Saraswarthy Ganesan

A young Saraswarthy Ganesan (front right), Sri Lanka, 1942

Growing up

"We don't consider anything, we did what our parents asked, we didn't question, that is our custom, that is our religion, that is our way of doing you know.

Supposing a girl gets pregnant, do you know what she does? She goes and falls into the well and commits suicide rather than bring shame to her family. That happened. So, the parents used to be very careful with their children, and even when we go to school we go by rickshaw, and then we come home and close the door and stay.

When the postman comes my father will be outside or lying down in an easy chair and reading the papers, and you know, the postman is not able to come beyond the veranda, we had a veranda sort of thing, so he gives the letter to the father. We are not even allowed to get the letters from the postman. We were not allowed to have any contacts with anybody else, only our brothers, the uncles and aunts, close relatives.

We didn't feel that we didn't have freedom those days. Now we feel it! Now we think what a lot of things we have missed."

Getting married


Hindu wedding, East Ham Temple, London, 1994

"In those days just after the war, we couldn't get any saris from the shops you know, so we had to go to a place, where these Tamil Tiger leaders were!

There they used to do smuggling with Indians, they did business, smuggling business and they used to bring saris and things from India and they used to sell them. So my brother and sister had to go to that place and selected my sari.

Getting married, we wear either yellow or red. So the first sari was a red, what we used to call a "jungle" sari. "jungle" means silver and gold all over, and it had velvet and gold work on the sleeves of the blouse. So I wore a yellow blouse, with a red sari with gold work and silver work.

Later we have to wear the bridegroom's sari, because he says "Now you are not your mother's daughter, now you are mine". So he gives you the sari, the blouse, the skirt, the powder, perfume, hand mirror and everything. He gives it to you, you take it and you wear it and you come back with your bridesmaids. In those days no young girls, only married women came with us.

Nowadays young girls are coming out and serving, but we were not allowed to come out. The second sari was a "tissue sari", red and it cost 800 rupees, 800 rupees in those days. I had a brocade blouse, which was 165 rupees a yard. That was the fashion of those days.

Then when you are married and you go to the bridegroom's house. When you are there, the bridegroom gives you another sari and blouse. It was also a green tissue sari with a gold border, red and green and gold border, and you have to wear that sari to meet his people when they come to see you."

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