“I could not write a girl’s story knowing little about any but my own sisters and
always preferring boys”,
as quoted in Anne Boyd Rioux’s Meg Jo Beth Amy,
a condensed biographical account of Alcott’s life and writing.
Anniversaries are a good time to look back at our lives. Around 25 years ago,we got married in Mumbai-1995.
KARACHI TO BHIWANDI
The writer -psychologist John Gottman writes of different exercises which a couple can do to make their marriage life better.
One of them is to explore a different period of one’s life- and ask- If I could re-live a five year period of my life-which would it be.
Using this exercise, and adapting it to the family history of my wife-I asked Mamta about how life was for her mother, grandmother. This brought up some deeply emotional family issues, (all not for public blog) on how the family members attached to each other. Her parents originally lived in Karachi-British India, where they were born. After partition, they came to Gujarat and then Bhiwandi- in Greater Mumbai area. With a choked voice, she told of the times when the family would be in Bhiwandi and she expressed deep gratitude to her father, for having supported her grandmother and great grandmother in their older days, got a house for them, and helped build their sense of self-worth and dignity.
As I heard these intimate details, I came to know a bit more about why the daughters love and respect their father so much.
This winter- (before COVID19 lockdown) we went to see “Little Women” the 2019- film adaptation of the novel by Louisa Mary Alcott (1860s). After seeing the movie, my son Sagar discussed the differences between the novel and the movie and reflected that the characters and subplots are much better developed in the novel.
As we went through the nuances, the way the death of the sister Beth is dealt with in the novel as compared to the movie.
Looking back-25 years.
Looking into the way our reading journal has evolved over the years, I see the discussions with my sons and their contours. Marriage led to children – and as they grew, discussing the nuances of different characters in great works of literature became a way of life-family discussions.
25 YEARS ANNIVERSARIES- REMEMBERING MY PARENTS
When they celebrated their 25th year Silver Jubilee- in 1992, they were in Pune-Maharashtra, Western India. The shape of life in that period, of the vision they had about life and living, and how their own parents and extended family drew into a dynamic of creating a joint vision of who we are as a people came alive.
THE STORY OF THE SISTERS…Following a life is a great exercise in developing vision.
Following the life of the sisters and close ones of my wife- added many dimensions.
Over family dinners, discussions and walks- we looked at the different trips of Libya-North Africa, Malta-Gozo in the Mediterranean and now the different parts of Ontario Canada.
Knowing about the details of family journeys, struggles in the times of partition of British India, their move to Bhiwandi area added intimate layers.
Louisa Mary Alcott’s – Little Women is a book which is said to have shaped values of domesticity, feminism, realism. While “Alcott never questioned the value of domesticity”, she challenged the social constructs that made spinsters obscure and fringe members of society solely because they were not married (1)
One of my efforts over the years, has been to try in inculcate the love of the written word in my sons. This was a gift passed on to me by my father, uncles, grandfather. I tried in my own way to pass it on to my sons. In this- the 25th year of our marriage, Little Women was one work which we looked at a bit more closely.
In that framework- we also heard stories of the ladies of the family, and their journeys during the times of Partition, their struggles in different phases of life.
- Elbert, Sarah (1987). A Hunger for Home: Louisa May Alcott’s Place in American Culture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-1199-2.