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I think that the focal point of my family stories is 28 November 1964 when Pat and I got married; here is a photo of us taken on that happy occasion:

and here is a picture of our family of six in 1974:

The photo below of all members of our immediate family was taken in 2005 whilst we were all on holiday for a week at a large English Country Cottage in Crantock, Cornwall:

In late 2005 and early 2006 Pat was very ill, and then spent most of March and April 2006 in Buxton Cottage Hospital. Well, in the natural order of things, as one life fades away another appears to brighten our lives; so it has been with our family. Martha was born on 11 January 2006 and certainly brought a sparkle to Pat’s face as you will see from the photo of the two of them together here taken in early April 2006: 

Sadly Pat died on 20 April 2006.

In early May 2009 all the family was delighted to welcome the twin addition of Lucy and George.

Tragically, after a long and brave fight against his illness, Arun passed away on 12 December 2009.

However, life moves on. Here is a photo of all the family taken in August 2014 during the very enjoyable week’s family holiday in Conwy, Wales: 

I will be writing more about my immediate family in Section 8. This project probably has its origins in the days when my children were little. When I got home from work, I usually put them to bed whilst Pat got the dinner ready. I used to play games with them, read them stories and also talk to them about my Indian family; that probably enabled me to keep in mind events of long ago. 

Then, some time before I retired fully at the end of June 2005, I thought it would be a good idea to write something down about my Indian family, with the main objective of providing information to my immediate family in England in an informal way; just sketches of the Indian family members that have been closest to me since I was born. I drafted a piece on my maternal grandfather in the later part of 2005, and Pat (I think she was a better writer than me) helped me with a number of excellent suggestions. I also did a piece on my maternal grandmother, but Pat never managed to look through it. Anyway, when Pat died in April 2006, I lost the drive to carry on with the project. However, in 2007 my niece Ramya (my sister’s daughter) looked at my first draft and encouraged me to resume the project; this helped to revive it. Eventually the writing gathered a momentum of its own and, with some help from Daniel and Kate, I set up a family website towards the end of 2008.

When Anna was about 10 she did an excellent school project on her family; I have drawn heavily on the information there. Arun carried out the enormous task of producing the excellent family tree. Anna and Susheela have given me invaluable help by reading through drafts, pointing out errors and making suggestions for improvements. My brother and sister have provided a good deal of helpful information. My cousins, the Rajans, have given a lot of help with the Section on my paternal aunt and uncle. Whilst this project has required a lot of time, patience, perseverance etc, I have found it to be a rewarding exercise and have found myself thinking a lot about my Indian heritage. After our family visit to India in December 2007, when we spent some very enjoyable moments with my Indian family, my daughter-in-law Kate made the perceptive remark "What a lot you have given up by leaving India to live in England!". Well, that is quite true, though I have no regrets over what I did, but it will be an interesting story to tell!  

I have attempted to piece together some interesting facts and events relating to our ancestors, siblings, cousins, children, grandchildren etc. Inevitably I have mostly written about my personal associations and experiences; no claim/effort being made for comprehensive coverage! I have made no attempt to do anything other than present my own personal perspective, based mainly upon my recollections, though this project is heavily dependent upon various conversations I have had with and comments I have received from many relatives. I do hope that you enjoy reading these memoirs as much as I enjoyed writing them. I will be content if these musings enable the family readers to gain some understanding of their extended families and of their association with two very rich heritages – Indian and British. I am happy to accept the blame for any errors or omissions. I have given below some background information relating to my Indian family.

Tamil Nadu, India

Here is a map of India: 

 and here is a map of the State of Tamil Nadu where I come from:

Tamil Nadu is the eleventh largest state in India by area (about the size of Greece) and the seventh most populous state. It is the most urbanised state in India. The state has the highest number (10.56%) of business enterprises and stands second in total employment (9.97%) in India, compared to the population share of about 6%. Tamil Nadu is home to many natural resources, grand Hindu temples of Dravidan architecture, hill stations, beach resorts, multi-religious pilgrimage sites and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The region has been the home of the Tamil people since at least 500 BC.

Tamil – தமிழ 

Tamil is one of 23 nationally recognized languages in the Constitution of India and is the administrative language of the State of Tamil Nadu. It is an ancient Dravidan language with literature dating back to over 2,000 years. It is spoken predominantly in Tamil Nadu but also by significant minorities in the neighbouring States of Kerala and Karnataka and in several countries in Asia; it has official status in Sri Lanka and Singapore. The total number of people worldwide speaking Tamil has been estimated at 77 million. Details of the origin of the language and the alphabet can be found here: Tamil alphabet, pronunciation and language .

Tamil is my mother-tongue and it is the language spoken in the homes of all my relatives in India. When I went to school I was taught everything in Tamil, though there are a number of schools in India where the medium of instruction is English rather than the regional language. So, I started learning English at school as a second language. However, when I finished my high school education and went on to University, the medium of instruction abruptly changed to English. I was fortunate in that by that time I had acquired a reasonably good command of English. I think that there are few universities in India where the medium of instruction is not English; there are two main reasons for this – generally text books in regional languages are not available for advanced scientific subjects and knowledge of English enables the qualification to be used in other Indian States as well as in other English-speaking countries.

Naming/addressing convention in Tamil Nadu  

Traditionally in Tamil Nadu each individual is simply given a name on birth; no first name or surname. However, the first letter of the individual’s father’s name is used as the initial; when a woman marries, her initial changes to that of the first letter of her husband’s name. In earlier times it was common for a man to use several initials to indicate his ancestry. For example, my paternal grandfather’s full name was A S K Rathnasamy Nadar; K stands for Kandasamy (his father), S stands for Shanmugam (his grandfather) and A stands for Ariharaputhra (his great-grandfather); Nadar refers to the community/caste name – see “Nadar community” below.

In the Tamil cultural tradition anyone older or in a superior position has to be addressed using the respectful form. Within the family this takes the form of addressing the older person to indicate the relationship (it can however be confusing to an outsider as sometimes the strict relationship name is not used because someone fancies a variation!), but a younger person is addressed by name. I have followed this convention and used the names by which I addressed my relatives. For example, I called my paternal grandparents Periappa and Thenammal. Periappa literally means father’s older brother, but my grandfather liked all his grandchildren to call him by that name; my own family has carried on this tradition as my grandchildren call me Periappa! Thenammal, which means honeyed woman, was in fact my grandmother’s name and most people affectionately called her by name, ignoring the respectful form!

Nadar community

My Indian family belongs to the Nadar community/caste. The term "Nadar" in Tamil literally means "one who rules the land". Nadars are one of the earliest inhabitants of India and now form one of the prominent castes of Tamil Nadu. However, at the beginning of the 19th century Nadars occupied quite a low position in the economic and social hierarchy of the society. Despite the rigidity of the Indian caste system, quite remarkably during the following two centuries they have risen from near untouchability to a position of social and economic power. They have mainly used education, trade and commerce to achieve this progress but are mostly apolitical; the exception was Kamaraj, the most famous member of the Nadar community during the 20th century; here is a picture of him:

Kamaraj did not complete his high school education and could not speak English. He became an ardent supporter of the Indian Independence movement led by Gandhi and was put in jail by the British rulers several times. Following Indian independence in 1947, he became a prominent member of the ruling Tamil Nadu Congress Party; he was Chief Minister of the State for 9 years from 1954 and during that time established the reputation of Tamil Nadu as the best administered Indian State. In 1963 he became President of the Indian National Congress, and was an influential figure in the central government for several years.

Today the total population of the Nadar community is about 11 million. Nadars are mostly Hindus though about 10% are Christians. They live mainly in Tamil Nadu but there are significant numbers in Kerala. More information on the Nadar community can be found here:

Prem Kumar

February 2015