Roots and Connectivity!
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

In history we are invariably fascinated by royal family trees, the lineage of kings and queens. For hours we pore over the names of successive Mauryan and Moghul emperors or the Tudor and Stuart kings of England. Rarely do we wonder though, about our own family tree, be curious about who were our great-grandparents… or who are or were our uncles and aunts once removed.

Migration was not so common in the past in Indian society, though there is no doubt that Indians over the centuries have travelled and settled down in distant lands. For those of us who believe in our mythological past, Arjuna’s sacrificial white stallion for the ‘ashwamedha-yaga’ even travelled all the way to lands now identified as in South America (similarities in the Mayan temples with those of ours in South India) – and more proximate in time, to settle in Malaya-Singapore-Indonesia up to Fiji in the Pacific, to the islands in the Indian Ocean… to Africa, British Guiana, most countries in Europe especially England, and the Americas, Canada and Australia in the more recent past.

Even so, back in the old days people lived in close knit villages with close knit family ties – and they knew members of not only their own extended families, but also their neighbours and their relatives in turn. In urban areas too the joint family system ensured bonding and interaction.

Nuclear units and migrations galore in recent times have led to fragmentation and alienation. While most do not know who their second cousins are, some of us have not had the pleasure of knowing about or seeing even our first cousins. It is common experience to be encountered by elderly relatives and community members at weddings and family functions with exclamations of “Do you know who I am?....tell me who I am!” To make you wriggle in embarrassment, attempt wild guesses and finally admit defeat.

Family relationships matter more than we realise, notwithstanding that famous quote from the cynic: “God gave you your relations. Thank God He let you choose your friends!” Relationships give us a sense of continuity; of belonging. Getting to know about various aunts and uncles and establishing connections at times gives one a sense of security – not withstanding the fact that today a poor relative is conveniently ignored; and the art of claiming relationships is only when the subject you claim relationship with is a somebody you want your connection with him or her known around to gain your own importance.

Mangaloreans over the past two centuries of their identity as a unique individual community since the time of their forefathers’ release from Tippu Sultan’s captivity, have since been quite a close knit society with alliances and inter-marriages totally within its own members. And hence resulting in practically no one in the community being not related or connected to another Mangalorean. And among Mangaloreans especially till the pre-Independence generations, everyone knew everyone else, and we all grew up marvelling at our parents’ ability to instantly place anyone whose name got mentioned. And so there has always been considerable knowledge of one’s relationships and connections, even though at times some of us whose relations left the native town for better prospects in larger towns of Bombay, Madras and Bangalore, ended up creating Mangalorean pockets wherever they went. Not all of them always able to hold on to or keep up with their roots - with people like me around who have still not met some of our first cousins yet. And this problem has manifested in larger measure for those who crossed the seas during the 50s to the 80s to settle abroad and acquire citizenships there.

A heartening trend has emerged in the latter half of the last decade, with a tremendous surge for a community conscious identity among youngsters migrated to shores beyond the horizon. This surge, nudged in no small measure by the efforts of Dr Michael Lobo – a member of the community. A doctorate in Mathematics, Michael cast aside his plum professorial assignments in England and Mexico to take on himself since 1995 the task of compiling the encyclopaedia of the genealogical history of the Mangalorean Catholic families – most of whose identities, date back to their original migrant forefathers from Goa, some even up to the Hindu ancestor who first embraced Christianity.

Recently I had to visit USA to attend a Pereira wedding in New York – that of my niece Arema to Rodney George. The highlight of the occasion was the hovering family feeling thanks to relatives and connections from all over – India, the Arabian Gulf, UK, Canada and all of the Americas – who took pains to come. Almost all known before, some perhaps not met in the last 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years.

In contrast, at a second wedding soon after – that of a Mangalorean Andrade to a white American, ninety percent of Mangaloreans present I had not met before or known about. Before end of the day however, it was crazy how not one of them was left unconnected or unknown. In some form or the other, through direct relationship or marital connection, everyone’s family found linked with close ties either to a parent or grandparent, sibling or an in-law! The bulk of the lot, I found were linked to my maternal grandmother’s Lobo lineage, references to which in stray conversations overheard in early childhood were long forgotten memories of a bygone era. Amazing, we Mangaloreans are, in our inter-connectivity!

October 07, 2005: 950 words: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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