Archive for November 16th, 2011

A True Roman

November 16, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)

 

 

On November 5 I received this message:

Dear mr. Ghosh,

My name is Anadi Mishra, I’m a Phd Researcher at the University “La Sapienza” of Rome. As you can guess from my name, I am of Indian origin, as my father, Laxman Prasad Mishra, came to Italy in the 60’s, where he married my mother, who is Italian. He was in Charge at the University of Venice (Ca’ Foscari) as Appointed professor of Hindi Literature, till his death, occurred in 1986, when I was only 14.

In spite of my brahmin father, I’ve been brought up as a western boy, speaking only  Italian at home, and came in touch with the Indian side of my family only two years ago, a long time after my father’s loss. I’ve studied Hindi and Indian history only at University, and I made out my Indian side only in my adulthood. Thus, my peculiar life path made me realize the deep complexity of owning a double nature.

I’ve written you this long prologue not only to introduce myself, but rather to explain and define the matter of my research: I’m involved in Identity issues, and the starting point of my PhD research is closely linked to your Ibis Trilogy.

The Idea took shape after a conversation with Francesca Marino, who suggested me the reading of Sea of Poppies. I was touched by the sensitive use of language, that you were able to articulate in several registers, painting a choral world, balancing dialects and English within your narrative texture.

Your ability to manage the language in order to reach the core identity of your characters, gave me the inspiration for my work, the University agreed to my proposal, and granted me a scholarship.

The temporary title of my research could be: The second Diaspora tells the first: The issue of Indian creolization through the lens of the Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh.

So, I started to breakdown several parts of your novel analyzing it from a stylistic standpoint, in particular those periods which in my opinion seemed to involve the narrator’s eye (for instance, by the use of the different registers of the third person, or the modulation of the spectre of language, from the Bhojpuri to the most novelistic English, across all its shadings).

I’m at the beginning of my research, which would be a two-sided work between a historical and social point of view on one hand, and a literary analisys one on the other.

I’m writing you this letter because I would like to take advantage of your next visit to Rome for the presentation of the Italian translation of “A River of Smoke” in order to bounce ideas off you about the purpose of my research, that is trying to define a crossing point between ancient and modern Indian Diasporas in a narrative “Meta-reality”.

I don’t intend to merely write an essay about your novels; I’d rather aim at using parts of your work in order to find a key for shaping a literary way to better define and circumscribe the issue of modern Indian identity.

I’ve tried to convey my thought as best as I could; I hope we’ll be able to keep in touch. However, I’ll certainly attend at the forthcoming presentation of your book here in Rome.

 

Best Regards

 

Anadi Mishra

 

I wrote back to say that I would be in Rome soon and we exchanged a few more messages.

And thus it happened that on the night of my arrival, I met up with Anadi and his partner Serena. They took me to a Roman trattoria and we spent a very interesting evening together.

 

Anadi’s story is an unusual one. His father was from a village near Jabalpur. He was a professor of Hindi, and in 1959 he took a teaching position in Venice. After a few years he moved to Rome where he remained for the rest of his life.
Anadi’s mother is Italian, and his was very much an Italian childhood. I asked if it had been difficult to grow up in Rome as a half-Indian child. No, he said, he had not been aware of any particular difficulties. He attributes this to the fact that he has a thick Roman accent.
Anadi never learnt to speak Hindi and never visited India as a child. He first went a few years ago and came away with many powerful impressions. I hope he will write about them some day.
Anadi is also a musician and plays percussion in a band. He recently sent me links to two videos:
He also sent me a touching letter about his father (below) accompanied by this picture.

 

Dear Amitav,

Today it’s the 15th of november, the definitive date of my father: he was born on november 15th 1931, and died  on the same day in 1986.I would like to take advantage of this date (with all thoughts derived by that) while I’m sending you this e-mail, enclosing some information about him.

My father Laxman Prasad Mishra was born in Narsinhpur, the son of Manulaal Mishra and Sita Bai Phathak. He had three male brothers (Ramji – the eldest one, who died at 20  –  Bharat Laal and Sharad Chandra, both younger than my father) and an elder sister, Mira, to whom my dad was very close, as she brought up the family after the early death of their parents.

All this line of the Mishra family doesn’t exist anymore. In the second generation the male Mishra are just two: my cousin Prateek (Chintu) and I. My cousin has a son, Amlan, so the future of the “clan” is safe. It seems I am the new Bade Dada, although I live in Italy, and I am a bit far from those customs.

I Enclose a scanned sheet of my Genealogical Tree, that Mini (Chintu younger sister) provided me in my last trip to India, and a Photo of myself and father at age 42.

Of course you can publish both the photo and letter on your blog, if you like. Regarding the Genealogical tree, I have to ask the permission to my relatives, as there are also their names, and I don’t know if they agree.

My father came to Italy in 1959. He learned italian across his stay, studying grammar, reading books and listening to Italian songs.

Dad was a great big man, with a warm, almost hypnotic voice; he was a terrific storyteller too: apart from the wonderful traditional tales about Gods and heroes of the Indian Mythology, I still remember the stories he used to tell me about his early youth. He painted himself as an inveterate gambler and smoker, and his funny stories invariably ended with my aunt Meerabai discovering his subterfuges and beating him up with her slippers…

But the end of his stories was always the same: the leaving of Auntie Mira from Jabalpur to Seonee,  made my father responsible: he first got his MA with honours, then got the chair of Hindi at the University of Marathavada. Only after a month, thanks to the descriptions of Italy of his beloved cousin Vajpaiyee-ji, who was settled there before him, he was inspired to come to Italy; after only a couple of  months, thanks to the invitation of Giuseppe Tucci, finally came to live here.

He knew my mother at IsMEO, (Istituto Medio Estremo Oriente), where he gave hindi lessons, meanwhile the University teaching. He married her, who was his student, in 1964. I don’t know the details of their love story, as my mother is very reserved about her private life, but it was no doubt a happy marriage . My sister Mira (!) was born in 1966 and myself in 1972. Dad took Italian citizenship in 1970. In 1975 he was appointed to the chair of Hindi language and Literature at the University of Venice “Ca’ Foscari” however he decided  to live in Rome, because it was the city he loved most: you know, Italy was a different country in the 60’s and 70’s….

My father published 12 books (written in three languages; he talked fluently Hindi, Italian, English and French, in addition to several  Indian dialects and languages), 10 essays, 23 articles and one recension. In 1982 Indira Gandhi invested him with the Vishva Hindi Sammelan, an international prize dedicated to those Indians who distinguished abroad. He was an effective member of the Nagari Pracharini Sabha of Benares, of the Societé Asiatique of Paris, of the Italian association of Sanskrit Studies, of the Ateneo Veneto, of the Centro Veneto Studi e ricerche Civiltà Orientali and was the first President of the Association Italia-India, settled in Venice, founded by him.

My father died suddenly at the peak of his career, in 1986 at only 55. He left an enormous emptiness in my life, but, at the meantime, the proud of an important name, and the responsability to carry it on.

This mail was  a middle-way between the family chronicles, Academic memories, personal remembering. Maybe I should thank you, because I didn’t keep my father’s memory so close for years.

Anyway, this is a short part of his history.

The other part is still living in me.

 

Hope to see you soon

 

Anadi Mishra

 

 



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