The inheritance of traits

  • Sucharita Lahiri, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Dec 02, 2014 13:09 IST

Asha's grandmother, Indulekha, was sitting on a jackfruit tree in her mother's orchard when she was called. Her husband had come to fetch her for her in-law's home. Her grandmother was then eight years old and the groom (her grandfather) was 28. Right after the marriage, it had become quite clear to one and all that Indulekha was a dud at household chores. She became the butt of jokes for her sisters-in-law. But Indulekha nursed a secret passion that was rare for a woman at that time, she wrote poetry.

Indulekha's husband respected her literary bent and understood how harassed she was. He secretly bought her books of poems that she read when the whole household lay asleep. He fell into trouble with the matriarch, his mother, for arranging a song and poetry session for his wife in a dhow on the Brahmaputra one moonlit night. Asha's grandfather fell sick and Indulekha, who was thought to be a misfit of sorts, took up the reins of running the family. She started a publishing house and lent financial stability to the household. It took her 30 years to earn money and respect.

Indulekha tried her best to push her daughter and Asha's mother, Bindulekha into the field of education but that was simply not her forte. She had not inherited the literary streak. Instead, Bindulekha wanted to become a dancer. The family was aghast. Girls from respectable families did not become dancers. Fearing the worst, the elders of the family married her off. Bindulekha nursed her dreams in the closed confines of her husband's home. She wanted to fulfil her dream through Asha, her eldest child. She was disappointed.

Asha hated dancing but wanted to educate herself to gain financial independence like her grandmother. She got a rude shock as the family elders refused to pay the fee for her higher education. They felt that education had changed Asha's behaviour. From the soft and demure person, she had turned authoritative, argumentative and tough. This kind of personality would surely be a misfit in the husband's house!

Asha's arguments fell on deaf ears. Undeterred, she sought admission in the university through a scholarship. It did not take long for her parents to find a suitable boy. But marriage did not deter her. Asha doggedly went on to obtain degrees that would help her to enter the noblest profession of teaching. Asha's perseverance paid off. She achieved what she had always coveted, a government job in education. But as luck would have it, that was not to be. The family intervened again. She could not pursue a career. Asha still treasures her appointment letter.

But dreams do not die. Times have changed. Asha's dreams have been fulfilled through her daughter, Abhilasha. Abhilasha has received the young scientist award from the government of India. The scientist, also an accomplished dancer, recently published her book of poems. The book is dedicated to her great-grandmother, Indulekha.

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