Grandmothers and granddaughters

My grandmother had a diary; it was published by, most probably, the Publications Division of India (and has a dark sandalwood coloured hard cover with slightly brown and rather thick pages). In it, in no order, in our childish crawl and using different pencils sharpened to various levels thickness (pens are supposed to spoil the handwriting — so, we wrote in pencils till we were in sixth standard or so — in other words, you have to go to high school to earn the right to write with pens — even then, some of the teachers were upset if you used a ball point pen, which, again, is supposed to spoil your handwriting, while, some still bemoaned the disappearance of pencils from the high schools — while the leaky pens spoiled our dresses and note books with blotches of ink), we used to put the date, name of the person to whom either she lent money or owed money. Once in a while, we had to pull the diary out of her trunk box (below all those old sarees — black, dark green and deep blue “chinnaalap-pattu”) and read her current financial situation to her. In between blank pages, and our crawls in no particular order (sometimes you have to browse through the entire diary to figure out the latest information), there were photographs: those were the photographs of Nikita Khrushchev and Bulganin, landing in India, getting garlanded and at various Indian cities. I do not remember the Indian leaders in the photographs; it probably was Nehru since I think the visit was sometime in the mid-1950s. Any case, I have a vague memory of the two looking like Laurel (Khrushchev) and Hardy (Bulganin). Any time, somebody mentions Khrushchev, it reminds me of the diary and my grandmother. This piece in The Economist about Khrushchev’s granddaughter and her remembrance of Nabokov is no exception; link via Maud. It might not interest anybody other than me; but, I thought that Khrushchev’s granddaughter remembering Nabokov reminding me of my grandmother is too cool not to be mentioned in this blog!


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3 Responses to “Grandmothers and granddaughters”

  1. gaddeswarup Says:

    Nice article. I particularly liked this bit:
    “Nabokov and his works, Ms Khrushcheva explains, taught her “Westernisation”: how to be an individual in a place that lacked a state ideology to provide form and meaning to life. “How to be a single ‘I’ instead of a member of the many ‘we’ in that vast undifferentiated traditional collective of the peasant commune, the proletarian mass, the Soviet people, the post-communist Rossiyane [Russian nationals]…He kept his soul without having to remain backward in order to do so.””
    I remember (vaguely) the Krushchev-Bulganin visit. I think that they landed in Calcutta and a million people lined up the roads to greet them. There was a cartoon in Shankar’s Weekley with Nehru saying “This is our bumper crop”.

  2. Guru Says:

    Dear Swarup,

    It indeed is a nice article; generally, the pieces that Maud Newton refers to are very good (as also the ones that Jenny Davidson links to).

    I think your memory about Khrushchev-Bulganin visit to Calcutta is correct; see this (kind of lopsided) report in Time, December 1955.

  3. Subodh Mathur Says:

    I am the Editor of, where we are collecting all sorts of Indian memories, particularly personal memories of our grandmothers and grandfathers. Please visit the site, and make a contribution.

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