January 2007
visiting family in Gujarat

My grandmother's cousin Muktafaiba in Ahmedabad. I promised last year to bring my little brother to see her.

Muktafaiba has lost weight, after suffering in the chickenbunia outbreak last year.
(She's still sharp as nails though!)

Sachin and I weren't the only people travelling around Gujarat...

not all travel goes to plan though

the roads were busy with trucks and the sugar cane harvest

a violent altercation, which briefly shattered the peace of our journey

 

we passed by several wedding parties

 

 

 

 

Sachin at our family shrine, paying respects to our distant grandparents who died digging a well in this compound

The well outside our compound in Chalala.

For years the family legend was that my uncle and aunt played around the same well as children, on coincidental visits from Kenya to Gujarat in the mid-50s. There are a string of similar occassions, in India and East Africa, where they nearly met but didn't - until their eventual courtship and marriage.

Google Earth & digital photography have shown that part of the legend to have been misleading.
The wells were of quite different shapes, and must be in different areas of the town.

As my cousin, Rajan, said this weekend "its good having science on your side"
(but its sometimes less romantic...)

Bhikhukaka, Dineshkaka and Sachin with other members of the Madhvani parivar at the mandir in Savarkundla

inside the family mandir, bizarrely equipped with the most demented mechanical drum machine (left) - very very nasty

A much earlier version of the dosima family tree system!
My paternal grandfather and his brother's name are inset.
Of course women didn't count in that age, so their sister is not mentioned.
(Hope you're paying attention, Cookie...)

This is a traditional ambo (tree) only for Madhvanis.
The dosima project maps whole vast and interconnected community forests.

Dineshkaka and I will go and visit our barot when I'm next in Gujarat -
the traditional keeper of records of family histories for ceremonial purposes.
Lists of ancestors names don't really have much value to me,
but it will be interesting to see papers that they may have touched,
and make contact with their lives.

the next batch

My grandfather left this village as a teenager,
rolling beedis in Junaghat to raise money for passage on a dhow to Africa.

He returned a quarter-century later from Kenya, with his wife and young children.
He wasn't immediately recognised.

He next returned a quarter-century later from London, with some of his grandchildren.
That was my first visit in 1982.

I finally returned to Gujarat in 2006, another quarter-century later.
It was like visiting a foreign and unknown country.

- ~ -

I've now returned after less than a year.

- ~ -

Modern telecoms and travel have made the world a much smaller place. India and our family remaining there no longer have to feel so distant, so foreign. If we want to, we don't ever have to be so disconnected again.

At the same time, I've now seen more of our distant family in village India, than I have my more immediate family in nearby parts of London. People are busier there, and make less time for one another. Its the same for our family in Gujarat - and all made worse by petty resentments festering, pushing families further apart.

The warmth between my grandfather and his cousin Muktafaiba outlasted his life.
Its still there in the way she greets us, his grandchildren, and how she speaks of him.
That closeness developed regardless of distance or technology.

I hope we follow their example, and look forward to seeing these lovely lively children grow.