My Grandfather's 100th birth anniversary

I never knew my maternal grandfather G.S. Srinivasan; he passed away before I was born. But I grew up hearing many stories about him, about a self-effacing man who would have been interviewed by many newspapers and TV channels if he were alive today.

I have been told about how he knew fourteen languages, no less. About how he was pursuing a PhD in Sanskrit before he died. About how he learnt Persian and Russian in his fifties and sixties. About how he loved animals so much that the house for our joint family over the years (in Pondicherry and Mehboobnagar) was as much a place for the family as it was for dogs, squirrels, and cats. About how he built a library so huge and so full of scholarly and rare books that my brother would be found buried in those books (and unsurprisingly still is). (We had to donate the books to a college some years back because it simply became impossible to manage that library.)

I grew up with many such little stories, pieces of a puzzle that I try to put together in my head for a full picture of my grandfather. It's a pity that some of us grow up without knowing our grandparents. Grandparents love and indulge grandchildren way more than parents do, as parents are often inclined to discipline their children and worry about them than fuss over them and just let them be.

Prof DevyThis year was my grandfather's 100th birth anniversary. As a tribute to him, we held a memorial lecture by the brilliant and erudite scholar, G.N. Devy, who is busy documenting all of India's disappearing languages even as we forget our own mother tongues. It seemed like the best way to remember my grandfather, whose own love for languages knew no bounds.

Dr. Devy delivered a fantastic lecture on the structure of language and his own work. He narrated to the audience and to us personally later several lovely anecdotes. He told us, for instance, how he began his work by bringing out a magazine on tribal languages called Dhol. The magazine flew off the stands and was bought by the tribals, of all of whom were illiterate but had such pride in their language that they wanted copies. He told us heartwarming stories, depressing stories, hilarious stories, and stories of hope.

This is to thank everyone who attended that lecture and made that December 26th morning so beautiful. A big thank you to Padma Subrahmanyam who knew thaatha well and said wonderful things about him that I didn't know. To Shreya Ramnath who sang the way she always does, bringing me to tears.

We couldn't personally thank everyone, so do treat this as a personal message. Thank you for attending, for making us feel proud of his achievements, and for giving me an opportunity to discover more about my grandfather.

I intended to write a small note, but I seem to have written an essay here. I am also attaching a photo of my beautiful grandmother, Padma, standing beside my grandfather. He could not have accomplished so much without paati's support. She took care of so many children, cooked for a large family, and kept track of so many schedules. That thaatha could do so much was because of my gentle paati, so here's lots of love and gratitude to her too.

This write-up by Radhika Santhanam has been taken from her Facebook page

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