Recently my mother’s sisters went to Benares, where they grew up in 1950s/60s.
In a collage in my house, I have a picture of the Uniyal family, of Benares, in the 1960s.
Now, around 50 years down the line, I saw this picture of my aunts in the same house and saw these in a new light.
In his book –Self Matters- Dr. Phil comes up with many interesting exercises, one of which is to write our defining moments between the age of 1 and 5. (and also of other age periods of one’s life)
Seeing the many recent pictures of the house New E-10 of BHU campus, where my grandfather –Ganesh Prasad Uniyal used to teach political science, made me remember my own time, when between the ages of 1 and 5, I first visited Benares in the early 1970s.
I have no living memory of my paternal grandfather but have a good living memory of my maternal grandfather-GPU.
Like me, my sons too have no living memory of their paternal grandfather, but I have tried to reconstruct many aspects of his life, and tell these to my sons, so that they will get a sense of who their grandfather was, what was the India in which he grew up and lived, and what were the defining features of life in that period.
In his book- Self Matters- Dr.Phil McGraw puts an end to the ‘everyone’s a victim’ culture and tells you that self-esteem is about possibilities, not problems. He unravels the sense of self through the Ten defining moments, seven critical choices and five pivotal persons in your life. I first tried to answer the exercises written in Self Matters around Ten years ago. In this interesting book- Dr. Phil walks one through many processes and also helps one reflect on these defining moments, critical choices, pivotal relations by asking the following four questions
As you reflect on these times, once again:
- How do you feel now?
- What emotions are you now having?
- What are you telling yourself about these events today?
- What power and self-determination, if any did you lose to this event if it was a negative event?
(If it was positive, what did you learn or gain?)
Over the past ten years, since I first did these exercises in Self Matters- I have looked at my own answers and revised them –shaped and stretched my own thinking in different ways. While those self-reflective journals are private, there are many lessons which one can learn if one tries to apply and answer the questions.
Benares –where my grandparents stayed, where their daughters grew up, has been a pivotal relation which has helped define my sense of family-community-society in many interesting ways.
As I saw the recent pictures of Benares, my aunts visiting after many decades, the school where they studied, the university campus, the Ghats of Benares, one of the seven holiest cities of Hinduism, a city associated with great poet-thinkers like Tulsidas, Kabir, Ravidas, I recalled my uncle (Dr.Ram Prasad Nawani) telling –
Kabir na hote-to Tulsidas na Hote..
if there had been no Kabir, there would have been no Tulsidas.
Earlier perpectives-Discussions in B Block-Palam-2015-August
Devraj bhai, Saraswati bua-ji and Mausa-ji discussing Hindi literature.
Yadi Kabir na hote-toh Tulsidas no Hote
In a series remembering and telling about my father to my sons, I had told of how, Benares had been a place where my father got a feel of the family in a different way, as his own mother had passed away when he was less than five years old. Many memories and associations with Benares came alive as I went through these pictures. Using the matrix of Dr.Phil made me explore and reflect more closely on the meanings of these associations.
My father –Prem Narain Bhatt- was born in Shimla-in 1939, and his mother had passed away in the early 1940s. After his marriage in 1967, he first time came to have a sense of the family –in a more integrated way- when he associated with the Uniyal family of BHU.
They say-Grandchildren are the future which you will never see physically.
Watching the pictures of the garden on the campus, I wondered if some of the larger trees could have been planted by my maternal grandfather.
These associations made me see the following lines of Michael Ondaatje in a fresh light
A last chance for the clear history of the self
All our mothers and grandparents here
Our dismantled childhoods
In the buildings of the past.
Some great forty-day daydream
Before we bury the maps
(The Story-from the collection-Handwriting)
POWER AND SELF DETERMINATION
The life which is unexamined is not worth living
Over a period of time, one realizes the importance of the many stories, links,created through the photo-albums, collages and journals in our home library.
The links between the Shimla of the 1940s, Benares of the 1960s and Delhi of 1980s..and how these add and build into their different journeys and sense of self and family.