Our trip to my husband’s ancestral village has prompted many a conversation about his Indian roots and heritage. Ram’s ancestors were Rajput, from the area of what is now Rajasthan. Rajput is derived from the Sanskrit word raja-putra meaning son of a king. They were ruling Hindu warier land owners. His ancestors relocated to the Indian State of Bihar due to the Mogul invasion somewhere around 1560. Has family has been in Rahmatpur, for five or six generations.
Ram’s father was a typical farmer, wealthy in land and poor in money. Ram’s mother was fourteen when she married, an arranged mirage. She continued to live with her parents and would visit her husband from time to Time until she was older sixteen or seventeen. Though she could not read she knew every inch of her property and where and when to plant each type of crop. She worked alongside of her work hands until they begged her to stop due to their exhaustion. She was most unhappy when her husband sold her gold jewelry to purchase more land. Now I know why there has never been a piece of property my husband did not want to buy.
Ram was born he thinks in 1945. There were no birth certificates at the time. India was under British rule. As Ram so well puts it, “The British could have cared less about the birth of another Indian baby.” Ram’s younger nephew, Jeevan thinks he was born in 1945, so it seems Ram may be two years older than previously thought.
Rahmatpur was starting to become more crowded and during Ram’s childhood. Realizing that in the future their land would not be able to support the growing population, his father became the laughing stock of the village when he decided to spend scarce money to educate his two sons. His mother was also upset knowing they would probably leave the village leaving no one to manage the farm. His elder brother, Ram Singar Singh was sent to Patna for his education. This opened his eyes to the many possibilities beyond village life. Ram has fond memories of his brother coming home to visit always bringing a book bag and candy. Ram Singar later became Secretary to India’s Health Minister, the equivalent to the Secretary of Health in the USA.
Ram qualified to go into the Indian Air Force. However this required a mother’s signature which she refused to give. Instead, Ram obtained his engineering degree at the insistence of his father. By the time he finished his degree, jobs in India were scarce. With thirteen dollars in his pocket and a one way airline ticket he came to the USA and lived the American Dream.
Now, he has come full circle. Our visit to the village confirmed that his father was right. The land of his cousins has become overpopulated and living for many is not easy. Once open spaces and the play field are now crowded with homes. The village is no longer laughing.
|Ram's childhood home once stood here. This is taken from the second story balcony of the home his elder brother built. This is where the barns once were.|