Remembering Muthubai Manay

Varalakshmi Puja Day was special for the Nagesh Rao Manay family in Bangalore. For me it was the one day that we made sure we made this trip from Richmond Town to 596 “Scindia House”, near Sajjan Rao Circle, Vishveshwarapuram, for it was the day we celebrated my paternal grandmother “Amma” Muthubai’s birthday. She was born on Varalakshmi Puja Day in 1903 – the date would have been 7th August that year.

Muthubai (Scindia) Manay
Muthubai (Scindia) Manay (Aug 1903 – 22 Sep 1994)

Dada and Amma
Dada and Amma

Every year, my aunts and cousins would make a scrumptuous lunch for the 150-odd family members who would be expected to visit. The day was generally not a public holiday, so those in jobs would walk in and out at various times, whenever they could escape from work. This was an occasion to catch up with my 35-odd first cousins of various ages, many of whom we got to see only at such family get-togethers. Relatives apart, there also used to many friends from various social groups of which my grandmother was a part.

A freedom fighter who was imprisoned during the Quit India Movement (recipient of awards from Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and others) she was very progressive in her thinking and a keen women’s rights activist. After marriage and with children, she studied to educate herself, and ensured that her 9 daughters all got degrees (I suppose it was taken for granted that the 4 sons would become engineers like their dad!). She discouraged 3-day weddings and even boycotted family weddings that were planned like that, while supporting inter-community alliances. In her old age, she made her first trip out of India, by herself, making friends in corners of the world with whom she kept in touch. One such friend from the USA visited us in Bangalore years later and she brought with her, a collection of 13 similar small bonechina containers, one for each of Muthubai’s children.

Receiving an award from Indira Gandhi
Receiving an award from Indira Gandhi
Amma with SMK
Amma with SMK

Dr Shyamala Ratnakumari’s piece about Muthubai Manay in Karnataka Itihasa Academy‘s chapter about the Marathas of Vishveshwarapuram, Bangalore tells much about her life, can be seen below and online here.






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