From Amma With Love

Abba Sali and Abbai Naidu

I was at a party the other night at a good friend of mine’s house for his granddaughter and was struck by an interesting thought. My friend and his wife are from Kerala, but they had people at the party from all over India and beyond. I heard people speaking Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Malayalam and English, even friends from the Middle East and South America .

It was so nice to see so many people from such diverse backgrounds happy together in each others company.

It actually reminded me of growing up in Madurai in the 40’s and 50’s when people of many kinds lived together harmoniously in the city. The title characters for instance, Abba Sali as he was called ( actually Abbas Ali ) was a prominent lawyer who was a devout Muslim. His wife strictly followed purdah, but used to come regularly to visit my aunt  and grandmother and discuss many things.


Abbai Naidu on the other hand was a person whose ancestors had long ago migrated to Madurai from what formerly was the Vijayanagara kingdom and though Telugu was their language at home, they spoke Tamil like the rest of us outside.

I had good friends who lived down the street from me who were called “Saits” and were  Gujarati business people who had opened up a shop.  Another neighboring family were Saurashtra,  a weaving clan from Gujarat who settled in Madurai, as it is a center for the fabric industry.

Then there was my friend “Christy” who was called that because she was born on Christmas Eve and was of course from a Christian family.

I went to school at O.C.P.M., Orlando Childs Pierce Memorial High  School for Girls, named for a gentleman from Connecticut, of all places. As I’ve written previously, the Headmistress of the school Miss Katie Wilcox, used to periodically visitor to our house to discuss girls education with my father.

This is what I think is a great strength of India, the diversity of races, religions, languages and cultures, that when they co-exist, make a wonderful tapestry of humanity.

That’s what made me very happy the other night, thinking about how this is reflected in our little community in Florida.