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By Dhanvanthi Rama Rau
Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1978, Rs. 50.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 3 November/December 1978

To the tell-me-a-story request from her grandchild, grandmother Rama Rau responded with tales of her own child­hood and little Asha listened with wonder—'... from her expression I might have been describing a totally foreign land in a remote period of history'. From the girl's insistence that her grand­mother write her memoirs comes this century of family history—an inheri­tance that links up the past that Dhanvanthi Rama Rau had known with the present world of Asha's. The lady of family planning in India was the sixth of eleven children in a Kashmiri Pandit family, settled in a railway colony in Hubli in the south-west of India. The early and perhaps most interesting part of her book, is a portrait of her mother, lovingly and carefully pieced together from anecdotes and scraps of family history that finally link co­herently 'her past narrow orthodoxy with her later mental expansion, the pheno­menal progressive growth of her thinking and the ambitions she developed for her children'. The orthodox background of Bhagbhari Handoo included being a bride at eight and moving from one large joint family to another. In her husband's family she had a major part of the household responsibilities, her mother-­in-law depending more and more on her. And then came the break when young Handoo defied his family and moved away with his wife. A break that was the beginning of many other breaks with tradition and the past. From the Handoo home in the Kashmiri galli of old Delhi to the railway colony in Hubli was quite a change in the 1880s. There were other changes too; Bhagbhari was determined to educate her daughters no less than her sons and so the Handoo girls became the first in the Kashmiri community to attend school. And to learn English and be taught Christianity and be exposed to children from all communities and backgrounds and learn at first hand the ways of other, very different, Indians. 'To do so was not a matter of pride in those days.' But it was a matter of pride that the girls did well at school and two even completed their matriculation before their marriage was arranged. Dhanvanthi was the oldest girl at home now and drew close to her mother who was a strong influence over her awakening mind. After she matriculated the family moved to Madras, to a· ...

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