Tag Archives: Brahmanpalli

My Trip


I am in Hyderabad, where it’s plenty hot but it is still a vibrant and lively city. I’d never stayed in the Banjara Hills area which has quiet lanes, pretty houses and is smart. My sister will be living and working in Hyderabad for three years.


We went to buy some rose plants to take to Brahmanpalli tomorrow. In the blazing sun these plants were all lined up in the nursery we went to….it’s not peak flowering time, roses do best in winter, but we managed to find some with multiple buds and which looked like healthy specimens.


It is strange to be here after these many years, but we feel an affinity with this state and this city because we had visited it so frequently when my father was alive. We also spent some of our young days here and used to know it pretty well. In fact, it is where Jeanne was born.

All of us are pretty fond of gardening and the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy had told us they would plant a garden for Denis. I am so keen to see the place and all it’s changes. Today I have some pictures of Jeanne’s plants on her terrace.





Meanwhile, Suvarna is staying overnight at our house in Pune to help out with Mummy. The reason is that Uday can’t help to lift Mummy as his wrist is still not strong enough after that fracture he had in November. She helps with lifting her up and out of bed and to put her back, things I do when I’m there. Uday is fixing her meals. He called to say that everything was fine and Mummy in particular, was fine too.


It is a warm afternoon. We had a nice South Indian lunch of dosas and idlis with coconut chutney and some delicious fruit drinks and have come home to cool off. Everyone, my niece is also here, is feeling dozey and falling asleep. We are up early tomorrow as Brahmanpalli is about seventy kilometers from here and Mass is at Eight in the morning in the chapel of our old home.

So tomorrow I plan to take a number of photos and one of these days put up a photo replay of that sweet little village and it’s life as it is now.

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The Long Way Home


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The frantic activity of the night before our departure from Brahmanpalli meant we would be finished with our work and awake by four in the morning. We wanted to be on the road by 5:30.


How heart breaking it was to leave this place and to be taking Mummy away from this wonderful home.  Never again would this car of ours stand next to Denis’ car in the porch.

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One of the Sisters came to take possession of the keys to the house and quietly wandered about but not disturbing us. We had left the computer, the cooking range which Denis had bought barely a month ago, the fridge, steel cupboards and lots more. The things we brought here were some that we had always seen in our childhood homes. Some random items were Mummy’s old cake mixing bowl, a sauceboat, a wine decanter, an old biscuit jar, very precious things. And we had tried to leave the house as clean as we could.


few things remaining from our childhood home....

Then it was no looking back. We now had to concentrate on making the long road journey with my mother safely seat belted in the front with Vani and me at the back. Debbie and her husband were following in another car. We had barely gone five kilometres when Mummy started asking to be put back in her bed. It is the place she feels the safest. The last few times she had sat in a car was always on the way to the hospital with my father driving, but this was going to be a long drawn out affair.

Vani had agreed to come with us to Pune to be a familiar carer while we looked at the other things that needed doing. After a few weeks she would leave for her village or maybe go live with her brother who was an autorickshaw driver in Hyderabad city. She and I sitting in the back seat kept fiddling about and getting confused about what to do with what of the needed equipment at hand.

Mummy started to get very agitated. Both Uday and I were thoroughly nervous throughout the drive. The sun began to climb up in the sky. The heat would have made the drive terrible but our loved Honda car did not let us down.

It was very stressful for us too, of course maybe not as bad as what she was feeling, to hear Mummy begging and pleading to be taken out of the car. We tried to distract her with sips of cool water and something to eat but she never let up. Vani kept massaging her shoulders and soothing her forehead which, when she is disturbed bobs up and down continuously. She would put out a hand and take Uday’s arm, which was resting on the steering wheel – making us frightened that she would summon some strength from somewhere and wrench his hands off it.

It was a dreadfully long trip with two railway gates closed and one wicked traffic jam because of a mishap on the highway that brought us to a standstill for nearly an hour. By the eleventh hour of this seemingly interminable drive she could only whimper, please, please. This was the journey we had been dreading and now it was getting over. We had gone up and down this route for years, making our ‘pit stops’ and eating stops and photo stops but not this time. I think we voluntarily stopped only once for Uday to stretch his legs.

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We knew every town, major and not so major, the trees, the landmark buildings and some sweet rural town names. Suddenly a temple would come in sight, brightly painted, or an old abandoned fort, or a truck ahead carrying an enormous blade for a windmill. A lot of the area was drought prone and unwelcoming to look at in the summer haze.

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But finally Pune was in sight. Debbie’s house had been prepared well for Mummy. Her house, being a bungalow with a compound, had enough space for Vani and for Venkat, G Swami’s son, who had come along too. When we arrived at Deborah’s place there was no walker to help lift Mummy out. It was in the other car and they were nowhere in sight! But her kind neighbour and the gardener and all of us somehow lifted her up (she was quite heavy in those days) and managed to seat her in her wheelchair. She was taken up the ramp specially built for this and then at last she was helped into her bed. A carpenter had made a sturdy teak bed with neat side railings that bolted shut for safety and easily opened. The bed was freshly made and ready but even while lying down Mummy couldn’t get over her stressed state and kept calling out to us to be with her. It was awful to see her so distraught and panicked to be in this unfamiliar place. She had last travelled anywhere out of  their place in 2006 and must have forgotten our homes. By slow degrees and some soothing stroking and calming words she did settle her down.

As night came on she seemed to relax. After her dinner it wasn’t long before she fell into a deep and exhausted sleep. That was the beginning of my mother’s life in Pune.




Marking Time


swami brothers saluting

After Denis passed away we stayed three weeks in Brahmanpalli, our last stay in this familiar dwelling place. The beloved house which my father had once said he would leave feet first, was settled as he had wished and put into the hands of its gracious successors. It was officially and once and for all transferred to the Order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. There was bank work to be done, Mummy’s medical papers to be filed and kept, and other sentimental things to be sifted through, the whole household to be wound down, the car to be sold. No more would our car stand side by side with Denis’ car as it always did on our visits there.


Throughout all this hectic activity Mummy was mostly tranquil though she would shout out for someone to be with her most often when she awoke from a slumber. It was sad that she could not participate in much of anything except our evening conversations in the living room but also we were keeping from her the knowledge of the more painful tasks like giving away my fathers clothes and other personal effects. There was hardly ever a lull in the activities of winding up the place but she had to be seen to as well, lying there alone in her double occupancy bedroom. Sometimes we would sit there sorting through papers and pictures, sitting on my father’s bed, and she would be so glad to have all this company. As much as Denis had been a collector of stuff she was indifferent to possessions, only very occasionally stating ownership of anything.

The Swamis would now return to work in the Air Force after twenty three years of staying near their own village. What would happen to Vani? Growing up in her village next door and speaking only her native language and some English she did not want to come and live in Maharashtra (the state where two of us live), where she would be away from her family and friends. She had not been able to pass her exams but was well trained in how to care for an elderly patient – if that was what she wanted to do. She told us that most probably her parents would use the money willed to her to arrange a marriage for her.


We decided to have a proper grave constructed and that surprising little town of Toopran turned up a marble seller and contractor who set up shop in a corner of the garden. They built a brick structure to begin with and there was endless discussion of measurements of sides, height, width and how many slabs it would take. We saw it emerge in shape day by day, little by little. Then they dropped the largest slab that would be the top cover and it broke in half. More confusion. Next they measured and cut the slab for the lettering much too narrow. Everyone’s nerves were getting frayed. The engravers were a different group which came from the city, and on the final day of construction they arrived complaining about how they had had a hard time trying to fit the wording to the width. Around four in the afternoon the finishing work started.


The lettering had been printed to the size of the slab and made to adhere to its surface. We couldn’t help remarking how much Denis would have enjoyed watching the young artisan at work chiselling by hand expertly and fast along the outline of the lettering.


The paper was removed and the rough insides were inked. Before the sun could set, because there was no other good light to work by, they placed this expertly on top of the grave. This was just in time for the evening prayer which was said by sometimes us, sometimes someone from Vani’s family or else the Swamis.



Frangipani, bougainvillea, hibiscus, whatever bloomed in that awfully hot weather was collected and placed with clay lamps around and then we all trooped inside to spend the night with the notorious mosquitoes.


Every room in the house was occupied. Someone would always be working on the computer, someone making phone calls and setting up meetings with this and that official of land records and other business, someone making lists of things to do, someone remembering something else very vital. We were tearing up heaps of papers, old letters, many of them ours to our parents, copies of photos – there were thousands of photos to sort. We nevertheless had to bring a huge amount here.

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These are valuable to us – many were pictures that we did not even know about. One of them, the only one, is of our living room in Air Force quarters in Delhi in the early Sixties,

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and this one of us four sisters at an airbase in 1965, unlike in the tight security restrictions of the present, being able to show our friends a fighter plane. Many other photos are from our childhood and teenage years – old, old, family photos from which I was able to construct some kind of timeline and generational order for the grandchildren and great grandchildren if, and whenever they get interested in knowing their family stories. My father’s dark room had to be dismantled and the photographic equipment given to owners of a film studio he had known well.



Left behind was the beautiful model boat my father had made in the early seventies, many paintings, furniture, books, though we chose and brought most of the best ones here.

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The preparations and finalizations over we were ready to move Mummy to our place in Pune. But that’s another story.


Christmas in the boondocks



Going to Brahmanpalli for Christmas was always planned among us and most exciting, more so for the children who loved being with their cousins in their grandparents’ home. 1990 was maybe the first Christmas we all spent there together. Even the Swamis would get caught up in all the excitement of the festivities. We would haul all kinds of things there, from our own homes or that we bought, to fancy up the place but mostly made do, especially that first year, with dry twigs for a tree, festooning it with anything lying around.


with menaz and kids in B

Then years later we found a moth-eaten old tree from goodness knows when. We tied up the bits that were falling apart. It held itself up rather well but would not take the weight of anything right on top, so it was made to look rather pretty with a star hovering above, from a nail on the wall…a brilliant idea one of the children had.


Of course Santa came, making tractor wheel marks around the large bonfire lit at night, (to add something breathtaking for the children)….much ho ho hoing going on to the screams and yells of childish appreciation.

The church in Toopran was small inside so midnight mass was also held outdoors with a surprising amount of people making up the congregation. We would shiver out there, nights could be pretty cold, but it was always an event to go to church for.

Of course every few years my parents would make it to Pune to spend the time with us, often meeting a few old friends who had settled down in this city. On their very last Christmas visit  some of the grand children were present, and all three of us sisters.



We had no grand children as yet. I remember my parents gifts. These came from a very limited budget for festivities, pension funds not allowing much scope for grand gestures of affection. We were gifted still lives painted by my father who had made their subjects from various groupings composed of kitchen utensils and dishes to books from the bookshelves, his spectacles, and some blossoms from the garden.

Mummy got three hefty murder mystery books, her favourite genre of the moment. We were not really a very gallivanting family but we did all go to Manney’s, Pune’s most famous (sadly now closed) bookstore to pick up even more for her to take back to Brahmanpalli. We all liked sitting around talking and listening to whoever was dominating the conversation with thoughtful or funny stories, mostly my father or one of the kids.

That year, 2006, my mother, leafing through a cookbook gifted to my father announced that she was going to start cooking again. I remember those words of hers so well because she had so completely lost interest in cooking, though had taught my father rather well. I thought that if she felt like she wanted to do something that she was so excellent at and that she did with such ease and economy of effort, it was a sign of how settled, happy, and healthy she was.

Then of course, not even two weeks later, her life changed. Christmas changed. If Denis was alone with her in the village he would not leave her for midnight mass. He started attending church more regularly than once a year, even though he had been the person who in our younger days had said he did not like organized religion. My parents did not have pictures of the Sacred Heart or an altar in the home like other Catholic families. But as Mummy’s health deteriorated, her memory started stumbling, times were harder than before, and he felt increasingly lonesome, he found some calm and strength from Sunday mass.

The Christmas of 2010 was the final one for them together in Brahmanpalli. That year none of us could go. On the 25th evening I phoned to ask about how things were. He told me on the phone that he had gone into town some days earlier, and bought a homemade cake and some wine and the very nice lady had added as her own gift, some sweets made by her. It was really good fare, he said, and just as well because on Christmas Eve, the parish priest and some parishioners turned up with a guitar, their own goodies to share and with jolly good natured smiles went into their room and surrounded Mummy’s bed, carolling loudly. He said, with a laugh in his voice, your mother lay there beaming back at them, quite pleased to be the audience for this terrific show of goodwill, silently mouthing the words to some of the carols. She who was always fond of music, had found something flooding back when this joysome noise ensued.

All morning we had been thinking how forlorn and alone they would be feeling on this day of days when people liked to have company. I could hear the delight in my father’s voice as he recounted this Christmas experience. Your mother, he said, has never looked like she had a more generous Christmas present.



Life on the Verandah




Mummy had been a great collector of plants, liking striking foliage and colour. But some of the plants outside had been seen off by white ants which were a plague in the place. Her white poinsettia, with its delicate petalled flowers had not survived, rose bushes had been attacked mercilessly, even the glorious masandas were not spared.

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Only the hardiest things grew here with minimum maintenance and real shortage of water. Only the rain caused grass to grow, but some of the plants she had collected for these grounds, the pink, white and orange ixoras, the bottlebrush tree, were still there, still thriving, still blossoming joyously, still a reminder of her earlier self.

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How could it be that in spite of that gaze into the middle distance we could think she felt no joy, no pain, no disappointment. Denis would remark that it really was hard to realize what to do for her because she never said what she truly felt…except to tell off somebody for interfering with her….to take Mummy on to the verandah, one of the solid pillars holding up the car port  had to be scraped at a certain level to allow the wheel chair to go through.
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These things, like the bathroom door that opened inwards and blocked access to the bathing area, became design flaws in a very, very spacious house once a disability occurred. Anyway, sometimes she would  ‘walk’ or more accurately, be frog marched by impatient ‘carers’ wanting to get to the end result soon…getting her to the table or in bed or outside.

Maybe she thought of earlier times there, festive times when they had friends over, the place was filled with music and our children running about. Brahmanpalli was a great place for city bred kids—(once years ago, Santa had arrived in a tractor, to the cheering of surprised grandchildren, courtesy our neighbour, Uncle Krishna Reddy). Maybe what took the fun out of everything was the nuisance of being hauled around to get anywhere, having to lean with all her weight on the walker, being told, don’t lean back, you’ll fall, lean forward, don’t slip your shoe off, pay attention, don’t leave the walker. Such a litany of don’ts, all sorts of negatives meant for her own safety but which made a feisty person like her maybe feel there were too many orders being barked at her all the time.

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Once outside on the verandah we would be busy drinking our endless glasses of nimbu pani, talking about local things and other things. It was drunk like tea is drunk in some households and it helped in ensuring my parent’s health. Both my parents smoked like chimneys. Still, this nimbu pani was a great barrier against everyday illnesses.

The greatest loss we all feel is what I’ll come to next, her wonderful, original mind and the genuine way she uttered what she felt. After all, this phase of her life did not mean that she had been silent and withdrawn before. She had always kept small hurts and large sorrows to herself, while young, while middle-aged, while old – only rarely, as my sister Deborah recalls, and my father would sometimes tell us – speaking of the anguish that her psoriasis caused her. She dealt with it however. It is only now that she has 24 hour paid carers. She did whatever she could on her own, for her skin condition. And besides, she had done much in the years when Air Force wives had to just care about a husband’s career, Visiting Air Force stations, being involved in AFWWA (the Air Force Wives Welfare Association), and generally propping up her husband’s career, though it was not her most favourite activity



mummy and denis in US

and had little or no means to indulge in intellectual or money earning pursuits. She had been an active part of a literary influence on us. She was a self-learner and had never been to college but her reading had been far more serious than a lot of post graduates. This what I like to think of, and remind myself of….

Incident in Brahmanpalli





Mummy fell by tripping over the living room carpet, in Brahmanpalli, the village in Andhra Pradesh, where my parents had lived for twenty three years, before my father passed away, and she shattered her right hip bone. Tali, my daughter and I, went to Singapore in the first week of January 2007. Mummy had her fall on the 10th of January 2007.  A dire message was waiting for me when we returned to Pune where I live. Tali left for the States where she lives, and I ran and booked myself onto an Indian Airlines flight for Hyderabad. Jeanne, my sister, called from Bombay and decided to change her flight to the same one I was taking. She came down to Pune  and because of all her professional connections we had a car waiting for us at the airport when we landed. But Mummy had already had her hip replacement surgery at the Secunderabad Military Hospital.
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Deborah our youngest sister, was already there. The three of us sat at the dining table, with a sense of  anxiety mixed with the hope that my father had received from the doctors that she would be walking again soon. Mornings in Brahmanpalli were always beautiful with birdsong and coolness.  After breakfast we were setting out for the hospital about 56 kilometers away in the town. Then the phone rang.

Mummy, they told us, had taken a toss while attempting to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night And had fractured her thigh bone, the same side as the hip injury. That was that, there was nothing to do now but for her to lie in bed and wait for it to heal over a couple of months. This was the start of her bedridden years, till now, February  2014. We stumbled about in those first days and weeks, trying to figure out how to go about caring for her.
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My father, Denis, bought her a wheelchair, a walker to assist her recovery in the future, other things like a portable toilet, clothes that could be put on and removed easily. It wasn’t possible for everyone, but since my husband Uday worked in Nigeria and my children both grown now, lived in the US,  I could, so I stayed on for about four months’

So this blog is going to be about this. How we, individually, or together, worked out how to care for my mother. There have been tremendous changes in these last seven or so years. What do I talk about? Not just her health, her diet, her coping , her temperament, stress, our ideas and abilities. The strain my father went through. How she actually did not, for the longest time, get that this was going to be the rest of her life for the longest time.

Next time some details of things we did and still do, to cope. Longevity, seniority, venerability, so so much. Maybe because I have a living parent my own age doesn’t seem such an issue. Or who am I fooling?
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