When I visualise John Prem Rabindranath’s family tree, I notice that beyond two generations the information about the women on both sides is either lost or remains obscure. According to Mr Christopher, John’s father, the information is unavailable because no one spoke about the woman’s side of the family or simply that the men were portrayed with high regard.
Mrs Christopher, John’s mother, says that she did not get to meet or spend time with any of her maternal relatives as her mother, Mrs Ruth Kamala Edward, was not encouraged to meet or communicate with her family, and Dr Thomas Edward felt that his wife’s family would poison her ears since his brothers were under his care during the early years of his marriage.
Unfortunately, a great deal of history is lost from John’s mother’s maternal side. I also believe that information or pictures relating to John’s maternal family are not available as his maternal ancestral house was robbed in the early 1980’s and the eldest member of the maternal side is no more to talk of the family’s lifestyle when he was young. As for John’s paternal side, the history and stories have been saved only from the man’s side and women did not receive importance. However, stories about Mrs Emily Colton, Mr Christopher’s mother, are still popular in John’s family circle as she was brave and did so much for the family.
Unfortunately Emily Colton had a short life of only 32 years. Details about her mother are still unknown except for her mother’s father who held an important position during the Raja Sarabhoji’s era. With this it is quite clear that in both the families the men were given undue importance while the contribution of the women was taken for granted: indeed, a man’s world.
There has been a gradual departure from this one-sided history in recent years. Both in John’s family and his community the women have been getting equal importance, thanks to changing social norms. Recalling the women’s contribution to the family and society is no longer a stigma.
While Dr Thomas Edward’s brothers got educated, and became rich and famous under his guidance, his wife’s legacy or history was being slowly erased.
John feels that his mother was influenced by her father in taking his siblings under his wings, as she took her brother’s children under her and nurtured them while John was craving and fighting for her undivided attention and love. Though he was not denied love, he felt that it was ‘second hand’. He is convinced that his maternal grandfather’s selfish act has deprived him of the knowledge of one side of his relatives and also made his childhood different from that of others.
He feels the paternal side of his family had always worked with focus on the future and did not dwell upon the past. The result: a lot of family history and culture is lost.
John feels that, if he was exposed more to his parent’s maternal side it would have been a blessing like in case of most of his friends who have an equal bond with and memory of both sides of their families. Also he would have appreciated if the roots from both sides had been explored and saved by the families for the following generations to be aware of their true heritage and values. – JOHN P RABINDRANATH