India, Real People, Teachers »
April 11, 2012 | 3 Comments | Betsy Woodman
Back to the correspondence between retired Madras schoolteacher Mr. P. A. Thiruvenkatachari and my dad, Everett Woodman. At one point, my parents were awaiting the birth of their fourth child. The family joke was that my dad wanted a baseball team and instead got a ballet troupe. Mr. Patch wrote, “I should be very glad to hear, by the next mail that brings me a letter, that you have a boy; not that I discriminate. As the rhyme goes, ’tis ever a joy to have a boy.’”
Patch himself had two sons and three daughters. From what he mentions about their education, it seems that he really didn’t discriminate in this area. One son was a doctor; so was one daughter. In the 1950s, his sixteen-year-old granddaughter was already headed for medical school, with Patch’s full approval. In his matter-of-fact attitude towards women in medicine, he was decades ahead of many Westerners, including my own family. (It’s worth noting that Madras Medical College graduated four women students as early as 1878.)
My mom gave birth to her fourth daughter, and Patch consoled my parents: “In the modern world a girl is in no way a discountable affair nor a boy a countable one. Children come into this world of their own accord and not according to our desire. Boy or girl, each one has a purpose to subserve in this world and the parents are only the means to help them in that. We need not discuss any more, but see the newcomer is facilitated in her further stages till she leaves your roof.”
He also had his astrologer draw up a horoscope for my new sister. The astrologer predicted that she would have a long life, beautiful eyes, and a talent for music. He also said that she’d make lots of money, but be a spendthrift.
Modern women were fine, but Patch still preferred them beautiful. Commenting on some family photos my dad had sent him, Patch wasn’t very flattering about me. “The leader of the regiment looks like Major Barbara…typical of a modern girl…. She puts on a manly appearance.”
Woodwomen, 1958. Major Barbara on the left.
Discussing my new Brownie Hawkeye camera.