There are many things that comes to us a legacies – a house, jewelry, money, an old piano…..the list I guess could go on. At any case, legacies are of great importance, for they bind us to a past that is inherently our own and through which, in many cases, our identity derives from. The legacy might be part of the very answer, if not the answer of who am I?
So what am I trying to say here????
I am talking about legacies (Duh!), but intangible ones. I know many families have intangible legacies – legacies on which prices cannot be placed because, they are feelings, stories, tales of a house, handed from one generation to other, in forms of memories and wisdom. I too have a similar legacy – not tangible. (My grandparents came over as refugees, leaving all their possessions behind to escape religious tyranny, so really not much in terms of material wealth!) My legacy is therefore of – books! Not books that are handed down from one generation to another; how could my grandparents carry books when they could barely get out with their life and limb intact? It’s rather about tales and authors that have been favorites of the past and have been passed down to posterity.
Let me get to specifics –
My granddad, i.e. my mum’s dad, was an avid reader. One of his all-time favorite author was A.J.Cronin and his all-time favorite novel was The Citadel by the same author. Many years later, when my mum wrote her graduation paper at the University, she wrote about The Citadel. Fast forward another twenty years down the line, as I graduated from Nancy Drew and Ann of Green Gables (not that one ever gets over their love of these books) and hesitantly stepped into the adult literature, my mum told me to read The Citadel. Browsing through the school library, finally stumbling into a dusty corner, I found a copy of the book and reading it in the sunlit library, overlooking the lush gardens of my school yard, I knew I was linked to my grandfather, who has died so many years before my birth, in some indelible way. Till date, whenever I read The Citadel or any other works of A J Cronin, I feel that in some way I am reaching out to touch my inheritance – my literary inheritance.
Similarly, in 1930s England, my other grandfather, my dad’s dad was greatly inspired by the Fabian movement. A young impressionable student, he was convinced that Fabianisim was the way for a better future for one and all. He devoured works of Harold Laski and was completely in awe of this academic, from whom he claimed to have understood the very ethos of socialism, in his early years in England. My father however completed his education in Business Administration; however, he was a very active member of university politics and his speech during his University’s student body elections in 1964, is still remembered and borrowed heavily from Harold Laski’s essays from The New Republic. In 2005, I wrote my Master’s thesis critiquing Fabian Society and its politics, arguing against the very theory of Harold Laski. This too was and is part of my inheritance and like all inheritance, which consists of thing both likable and not so likable, my political beliefs and studies were in complete antithesis of my grandpa’s and dad’s political stand. But there is absolutely no way of denying that this too shaped my identity and my belief system and made me what I am – a very political creature. (Yes! I know this may come as a surprise, since in my gift of gabbing all over the blog over all these months, this relative “serious’ side of me never came out….but there is a time and place for everything!)
Not to procrastinate, the point that I was trying to make earlier is that all families have legacies. Some of these are simple and tangible and some much more ingrained and imperceptible. However the latter are very much part of the identity that one derives for oneself – consciously or unconsciously!