Bride at 10, writer at 79!
It took her nearly eight decades to pen her first work. Meet Sethu Ramaswamy...
Determination wins: Sethu Ramaswamy
BRIDE AT 10, wife at 13, mother at 15, mother of half a dozen at 27 and postgraduate at 79. Meet Sethu Ramaswamy, author of Roli Books' "Bride at 10, Mother at Fifteen" to discover what femininity is all about. Read her to discover how a publicity-conscious girl with a razor sharp memory born to a Rai Bahadur of Kandy, Sri Lanka, kept the fire for excellence, the passion for erudition, simmering in the oven of domesticity.
"I went to school till the fifth standard. I was perhaps the last girl in my family to fall a victim of child marriage before the Sharda Act was imposed. But marriage didn't stop me from finishing Hardy, Dickens and Austen by 13."
Married to a journalist, 11 years older to her, who at times treated her like his eldest daughter, Sethu doesn't consider marriage stifling. "Well, at times it was frustrating when he didn't allow me to pursue formal education. He would say you are much more informed than many of the graduates. The real reason was family and his profession, which kept me in the kitchen for hours cooking for his colleagues and parliamentarians who would come to discuss their speeches."
Not one to be bogged down, she learnt veena and languages. "At 40, I read Pearl S. Buck's `Pavilion of Women' and decided to do my own thing but without shirking the family responsibilities unlike in the novel. However, learning remained a household pursuit. Actually it had something to do with the times. There was no distance education at that time."
Something she cashed in on after the demise of her husband. "I started doing two things. Penning my memoirs at the behest of my youngest daughter and looking for a cherished degree." She enrolled in the Annamalai University and completed a Masters in History with flying colours. "But with memoirs I was not that lucky. They made rounds to several publishers. And everybody called it the story of an ordinary woman. They were looking for storms and I had storms but they were limited to teacups. Some even suggested that I fictionalise my life. Finally, Roli found it interesting."
Interesting it is, because the sheer simplicity of an ordinary household, an anachronism these days, makes it extraordinary. How a father who moved with prime ministers remained devoted to his family, played with kids, staged mock parliaments with them and sowed the seeds of values. How a mother delivered when the Partition pangs were at their worst, cooked idlis and dosas for the family and friends, still found time to check typographical errors in her husband's work, found time to finish three newspapers cover to cover and form an opinion on political issues facing the country. Together they carved a niche devoid of identity crises.
Musing over the present generation Sethu says, "Somewhere the young generation has lost out on the simplicity of life. Missed out on the joys of having meals together and the satisfaction of saying prayers together."
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