|Lalitha Ramakrishnan at her daughter's house in Chennai|
A young Indian man working in the Home Ministry in Delhi received an urgent telegram in 1945 from his parents in south India. It said, “Start immediately. Marriage fixed.” Even as he dutifully began preparing for his travels to marry a woman he had never met or spoken to he received another telegram. “Don’t come. Marriage cancelled.”
Blogging about this story six decades later is Lalitha Ramakrishnan, the woman who did eventually marry him. At 83 and as a great grand-mother, Lalitha is a unique member of India’s crowded blogosphere. She is a good bit older than most others and the subjects she writes on – everyday life during pre and post-independence India are a time young Indians know little about.
She started blogging in 2006 after years of writing down her thoughts on paper. Being on the web suddenly generated interest in several quarters and research scholars, the media, friends and family from different continents started contacting her. “I’m really surprised. I never thought when I started that my writing would bring me to this day talking to you.”
Her blog gained instant popularity because her simple, evocative style is reminiscent of India’s earliest Indian writers of fiction – R.K. Narayan. Except in her case the anecdotes are real. There are fascinating stories about how cataclysmic movements such as the Quit India Movement, the Partition and Indian independence were experienced by ordinary people.
For example she witnessed a lot of killing in Delhi in the run up to Independence and while the men were at work, housewives like her had only themselves to rely on. With a home telephone being a luxury in the 1940s she says, “Most of the women used to be inside the house with red chilli powder and their vegetable cutter by the front door. We could attack intruders with that.”
Lalitha was born in 1927 in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore in south India and moved to Delhi after marriage. She also briefly lived in Pondicherry for six years. After her husband passed away in 1987 she has lived with her children in different parts of India. Many Indians her age have never used a computer let alone blogged. But on many mornings Lalitha can be found bent over her laptop emailing or typing up a post about the long-forgotten past.
She blogs here.