Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Polly's Party and my cousin, Dorothea 

Polly’s Party in September

The Party was a success! Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother Polly is now ninety and in good health, ready to dance any time she has the chance. Bill and I spent months preparing the house and details for the party, sending invitations and follow-up letters; many had to travel to Mountain View, and all generally had a good time. Thank you to everyone, especially to those who pitched in and helped us make the party run smoothly. Tacos Rios were wonderful caterers for the tacos, too. Fifty-five people filled our backyard with laughter and conversation. From the pizza pre-party on Saturday night to the quiet lunch on Monday morning, it was a very special Bruner Family Reunion. I have uploaded about 200 photos to my new Flickr site (see below My Kodak at right). Credits go to Bryant, Robin, Jenny, Nancy and Betsey who took photos and sent them to me to add to those I took. Check out all the photogenic people who came, add comments. I hope it won’t be long before we see each and every one again.

My cousin Dorothea

On the morning of the party we gave for my mother-in-law, Polly, for her 90th birthday, I got a short email informing me of the sudden death of my closest cousin, Dorothea. She was the only cousin I really grew up with and was on my father’s side, the Chases. There were only three of them—my uncle Richard who was Dorothea’s father, my aunty Eunice who had adopted a boy (David) late in life and lived in Calcutta, and Stephen my dad.

Doro, as we sometimes called her, was a year younger than me. We went to the same school in Madras—Doveton Corrie’s, until I left to go to High School in the Nilgiri Hills. She much later became principal of the Boy’s School having spent her whole life in and around Madras, which is now known as Chennai. Being a year younger, she often got my school uniforms and my textbooks as I went on to the next grade and grew bigger. She was much better than me in sports, winning at almost all the races, hurdles and relays. Years later she would still wear my mother’s clothes but also wore her own tailor-made dresses, and saris, and the salva kameez.

I came to America and got my Master’s degree—Dorothea got two Master’s degrees. When the Tamil language came back into dominance in Madras she was told that she had to pass a test to keep her job. She had taken the Tamil test to pass high school and also taken it in college so the mandatory new test was waived. She was totally bilingual and could read, write and speak Tamil fluently whereas I lost most of the little Tamil I knew when I left India although I’d studied Tamil in grade school, Bengali when we lived in Calcutta, Hindi at Breeks and French in college.Dorothea and I at a movie setThe last time I was in Madras (a 368-year old city in South India) I hired a car and took Doro out to Corrie’s School, which my dad and her dad had attended in the 1920s. We had fun together. She hadn’t been there in years; I actually helped the driver find the school, remembering landmarks like a temple on the way. The crowds were incredible; there must have been a thousand people at Parry’s Corner where I used to change buses every day when I was in college before the population exploded to its present 7 million.

I was very impressed that Dorothea had a bell on her desk to call her peon in to do her bidding. She said she attended a church now where there was an all-Hindu choir. She doted on her grandchildren and invited me to a combined reunion of our own kindergarten classes. She reminded me of the time I drove to her house, past the markets on the street and the rickshaws, down the narrow roads. She said I got out of the car and declared I had now passed my real driver’s test—probably the most challenging!visiting in 1985

Dorothea was one of five siblings all of whom died before they reached the age of five. I remember her little brother, Barnabus, who died when he was about three. I recall us visiting a lot during those years and her mother Thelma’s deep depression after his death. This was one reason why Dorothea never left home, even after she married Robert Vanderputt who was a few years younger than her. Similarly, I married William Menezes who was younger than me. We had two children (Natala and Sheila), she had Sharon and Timmy. She left two grandchildren and one on the way. Thelma, her mother (my aunt), died at the same age and in the same way over twenty years ago. Dorothea died of a massive heart attack before she could reach a hospital.

Dorothea’s son, Timmy, came to America for a short course a couple of years ago and I talked to her on the phone. That was the last time I talked to her. She was worried about her adult married son being so far away from home and I reassured her. I teased her about moving from the Poonamalee area of Madras to Madhavaram. “That’s where the cows live,” I said. Madu is the Tamil word for cow. “Yes,” she said, “they still have cows here but there is a new development now with about twenty streets in it and that’s where we live.” Rare cousinly banter, which now is gone. We grew up together on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal as generations of my father’s family before us had. Although we spent more time apart than together, I will always miss you, Dorothea—my cousin-sister, as they say in India.

May you rest in Peace+.

PERSONAL NOTES: Sheila showing two beautiful photos of New York at the Sandbox Studio show and selling both of them! Natala in Las Vegas this week. Jessica is visiting while working here in Mountain View for a couple of days. Jasmine, after her year and 28 days World Tour (see her blog under Related Blogs in the sidebar), flew back to her Dad Jim’s wedding in Tucson last month. Eric—in America, celebrated his birthday in Auckland and again in New Orleans, having a double day flying in the right direction. Meta and David with their kids Caleb and Anna are now on their World Tour, first stop was Hawaii and now Sydney and beyond. (See David’s blog under Related blogs).

Our prince Brisbane, Brizzy, lording it in our hall. Tuvi and Angel are ready for their new cat sitter while we drive to Seattle for Thanksgiving via Portland. Cuba had an emergency spaying last week but is doing fine, and would love to show you her stitches.

Plans for a Fiftieth Reunion of the Breeks Class of 1957 are moving forward. Dates are December 27-30, 2007. Place: Udhagamandalam, Tamil Nadu.
For a listing of renamed Indian cities see Vinodh Krishna's blog.

Post a Comment