Silent Generation and Baby Boomers recall surviving through disease outbreaks and wars

For many individuals of their 20s, 30s and 40s, the previous few days have maybe been essentially the most eventful section of their lives, as we collectively witness the world battling COVID-19.

But what about these of the Silent Generation (1925 to 1942) and the Baby Boomers (1943 to 1964)? Most of them had been alive when India bought its independence — many, regardless of being too younger to make sense of it then, have pretty vivid recollections of the time now. There had been different subsequent episodes of social drama, lots of them threatening their livelihoods and lives, that they witnessed. We ask them for his or her tales:

A disease outbreak, ages in the past

“Looking at the recent news reports, I could only think of the time when my village in Thiruvannamalai was struck by the plague and smallpox,” says V Balambal, 87, from Chennai. “It was sometime between 1942-47. Residents were throwing out everything from their house — from vessels to even the thatch of their homes — you could call it the disinfecting of the olden days.”

Mass vaccination marketing campaign was launched in Madurai in 1962
| Photo Credit: K_APPAR

“I did not know what smallpox was. I only heard that someone living on the same street had contracted it. I was strictly prohibited by my mother from visiting that house. But curiosity got the better of me. What I saw that day — a woman with a severe case of smallpox — is still etched in my mind.”

“Everyone was confused, they didn’t know find out how to take care of one thing like this. With livelihoods misplaced, many households had been ravenous. My father, who was a farmer, made on a regular basis journeys in his bullock cart to a selected spot within the village. He then used to distribute rice, pulses and ragi to individuals utilizing his marakka (a measuring cup) freed from value.”

V Balambal

V Balambal  

“I never thought I would see something like that again. And yet, here we are. I see people walking several hundred kilometres to their hometowns. I only hope there is someone like my father who can help them.”

By Preethi Ramamoorthy

Shielding the home windows

If ‘lockdown’ is the phrase recurringly used within the time of COVID-19, then ‘blackout’ was the buzzword through the 1965 Indo-Pakistan conflict. A Premchand, 72, remembers sticking newspapers on all of the glass home windows of his home in Bengaluru. “We were instructed to do this and promptly all windows were taped up to prevent flying glass from the potential bomb blasts. The blackout lasted for about two weeks,” he remembers.

Indian troops on the move in Kashmir against guerilla forces during the second war over Kashmir.

Indian troops on the transfer in Kashmir in opposition to guerilla forces through the second conflict over Kashmir.  

Premchand was 17 then, getting ready for his exams at St Joseph’s College. “Like the lockdown we are experiencing now, we were not allowed to venture out after 8 pm. So, I would just sit at home and study.”

A Premchand

A Premchand  

Premchand additionally talks about how the circulate of data was restricted through the 18-month Emergency (1975-77). “All newspapers were heavily censored. Some dailies came with just three or four pages. And, there was no TV back then. Apart from the papers, the only information we got was through the radio.”

Despite residing through these extraordinary phases, the COVID-19 outbreak, Premchand says, “is new for me. I feel it’s like the Third World War.”

By Praveen Sudevan

Food scarcity through the Second World War

KN Anantharamaiah, now 87, is the president of BTM Cultural Academy. He needed to cancel the academy’s music programmes because of the COVID-19 lockdown. In his close to nine-decades of life, the lockdown because of the pandemic, he says, is a rare section.

KN Anantharamaiah

KN Anantharamaiah

But it’s not the primary time he’s seeing such occasions. Anantharamaiah remembers with amusement how his household lived throughout wars with out steady electrical energy. “We would get half a bottle of kerosene per family for a week. And, we had to manage both cooking and use it for our lanterns. Food shortage during war introduced South Indians to wheat flour for making chapatis. Rice and ragi were our staples till then,” he says.

He was in center college in Tumkur in 1945, when the Second World War was nearing its violent climax. “There was an acute scarcity of pulses, cereals and different meals grains. I bear in mind accompanying my father to ration outlets the place we might stand for hours for getting imported Siam rice. My mom would usually make enjoyable of this rice that bought simply mashed when cooked. ‘The Government provides rice for making payasa!’ she would joke even throughout these troubled occasions.”

By Ranjani Govind

A Pakistani soldier aims his rifle as a fellow soldier runs for cover during Indian shelling of Pakistani positions in the Jessore area of East Pakistan.

A Pakistani soldier goals his rifle as a fellow soldier runs for canopy throughout Indian shelling of Pakistani positions within the Jessore space of East Pakistan.

Bombay in peril

During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 — remembered by Bangladeshis because the Liberation War — R Venkatanathan, now 74, travelled practically 40 kilometres day-after-day to achieve Fort from Nerul in Mumbai. “I remember the blaring sirens when we were asked to lie down on the road in the crowded VT [Victoria Terminus] once while returning home. Thankfully the panic was cleared as the enemy planes were chased away by our Army,” says Venkatanathan, who was working for the Reserve Bank of India on the time.

R Venkatanathan

R Venkatanathan  

Venkatanathan is now the secretary of the NGO, SOCARE, which takes care of kids of life-convicts in Bengaluru.

Middle-class individuals like him in Mumbai, he says, have needed to face many troubled occasions. “During wars, we had a scarcity of rations. Restaurants would be closed in the financial capital swarmed by people. Even marriages would have only 25 people attending. The worst was our wardrobe — it hardly contained two or three pairs of pants and shirts. We had to wash our clothes every day, so that we would have something to wear for the next day,” remembers Venkatanathan.

The occasional violent rains in Mumbai wreaked as a lot havoc because the wars did, if no more, he reckons.

By Ranjani Govind

Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral

Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral

A schoolboy’s account of Gandhi’s assassination

“The one thing I vividly remember about Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination is the radio broadcast about the incident,” says A Prasanna Kumar, an 84-year-old resident of Visakhapatnam.

Born and raised in Machilipatnam, a metropolis in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, Prasanna Kumar says that the entire metropolis went silent on listening to the information. “Nobody waited for the Government to announce a holiday. Everything was shut voluntarily. As school kids, we did not understand the gravity of the situation, but I knew that something terrible had happened as we were instructed not to make noise. The whole city was in a state of shock and there was pin-drop silence,” says the professor who moved to Visakhapatnam 65 years in the past to affix Andhra University.

Professor A. Prasanna Kumar
Photo: K.R. Deepak / The Hindu

Professor A. Prasanna Kumar
Photo: Ok.R. Deepak / The Hindu
| Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

“People mourned his death the way families mourn the loss of a dear one. I remember friends and family who fasted till the cremation was done. Prayer meets were held everywhere. Newspapers flew off the stands as everyone wanted a copy. People were glued to the radio as they waited for details and commentary about his cremation. Unfortunately, as a kid I did not understand the magnitude of the situation; for me and my friends this loss meant a school holiday,” he provides.

By Aishwarya Upadhye

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