Although I never knew him, he died a year before i was born, in 1959, I am sure my maternal grandfather Ahsan Mohammad, was one of the (few) people in my family who did not have any mental illness at all. He was a gentle, pleasant, intelligent, loving, extremely well respected and handsome man. He was educated in Vienna, Austria and was a Barrister. He became a Deputy Collector and a Magistrate in the government of the Raj (the British government set up to rule India, at my grandfather’s time it was under Queen Victoria.) He and his family lived in Moradabad, Badaun, and Bareilly (so many names I see on the map, I remember from my grandmother talking about them,) and owned lands for 100’s of miles in all directions. My grandfather did not want to be a landowner, he wanted to be educated in the Western fashion and live by making his own salary, and he did. He was a very generous and extravagant man, he had no trouble spending money and giving people gifts! My grandmother would get angry at him for his “shah kharchian,” which means spending like he was the king :-)) His father was very stern and very regal and the perfect landlord. But my grandfather I assume, did not like serfdom and wanted to live by the sweat of his own brow… or rather the fruits of his own intellect. I’ve heard stories about what a well respected person he was in his towns by both the Muslims and the Hindus. During partition, (the time when India was divided into India and Pakistan, in 1947, and both countries gained their independence from England) if there were confrontations between Hindus and Muslims in his hometown, he would go out onto the streets and actually sternly tell both sides to put down their “lathis” (big sticks) and go home. His stern admonitions about how each of them had been the other’s brother would make the fighting parties hang their heads in shame and go home. He stopped riots and violence like this many times. He was a remarkable man, a loving and caring father. ALL his children adored him and admired him. My Ahmed Mamoon had a great coat, a Chester he called it, that had belonged to my grandfather, it was made of the most luxurious, heavy wool and my Ahmed Mamoon wore it till the day he was no more, in 2007! My grandfather was very progressive as to educating his daughters. My mother of course went to Bhopal Medical College and became an Obstetrician and Gynecologist. My other two aunts also were educated and became teachers. My Ammi Khala, a Montessori teacher and my Amma Begum a middle school teacher. My uncle fell in love with a fair lady and instead of going to Harvard, where he had a scholarship for Chemistry, moved to Pakistan and joined the Pakistani army. The lady who ruled his heart had moved to Pakistan and so did he. He married her and had three daughters, my beloved cousins. He rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Pakistani army, fought in two wars and then moved to the States. He lives in NY now.
My grandmother Begum Mushtaq Fatima, was a firebrand. My grandfather apparently used to hand over his whole paycheck to his wife and she’d run the household with it. Once my grandfather had invited some English officials and their wives to his palatial house for an evening party. My grandmother, who was a devout Muslim, had told him to have no alcohol at the party. But he, thinking the the English like to drink had a table set up with alcohol bottles for mixed drinks on it. My grandmother found out, she marched into the garden where the table was, and with a large stick in her hands, she smashed all the alcohol bottles to the ground. All the guests were aghast, my grandfather, however, just laughed and said “That’s my wife!” And that was his wife. A tiny woman with a huge will.
Later in her life, she mellowed out and along with my Ammi Khala, Mamoon, and Fatto Khala, gave me so much love and affection and care, that I now sit here and write het story! In fact, if this does turn into my memoirs, I am going to call it “Herstory” vs History, haha. Oh don’t worry, I know history doesn’t mean his story, that it is derived from the Greek histor, historia, meaning wise man, and narrative or history respectively.
So anyway, my normal, loving, mild grandfather and my intense, angry, hyper emotional (bipolar 2?) grandmother, produced 10 children and 11 grandchildren. And it seems that in some of us, my grandmother’s genes, like herself, were dominant.
More to follow.