. I’ve seen it unfold in whatever you do.
In my case, it was a roller coaster for me, large house, dad being a salesperson in ICI, had an ambassador car………Till when I reached second year of college, that too one of the prestigious ones. I still recall on the fateful night around 2 pm when my dad passed away. It was a huge shocker, 3 children, me , my brother and my sister. I took the car at midnight to the doctor’s house to bring him to my house.once he felt my fathers’pulse, it was already over. My dad was 53 years old. Peaceful death. My brother has just got into job, I was in second year and my sister was 16 yrs. I must grant it to mom the way she managed the entire household related operations! She is 82 yrs now. From there on I joined Asian paints and rest is history!