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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Hoe and Coe Dairies of my uncle

my Grand grand uncle  is in middle standing .

 Valliyil Govindan Nair bent down to pen one more of  his day in the Hoe and co diary ,
his fingers were  knarled and painful and  it was not an easy task for him anymore as age had caught up with him but VG Nair as he was called was known  to be  a stickler to his  habits and he had written in his diary every single day of his adult  life for more than 5 decades .
I have one of those priced diaries with me the year my mother got married and every single detail of my father coming to the house for the first time along with all details of the marriage preparation on and before the event was recorded meticulously down to the last paise spent .
VG Nair was my grand uncle or  grand grand uncle as he was uncle to my grandmother !

A qualified Textile engineer he has to his credit the discovery of new colours and dyes ,he had moved to London in his youth and got qualified and came back to work in Morarajee Mills Bombay for many years .

I had recently mailed to this firm getting a link online and surprisingly received a reply from the present CEO who  informed me that  he would en quire about my uncle from a couple of old time employees of the company and get back but I heard no more from him .

Uncle was a bachelor and a workaholic
he was also known to be a  Brown sahib,an admirer of British customs and rule !
 he had immaculate British habits like punctual timings food of  porridge and eggs with toast for breakfast though I think he had a proper Kerala lunch though meager in quantity  ,he even had a butler for himself ,
this homegrown butler Sankaran Nair was more of a family retainer who was clad in an un butlerine dhoti ,
shankaran nair was way up in the pecking order of the retinue of servants Thekkepat Kovilakkam
( my ancestral fmily house ) had ,he was meant to serve only the Karnavar or head of the family which of course was my grand grand uncle .
Nambiar was the chief cook and was known to have nimble fingers which would create magic in the kitchen for the large household of more than 60 to 70 ,it was a joint family as most matrilineal Nair families were  those days .
My mother used to recount tales of the great fun they all had.
 life revolved around going to school  walking  more than 4 to 5 km carrying umbrellas by the side of speeding trains in poring rains or in burning sun  , frolicking in the green private ponds of the house ,eating raw mangoes till the teeth felt sickeningly funny, and evening prayers followed by a tiptoed walk to the nearby temple  with a servant swishing the chootu or coconut frond torch to ward of troublesome snakes and total darkeness
Fathers were all occasional visitors and the house was headed by the grand uncle with his nieces according to thier seniority acting like cabinet ministers
uncles schedules were his own but he had his strict timetable and was aware of every single detail that went on in his vast far flung lands
His days were busy all year round
By the time  he took his bath in the mornings Sankaran nair  would have laid down starched and neatly ironed dhoti and shirt he would then tuck into his breakfast like a king alone in the western dining room .
by then there would be so many people waiting to see him and his secretary cum manager called karyasthan Krishnankutty nair would beckon them as scheduled
he would hold his durbar listening to thier grievances adress issues in his lands dole out the money  needed for works to be done in paddy fields looking after the harvesting details coconut felling etc
all these were full time affairs and he would meticulously write down all accounts in his neat hand
during coconut felling times he would have to personally go this far off lands each a day as this would take some time he would be welcomed by the kudi or tenant who is allowed to stay there ,made comfortable with a couple of tender coconuts as the coconut climbers would scale up the trees like monkeys .
later this job was given to junior relatives and much later I myself  had gone as a child with my grandfather to one such expedition and thoroughly enjoyed the wickedly pleasant   feudal attention..... sic

VG Uncle had fought with his employers over a principled issue and had   worked for more than four years without any  pay as he had filed a court case against the company and declared he would take salary only after he won the case .
it was a hard time for him to meet both ends and his favorite sister who was my grandmothers mother sold her jewels to help her brother and when he won the case with the accumulated salary and compensation for four years which was big money he resigned and came back to Kerala and built a  huge British castle like mansion Thekkepat Kovilakkam
the red tiled  hall could hold more than fifty people ,most of rooms had attached toilets in those days !
he settled down in Parappanangadi taking care of  his widowed sister and her children and became the karnavar of the house .

All that is left of the house today....sad

He was the custodian of all his sisters children and thier children too
The eldest of his nieces  had the most power after his sister left the world
The whole house had great respect for the grand uncle
He would import books from Britain and had a huge library many of my summer holidays were spent reading those hard bound pleasures which sadly disappeared later .

temple Gate

All I have now are some faded photos of uncle and the one Hoe and Coe Diary of the great man the very diary he wrote on my mothers marriage
.i really wish I had met him .

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