Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ammani's "I Ask You Write - 15" - My Story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write - 15" here

She was born in 1940. The second of five children born to Vedaranyam Seshadri and Rajalakshmi ammal. She passed away after a brief illness in November 2006. How will Jagada be remembered?

Jagada, the second of five children born to Vedaranyam Seshadri and Rajalakshmi Ammal, will probably be remembered by nobody outside her family. Her life was one of perfect normality to her dying day, and she died loved and respected by all who knew her. However, despite her sterling character and qualities, the thing that Jagada will always be remembered for is an incident in her early childhood.

She was just about 5 years old at the time of Partition. Her parents were forced to flee Karachi, and they left, like millions of others, with nothing but the clothes on their back. At Karachi port, the melee was indescribable – the noise, the confusion, the sheer weight of traumatised humanity that was fighting its way onto the refugee ships which were bound for Calcutta.

No wonder then, that while they were shepherding their four children ranging in age between 7 years and 4 months, Jagada got separated from them by the crowd. Vedaranyam and Rajalakshmi only discovered this when they finally managed to get on board the ship, and words could not describe their despair as the ship finally set off. There was no way to get off and no question of even trying. They thought they had lost their Jagada forever.

When Rajalakshmi was finally able to sit down, wedging herself, the two older children and the baby into a corner, Vedaranyam decided to see if, against all odds, he could find Jagada. Perhaps she was on board, on one of the other decks, a lost and terrified child among strangers, believing that her father and mother would come and get her. It was a faint hope, but one that Rajalakshmi and Vedaranyam were desperate to believe.

As Vedaranyam made his excruciatingly slow way around the ship, fighting for every inch of space in which to move, he heard the sound of laughter. Laughter? On this ship of misery, at a time of such horror? He thought he was hallucinating, but he still made his way towards the sound. Finally he managed to squeeze through – to see his daughter Jagada in the midst of a few children, dancing merrily for an appreciative audience of somewhat bewildered but smiling adults.

Family legend has it that Jagada was none too pleased to see her father, and in fact made an unholy fuss at being taken away so arbitrarily from her new friends.

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