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S egged me on to write something instead of being the constant critic. Critics are the lowest form of life apparently. So here goes, a short story...


"Kamala...", began Rukmini Atthai, calling out to Amma while sitting down from her morning walk with her ipod, the latest gift from her son in Florida.

"I notice you have new neighbors, are they North Indians?"

Amma didn't usually like Atthai's visits, too nosy she said. Irritated at Atthai's discovery Amma replied, "Yes, I've heard they are Gujaratis, they can't speak a word of Tamil. They decided to leave because of all the violence you know, not at all like the South."

Atthai nodding glumly, added, "Yes, yes, Madras is becoming cosmopolitan. These days, one must learn to adjust. After all, it's not like we can stop them from coming..."

"Anjali kanna, stop doing that all the time" chided Atthai at her grand daughter who was busy on her cell phone, texting friends back home. Anjali was visiting from Colorado which Atthai's other son called home. India seemed to bore Anjali, she was the archetypal ABCD.

"Anjali, have you seen our family album?", offered Amma, eager to be the hospitable host. "Let me show it you, it'll be interesting" she said, as she pulled the album off the shelf. "This contains all the photos of our family - six generations in one album".

Amma was the family historian, she always knew who had married whom, and the names of all the nieces, and nephews; cousins and cousins of cousins. Atthai was no light-weight in this department either, so stuck between the two stalwarts, Anjali was assured an in-depth immersion into the genealogical by-lanes and back-alleys of our family.

After feigning interest for the first couple of pages, Anjali began to get genuinely curious. "Oh, this is so cool", she exclaimed, "wait till I show this to friends back home".

"Paatti, who is this?", asked Anjali pointing at possibly the oldest photograph in the album. A faded black and white of a stern figure in a black coat, white fronded dhoti, and a turban with a zari border as broad as a man's palm. "That, kanna", said Atthai with obvious pride "is my great grandfather, one of the first Indian lawyers to be admitted to the bar in the Madras Presidency".

"Patti, do you remember the names of all our ancestors?", asked Anjali, caught up now in the pace of things.

"What are you saying? Of course Patti remembers, how can she forget, aren't we the descendants of Neelakantha Deekshatar?", declared Amma. Despite everything she said, Amma loved Atthai, or, at any rate, at least the lineage.

"Neelakanda who?" said Anjali quizzically.

"Neelakantha Deekshatar was the greatest vedic scholar of his time", "it is said that there was no one to surpass him in vedic knowledge in all of Saurashtra", explained Atthai and Amma in turns.

"Word! What is this place, Sow-rah-shtrah?"

Amma and Atthai looked at each other, and then at Anjali.

"That, dear, is where we originally migrated from, 600 years ago, we couldn't stand the violence", said I, emerging from behind the newspaper. "It's called Gujarat these days."

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cheeni

April 2009

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