13.09.12 - His last photograph

Grandpa's brother, Nagarathma with his colleagues in Burma

Mom is a collector of things. I have always remembered looking through photographs from her vast and eclectic collection as one of our favourite pastimes at home. Her wedding album is her most priced possession among them, although it lives a tattered existence. It even has its own distinct smell. It is a hand-made, red rexine covered carefully stuck collection of BW photographs-a proof of the event. She tells me that not many people made it to the wedding since there was a bandh called on the D-day.

Among her other photographs is this one of her father’s elder brother, taken on his way to Burma. Here is what my mother has to say:

“The person in the center is Mr.Nagarathnam, elder brother of T.J.Raman, my father. He is flanked on either side by his colleagues.

Nagarathnam’s parents (my grandparents) were originally from Thiruvallikeni in the then State of Madras but moved to Burma during World War I. Nagarathnam first worked as a representative of the Prudential Life Assurance Company before he joined the Railways as a clerk. He was on his way to Mandalay on a business visit by train when this photograph was probably taken. It is believed that during the travel he was chocked by a piece of guava which he was consuming. He was rushed to the Maymyo Hospital where was declared dead due to heart failure. He died at 30, the very next day after this photograph was taken. The handwriting behind the photograph, in black, is of my father’s.

The Telegram announcing his death has been preserved too. Nagu was Nagarathnam’s nick-name.”

Telegram of Nagarathnam's death from a Mandalay hospital

81, This was his last photograph: Indian Memory Project
In fast-changing India, preserving what came before: The Washington Post 


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