Happy Birthday Paati*


If my grandmother had been alive she would have celebrated her 87th birthday today. Unfortunately my grandmother passed away almost twenty years ago and I always regret that I never had the opportunity to get to know her better. I never got to appreciate what a wonderful and capable person she was when she was alive as it was only later when I grew up hearing my mother tell stories about her that I realised how proud I was to be her granddaughter.

My grandmother epitomised what we would now call the ‘Can Do’ spirit. She wouldn’t let anything stop her from what she wanted to do in life. She was born in a village near Salem (Tamil Nadu and not Massachusetts) and was educated at school only until the age of about 11, but she never let that bring her down. She could hold her own against her intellectual husband (almost 17 years her senior and heading the department on philosophy ) and could be completely at ease in any kind of social gathering.

She was a ‘People Person’ and the perfect hostess. Being the wife of a popular member of staff at University (and residing in campus) she had to play host to everyone from relatives, to students to other visiting intellectuals. And everyone who met her was touched by the experience. Be it the delicious food she cooked (my mother- an excellent cook herself still compares everything she makes to her mother’s standard) or the sheer overwhelming generosity of her nature – which led her to help everyone from feral cats to friendly neighbours- my grandmother left a mark.

My grandmother and grandfather at their wedding in 1949

She was a tough person. Right from her youth when she could carry heavy loads (having to carry large buckets of water) to her infinite energy to cook massive amounts of food (enough to feed an army regiment it was rumoured) she had boundless energy. She also had a very high tolerance to pain and even her arthritis at later stages of life did not prevent her from travelling to the city to catch a movie.

My grandmother was also a perfect woman. She took very good care of her appearance and loved shopping and going out to the movies. At a time when men did all the shopping for the home my grandmother would make sure that she made all the household purchases (and it was also her ‘me time’). She loved the James Bond movies and was extremely fond of other action flicks of those years. Even as a very young child I remember the care that she used to take every evening to make herself presentable before proceeding to spend the evening outdoors in the garden. She loved to travel though her travel was often limited to places within India where relatives were present. She was also the perfect mother- doting over her daughter

My mother, my grandfather and my grandmother

I often try to imagine how my grandmother would be had she been born in this day and age. I think she would have been a corporate leader (maybe a la Indira Nooyi) for she possessed all the skills one needs to succeed- hard work, intelligence, willingness to learn, a die-hard spirit, courage and above all honesty. Or she would probably given herself over to activism and charity work- helping and providing a voice for those in need, for she was always willing to help others over herself. Or better still she may have made herself a career in travelling and adventure. Alternatively I think it would have been completely possible that she would have become a world-class violinist.

My grandmother had an extraordinary talent for playing the violin. After having learnt to play the instrument in her childhood, she continued and built on it and was so good at it that hearing any tune or music once was sufficient for her to play it back on her violin. She gave a number of concerts at the college and at private gatherings but never thought much of her own talent. She valued education more than music. I still have her violin with me. I myself tried to learn the violin for a while but let’s just say it didn’t quite work out!

I sometimes wish I could be half the person she was for that would already put me far ahead in my path to success than where I am right now. But at the least I am fortunate and very proud of the fact that I am the granddaughter to this extremely capable and generous lady.

Happy Birthday Again Mythili Krishnamachari!!!


13 Comments Add yours

  1. Brad says:

    Wht a wonderful blog. And such a nice way to remember somebody on their birthday! Its wonderful that you still have that violin in your possesion too!

  2. aaroo4 says:

    oh wow, what a lovely sweet touching post.. and the vintage photographs!! simply awesome 🙂

    And neat that you still have that violin…

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks Aarthy! I have some even older photographs of my ancestors dating back to late 19th century 🙂

  3. lav says:

    She is an awesome role model and yes, we are lucky!! Lovely write up…brings her to life!!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you!

  4. Sunanda says:

    Nice piece! I have always admired Paatis. They seem to have been so much more strong-willed and ‘accomplised’ than us. I have often told myself what you have said here ‘Even if I am half the woman she was…’. So nice to meet your paati here 🙂 In the second pic, Lav’s resemblance to aunty just jumps out 🙂

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks Nannu, yes they do seem a lot more inspiring than us!

  5. Nirmala says:

    I cannot say anything but “too overwhelmed for words”. But Thank you for this write up.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      No ma, thank you!

  6. Mathangi Jeypal says:

    She’s jus your mom. Or rather your mom is just her 😉
    And you gotta way with words! 🙂

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      yes there is a strong resemblance. Thanks for your comments!

  7. Luis Menoscal says:

    eh visto la la historia… me encanta y es muy inspiradora

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:


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