being brown

The Bright Idea

Guest post by Rukmaja Varadan

Hundred years ago, life was different, especially for children, with less of parental ambition obstructing their freedom. Though this was the order of the day, even among them, there were parents who never ever scolded or chastised their offspring. So kids could act without fear and do things without the parental arm pulling them away from potential danger. This family in Chittoor was particularly non-judgmental , giving kids a free hand in their choices. A small chap, all of five, in one of the hand-me-down shirts of an elder sibling, as was the rule those days, covering all of him, stood at the doorway one day watching the traffic. Suddenly, he decided to go browse in the neighbourhood . As he left for the open, a few steps down the road, being very intelligent, he thought, for him to come back to his house, he needed some landmark. He thought for a minute a hit upon a bright idea. He pissed at his door step and ventured out , sure of himself. How he found his way back is a mystery but that he did come back is certain, for it was just the other day his centenary was celebrated on April 25th, 2012. His name? V.K. Narasimhan

V.K. Narasimhan is my grand-uncle, my grandfather’s older brother. A well-regarded and fearless journalist, he was, by all accounts, an interesting person. My grandmother, Rukmaja Varadan, his much younger sister-in-law, looked up to him.

On the occasion of his centenary, his son published a book, God’s own Marxist. Apart from containing VK Narasimhan’s own writings, the book included reflections by contemporaries, colleagues and relatives. My own father wrote his reflections on his uncle. And my grandmother wrote the above story. Interestingly, her anecdote didn’t find a way into the book. ( More interestingly, while it included stories by sons, sons-in-law, grandsons and nephews, it did not include stories by daughter, daughters-in-law, granddaughters or nieces). While the female voices were conspicuously absent, my grandmother’s story was excluded on two grounds. One that it wasn’t an anecdote that she could possibly have direct experience of. The other that it was talking about something as mundane as ‘pee’.

If it is simple squeamishness, as the second reason implies, it reminds me of Milan Kundera’s exposition on Kitsch, the absolute denial of shit, in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Gods too, since they have mouths, will shit. Marxists too! To me this tale is not only about an intelligent boy using his creativity to solve a problem, but it is a charming tale of a young boy growing up a hundred years ago.


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