Scottish Aunt

My aunt, my third uncle’s wife-

In these columns, I think, I had written about my aunt —

Her father was into coal mining in Scotland.

My third uncle’s wife was an English woman by birth. To be exact, she was Scottish, whom my uncle met when he studied in the University of Edinburgh and got married.

I had previously jotted down in one of the earlier posts, how my uncle had to use guile to get hitched to this particular lady, because his father was the most orthodox of people, and abhorred all people who ate meat. Perhaps it is difficult for a modern reader to guess the travails and tribulations my uncle had to get over before, he triumphed in his holy trek towards love. When I met the couple at a later phase of life, I came to understand that this kind a love is worth a hundred or more such previous hazards.

And my aunt shocked everybody in the household because of her adaptability to the local customs, except her faith in her spiritual matters.

Till the old sire kicked the bucket, they both stayed in a separate section of the big household, and seldom showed up at the dining table, though in other areas, their presence was most welcome.

My uncle, you can say was far ahead of his time in many matters, though he wore the most conventional of dresses. This I think was his strategic move to walk and work unhindered in a society that did not approve of any of his views.

He was gentle and calm, and generally of good manners, except for his addiction to bottles at a particular phase, from which he,

in due course got out miraculously.

But none of his rivals was equal to him in wisdom or even looks, and many were very cautious to use the exact words while speaking to him, for they all feared him in a way from the core of their hearts.

Though my auntie lost the good texture of her skin due to long exposure to the hot sun, I must admit that there was a sparkle in her eyes, and a grace in her words, which made her stand out from the crowd.

I think I have also broached that she went with a lady of our neighbourhood to proselytise in rural areas, studying the local language. She was called ‘Madamma sister'[foreigner sister]

My uncle, it must be told that he influenced my attitude to a good extent, that in so many later years, I kept his attitudes to certain things of life, knowing only farther still in time, that it was not actually my view, but his view[and for which I got applause from some quarter],..

One such obiter dictum is about the bird dove, though associated with peace, he said, is quite a jealous bird, and I told it to some people, and this was not exactly my view on the matter, but my uncle’s view, and even now I am not sure about this idea. Some of you readers may know the real truth.

And another view was people who use black cooling glasses should not be trusted, because they want to hide the expressions in their own eyes, at the same time know the expression of others, till at a later stage, I was to live in a hot city and had to use dark cooling glasses regularly in order to protect the eyes from the hot sun and hot wind. I knew the lack of depth in such a judgement.

He was a versatile genius, a good speaker, an adept in musical instruments, composing songs in various ‘ragas’ and had a lot of disciples who came after his afternoon slumber whenever he was at home, to study music. But I did not learn any music from him, though he forced me to read classical works from his vast library, that contained good books in many languages, English, Spanish, French and Slavic languages and made me write a summary of a classical work, I read during that week and regularly check the content. Since my parents were away for work in another distant place, taking my elder sister with them, I was with this uncle’s family for three years. His coaching, though did not make me a scholar, indirectly helped me to get a scholarship for my further studies, and he was the first mentor, who taught me with example the possibilities of a human mind…

My aunt took beet juice and pomegranate juice often and converted a portion of arable land till unused into a farm with a good lot of vegetables and various types of mangoes. The local names of these mangoes were Alphonsa, Kalappadi, Neelam etc. and the mango which we called ‘kalappadi’ was the tastiest ones I ever had in life.Also she culticated

palm trees that gave coconuts in a shorter number of years. We had a poultry too consisting of native[very healthy ones] and foreign Whitelegon, Rhode island red, etc..

My aunt being an English woman was not familiar with the customs of the country. One of the  relatives, a senior lady was appointed for this purpose, to bring her up in the household manners and customs and she ,later became an adept in this matter.There were a couple of old widows in the household who were our relatives, whose children were either not caring them or they were in far off places, and these ladies had extremely orthodox styles  of living and always moved in known circles, doing known things, and talking about known things. In fact they seldom talked except when it is very necessary, but in special functions, they had good roles to execute, because they were adept in some classical topics. My aunt got one among them as her tutor and in a short while became well versed in those themes.She for some months tried to teach me Gaelic and told later that I was her dullest student.

My mother was in government service, first in British and later in the independent nation, and was facing frequent postings in Nasik, Deolali or Madras. When she came for a long vacation, she was a good help to my aunt and she being educated  was less biased.And after retirement, and later after my uncle’s death, these two were to form thick bonds of friendship.

My aunt had prayer sessions in the morning, and it was an open forum, and we youngsters sometimes attended it out of curiosity(she had composed a whole book of hymns from which she sang in her free times. One hymn starts like this and I remember that part well because she repeated it often-My Savior is my friend/What a unique blend/He took my sins and sorrows for a Life without end…… and so on..) One of my cousins who is an agriculturist in the country has written me that her old library is still there in the dilapidated section of our ancient house that had many quarters and yards. Perhaps I may find her manuscripts there and I have planned to go to that area in my next vacation. This aunt, after my uncle’s death went back to Scotland where her younger brother, a miner by profession lived. The last part of her life is shrouded in partial obscurity and most members of our family attest to the fact that she died there and her body was inhumed in a less known Church cemetery in provincial Scotland.

-(From a work of Fiction in progress).



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