Thursday, November 5, 2020

And so it turns out that I am a Panemanglor too

 One day, out of the blue, I was thrilled to find my name on the Panemanglor family tree.

Till that moment I had never really thought of myself as connected with any Panemanglor. It’s not that I didn’t know that my father’s mother was born into a Pangemanglor family. But there was a lack of connection, partly due to limited contact, and partly due to the patriarchal norm of only considering yourself as belonging to the male line – so deeply that even today, after all my work telling Sindhi stories, my byline still brands me as an Aggarwal, and I feel a stronger Savur identity than a Bijlani one.

In complete contrast, the progressive and enlightened Panemanglor family tree, being a family in which the X-chromosome has dominated for some generations, has a large percentage of members whose surnames are not Panemanglor at all.

So besides Aggarwal (me) we have Savur (my grandmother), Bijlani (my mother), Jagtiani (my sister-in-law), Sharma, Trikannad, Dhareshwar … and Kalyanpur, Gangolli, Hemmady, Masurkar, Sood, Rew, Hegde, Karkal Sirur, Datta, Koppikar, Kadle, Jones, Gurung, Raman, Putli, Maskeri, Hoskote, Pandya, Mullarpattan, Matele, Bijur, Ubhaykar, Nayampalli, Desai, Padukone, Balsekar, Bhansali, Choudhary, Booth, Groothuis, Jadgadde, Puttur, Singh, Shedde, Mudbidri, Sannadi, Betrabet, Mehta, Kowshik, Manjeshwar, Kodikal, Aghnashini, Chaugale, Karnad, Hebale, Sujir, Billington, Wagle, Kagal, Bhaskar, Pandit … and a few more I might have missed. 

Some of these are close and beloved cousins. The others, as my dear departed dad would say when trying to explain how we were related to someone we had visited on our annual holiday in Bombay or at a family wedding: 

I have no idea. But I think our grandfathers or maybe great-grandfathers probably walked out to the fields every morning together with their lotas.

I’m so very grateful to Rohit Panemanglor for preparing this family tree, and all his efforts at painstakingly tracking each one of us down! 

Panemanglor family  c1920: daughter Lilly, Sita and Ram Ramarao Panemanglor, daughter Indu, daughter Shanta and her husband Bhavanishankar Savur

It took me back to gazing at this old family photo of my grandparents with my grandmother’s birth family, wondering about each of them and their lives. I felt that pang that you feel when you know that something is lost to you forever; sad that I would never know their stories. But it made me so conscious that I can still feel, tangibly, my grandmother’s love, her gentle fragrance, the parched skin of her arms, her letters and postcards to us at boarding school and prayer chants she tried to teach us, and the stories she told us. 

I know nothing about Amma’s childhood, but have heard that her father was the first Indian manager of Grindlay’s Bank, which means she came from an upwardly-mobile, educated family. Growing up in Bombay, she spoke first-language Marathi, as fluently as her mother tongue Konkani. According to Rohit’s research, the family lived in Raghav Wadi, French Bridge, so perhaps this was the home in which she grew up. You can see a photo of Raghav Wadi on this link, where Cousin Rohit has been busy blogging some very interesting facts about his grandfather, Krishnarao N Panemanglor (KNP), who was a senior courtier at the Baroda court. KNP, a lecturer in Latin at St Xavier’s College, Bombay, was recruited to the Baroda Education Service in 1907.

In this photo you can see KNP’s eldest brother, Rama Rao Panemanglor, standing, with his wife and daughters sitting in front. The couple on the right are my grandparents, Bhavani Shankar Rao and Shanta, probably around the time they got married. The women are barefoot, but the men have their shoes on – does this mean that it was not inside their home in Raghavwadi but perhaps in a photography studio?

Over the last several years, I’ve worked with quite a few people on their family stories and family trees. It’s always been an interesting process, one of the most fascinating aspects of which has been visiting Haridwar to seek traces of visitors from the family to their priests during which many of them wrote down the family details in registers and their handwriting, addresses and signatures can still be seen after a hundred years and more. I knew that I’m never going to do this for my own family, partly because we already have trees. 

The Bijlani family tree originates with Raja Bijaldas Nagdev, who had three sons, one being recorded as having had two sons, and nine generations later, my brother and I and all our cousins came to be. 

Then there is a more elaborate Savur genealogy, in which my grandfather Bhavani Shankar Rao Savur (whom I never knew, as he died when I was one month old; seen sitting on the right in this photo) wrote that the document he had updated “traces the growth of the family from its earliest known ancestor who lived somewhere about 1700 to 1750 AD.” 

It didn’t seem like there was any further research required in either. So – a delightful surprise to find a place in the Panemanglor family tree!