Razor Sharp Mind at Ninety-three ~ Great Granny Vedula Satyavati from Andhra

by on July 5, 2013


Satyavati - Wisdom of Elders

At 93, with her razor sharp mind , there is not much that misses her eye, and her words flow effortlessly and eloquently. She enjoys a good conversation and passionately talks about traditional recipes. She can even instruct her cook on what to do in the kitchen, while she sits in the living room. Her instructions are clear and her assesments thorough.


When I first met Mrs. Vedula Satyavati, she seemed amused by my questions about her life and interests, but once she realized I was serious, the dialogue flew effortlessly. She spoke in Hyderabadi Hindi since I do not know her mother-tongue Telugu. Recipes and anecdotes were interwoven in the dialogue, leaving me speechless at her sharp memory.


A mother of 6, grandmother of 9, and great-grandmother of 10, she takes a keen interest in the well being and activities of her entire family, expressing pride at their achievements. As our conversation proceeded, other members of her family, like her children and grandchildren, were drawn to where she sat. She paused every now and then to ask for a particular thing to be shown to me, like a photo frame or the spinning wheel so that I could get an authentic feel to the way life was in the days of her past. Here is a glimpse into our conversation.


Tell me about your childhood and can I call you Ammamma?
Yes, Ammamma means maternal grandmother. I was born in Kakaraparru village in the West Godavari Dt. and grew up in a large family. You may not believe it but I was married at the age of 7 to Shri Vedula Narasimha Murti. He was 14 at that time.


Really! At seven?
Yes, but I continued to stay in my parent’s house and went to his house when I turned 12.


Even then, you must have been so young?
Yes, many of my siblings and cousins married at a young age. Later on, the Government introduced the Sarda Act which abolished child marriage. After that, girls in our families were not married before their Rajaswala, which means, onset of menstrual cycle. (This act, also known as the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 fixed the age of marriage for girls at 14 and boys at 18. It was one of the major social reforms at that time.)


At that age, did you know cooking and other household chores?
We learnt by watching our elders. No one wrote down recipes, we saw our elders cooking and preserved the knowledge in our memory. I still remember how I used to go and play in my aunt’s house and see her cooking. In fact, I was more fascinated by her cooking than the games we were playing. She was an expert at making the sweet dish Mysore Pakku. I would ask her countless questions and she would patiently answer them. Later, when I returned home, I imitated her by cooking in my toy vessels.


Do you remember how you adjusted in a new household at the tender age of 12?
Actually my mother-in-law was my father’s sister. She was a very affectionate and caring woman. Hence I found no difficulty in my new home.


Fwd: Images of grannies

When did you move to Hyderabad?
When I was 18, my husband was appointed as a lecturer in Vishakapattinam where we lived for almost a decade. And then we moved to Bombay. We also lived in Nigeria, Thailand and Indonesia, and have been living in Hyderabad since 1977. He passed away more than a decade ago.


A special childhood memory!
I remember how all of us used to spin khadi in those days. I also remember that my parents entertained a lot of visitors, many of whom were great political personalities. A very special moment was when I met Gandhiji at Wardha in 1941.


I can see the spinning wheel in that corner; who spins now? Did you wear khadi sarees?
Yes, at that time we wore khadi more than anything else. Patriotism was an integral part of our lives then. Later, I taught my children to spin khadi. It was a compulsory practice on national holidays. I also taught other children in the village to do so. Now my grand-daughter Annapurna works with handloom weavers. Everything was different back then, it was another way of life.


Your view about changing times!
Not only do things change, what we like also changes. Back then, we liked that lifestyle. Now the present way of life has its own appeal. Earlier young girls wore frocks and later pavade-dawani (long skirt with half-saree). But now there is make-up, hair styles and so much to choose from. Also relationships were different. Earlier children listened. But now they think for themselves and do as they think.


Do you correct the younger generation if they behave or dress inappropriately?
No, I think it is better to accept the change and not to say anything. They now do as they please. They also know to think for themselves.

Photo Courtesy: Harmony Magazine.


First published in July 2013 in Harmony – the Indian magazine for silvers for the column – The Great Granny Diaries. Part-2 of this post is Minapa Rotti, the traditional Andhra recipe from the kitchen of Vedula Satyavati. She is the 11th grandma featured in this column.


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