04 May 2013

The Treasures of Family Heritage

It is amazing what discovering your family roots can do for you! There was a time when I had lost my sense of identity and purpose in life. I was going through the worst time of my life and I needed something to motivate me to go on. During that time I remembered the things my mother told us when we were children about her Nani Aunties and their achievements.

I visited my uncle Leslie who had letters and newspaper clippings from their time. I read the biography of my great great grand Aunty Josephine Swaris. The other documents he had included a postcard sent by C.P Shukla, on behalf of Gandhiji from Karachi dated 9th July 1934; a reply to her sent by Ravi Varma, the 11th Prince of Cochin, Trippunithura, dated 14th September 1936; a letter of thanks for condolence from V.R. N. Naithyarammah, Springfield Palace, Nilgiris and the first page of a letter she wrote addressed to Gandhiji dated 1st October 1933 in which she reminded Gandhiji about his visit to her school in 1927! 

Mrs. Josephine Swaris, her husband Joseph Swaris
and niece Agnes Appoo

Information from the Newspaper Clipping on Josephine Swaris - my great great grand Aunt 

Ms. Mary Appoo, another great great grand aunt of ours was a religious who had resigned but still kept her religious dress and observed her vows. She was invited by Bishop Lavigne of Batticalao, Sri Lanka in June 1900 to come and start a school. She did so with the help of her own sisters says one report. Thus St. Cecilia's Girl's English School was started. This school was originally started by Fr. Francis Xavier in 1876 as a Tamil school. The English school was later handed over to the Cluny Sisters. Ms. Mary Appoo was known as Sister Mary Magdalene among the local people of Batticaloa. 

Ms. Mary Appoo, her niece Felicy Rosario
and women she mentored
Reading about their accomplishments made me feel proud of the heritage they left behind for us. I could see my own activities, my work with the children in Tulsiwadi and my doing social work in a better perspective after reading about them. It helped me get my sense of identity back! 

Moreover I am happy to reconnect with our family's history in Kerala again!!! Years ago, they had moved out of Kerala and since my father was in the Air Force, we traveled a lot. The result being that I missed a sense of having 'roots. My discovering our Nani Aunties and all the things I have learnt since has given me just that. I feel happy that I can relate to Kerala better now. 

It is good to know about the history of the generations before us. There is so much to learn and be inspired from... Thank God for their lives! Perhaps you should search your own family tree... there could be amazing gems in your family too!