My maternal grandma is a refugee from Myanmar, then Burma. She came to India walking with thousands of other refugees in the 1930s. I am told she came here with her sisters leaving her brother and uncles behind. How they walked from Burma to reach Chennai, then Madras to put up a base terrifies as well as surprises me. Such hardships to just be alive 😭
My earliest memories of her are many, but what I remember is asking my mum to tell me her story many times, how was their childhood, what did they do to pass time..much how Moo asks about my childhood every other day. Kids really like imagining their parents as kids I guess 🤷♀️
My Ammama along with her sisters and other cousins worked hard from a young age to make a life for themselves. One of her sisters didn’t marry to take care of the family – she went ahead to become a bank manager, a big thing in the 1960s. The man my Ammama married so wanted a son after three girls that when he heard that the fourth pregnancy resulted in twin daughters he didn’t come home for 10 days. My mum is the elder twin. He passed away soon due to some illness making his widow bring up five daughters single handedly. She was a strong willed lady and never let anything deter her. She was a medical receptionist with the city hospital and so always had government quarters allocated to her. She put her younger daughters in hostel and sent her eldest to her banker sister for helping out in studies to work two jobs and pay for all. One after the other each of her daughters graduated and became earning members of the family.
She doted on her grandchildren like any other granny and always had stories and sweets to share. She was courageous and stood up to her relatives and society when her second daughter came home within six months after marriage stating she wanted a divorce. This was in the mid 80s!! She supported another daughter who wanted to marry a guy she loved following another religion and didn’t bat an eyelid when the said daughter converted her religion. Many deterred her into giving my mums hand in marriage to a man who lived and worked 2000km away from Madras.
There are so many instances where she went against what was the norm in those days – it is not that she didn’t make any mistake, but she accepted them and owned them and there in lies the beauty of her heart.
She had a nose pin or mookuthi from her mother which she had brought with her when she migrated. It is made of white stones with a base of gold. This precious and old heirloom is not meant for any of her children or grandchildren can you imagine! She had pledged it to be gifted it to my brother’s wife when he marries. This she told my mum when she saw her grandson( my brother) soon after his birth. And no he is not her first grandson 🙂
She worked till she reached her retirement and passed away after battling stomach cancer. I was 10 at that time. I have her memories up until that time, the house she last lived, the way she travelled to our home in Gujarat as a surprise without informing us, her way of plaiting my hair, her beautiful face and smile – she used to tease her granddaughters ( we are 4 ) saying ‘I wonder which of you girls will get the Burmese smile from me’
My girls are quite young to understand the richness of their ancestors, but I hope to recall their great granny’s story one Sunday afternoon. That we might still have long lost descendants in another country is fascinating in itself.
Prachee, your post was the trigger to write this ❤️