Monday, August 10, 2009

My Great Ancestors

Affectionately referred to as ‘Nayana’ my great grandfather was a remarkable man. His children had begun calling him Nayana (Nayana meaning Father in Telugu) when he had been working in Andhra Pradesh and the name just got stuck and even we, his great grand children and others who knew him refer to him as Nayana. His real name was Kandaswamy. I was about 7 years old when he passed away but I do remember him very well.

In fact the first room where he used to have a cot for himself when he used to come and stay with us in Madras was referred by us as Nayana Room. Nayana had nine children who he called his ‘Nine Gems’. He was justified in calling them Gems as each of his children has come up so well in life. All credit, of course, goes to Nayana who single-handedly brought up his children after he lost his wife when his ninth child (Durai Thatha) was less than two years old. He ensured all his sons were at least a Graduate with some of them being double graduates. He got both his daughters married into good families.

I have heard many stories about Nayana from my parents and grand parents.

He had a twin brother named Venkatraman and a sister Valambal. If fact, the story of how the twins were born, is quite interesting. Nayana’s parents (Vaidyanathan and Lakshmi) got Valambal Athai married very young and she became a child widow (virgin widow). As she was also widowed early in life, Valambal Athai prayed to God that her father’s lineage should continue and because of her prayers her parents had twin sons! The twins were born with a gap of about 24 hours, don’t know how Lakshmi Paati bore the pain for 24 hours! They named their sons Venkatraman (after our Kula Deivam – Thirupathi Venkatramana Swami) and Kandaswamy (after our Ishta Deivam – Thirutani Murugan).

At one stage in life, as they had financial difficulties, I heard that one of the brothers used to go for work and help the other study and then the other way round.

When Nayana sought Rajalakshmi Paati’s hand for marriage, her father asked Nayana, “How will you take care of my daughter?” and Nayana raised both is hands up in the air and answered with pride, “With my two hands.” His father-in-law was impressed as his daughter’s would-be was determined to work hard and take care of his wife. And Nayana did just that. This particular story I have heard from the horse’s mouth. Nayana used to gaze at Rajalakshmi Paati’s photo that we have at home and tell us all that the jewels she was wearing were all bought by him.

Nayana lived up to the ripe age of 92 (1885 – 1976) and I do remember that even during his last trip to Madras for one of his grandsons’ wedding, he was quite strong and used to walk regularly up and down our long balcony. That trip, he was very clear it was his last trip to Madras and even when my mother suggested that he stay back for some more time, he insisted that he will go back to Bombay. He was staying with one of his sons (Pattapa Thatha) in Peddar Road, Bombay. After he passed away, we came to know that he had got his time of death predicted by one of his friends long ago and was ready to move on when the time came!

He was very independent and used to have his money, medicines, soaps and powders separately and in fact used to offer others balms for headaches. Of course, he never forgot to take things back from them after use!

He was strong enough to bear the loss of two of his sons and daughters-in-law in their prime.

The main characteristic he inculcated in his children was honesty in their profession, which all his children followed and still follow! In fact this trait of honesty and hard work has carried down to the next generation, our generation and the next one too!


  1. Superb! Keep up the good work. Hope I am going to see stories about all the Nine Gems of Nayana and their spouses too.

  2. I must definitely say wonderful.... just old memories of Nayana Thatha from amma & Mani Thatha very well written....

    waiting for more blogs from you

  3. Wonderful job, Lakshmi! I have known more about Nayana from your blog than from my m-in-law. Keep up your work.
    Chandra Manni.