Old Records And Identity

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.”

Obituary in Kulaba Samachar

“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….”

Letter of Mr Clarke

“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!”

“Oh really?”

“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.”

“What’s that?”

Lulu, my parrot

“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