Global families

My paternal grandfather kept on his dining room windowsill a bronze cast. If my memory serves, it depicted Shiva as the Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. It always fascinated me, for it was the first thing a visitor would see when visiting their home, passing it to reach their front door.

I had always wondered what my grandfather’s connection to India was, for his house was filled with many such artefacts and paintings. I have in my possession a pair of cufflinks from Calcutta’s Bengal Club, which became a source of amusement at university when I invented my comedic alter ego, Motheus Bow Esq. I long imagined some deep link to the land, romantic or imperial.

But, no, the explanation was rather mundane. It turns out that he was the director of a Hull manufacturing company for many years and travelled the world on their behalf as they set up subsidiaries overseas. The one in India was particularly challenging, so he travelled there a number of times for negotiations with the Indian Government. I guess that was in the 1950s.

My maternal grandfather was stationed in India immediately after the Second World War as an army medic. I have one of his lead-lined travelling trunks in my shed. He married my Irish grandmother, who came to England to work as a nurse in the 1940s. In the early years of their marriage, they lived not very far from where I do now in Buckinghamshire. They later moved up to Hull to open a GP practice there.

They had three daughters. The eldest would marry my father, the eldest of two boys. They met through a church youth club. Their two younger daughters trained in healthcare and were subsequently involved in Christian missionary work in East Africa for many years. Ours was a very religious family. The youngest daughter would marry an Indian missionary worker, whose family were from Chennai, then known as Madras.

My parents had four children, three boys and a girl. All the boys of the family continued our maternal grandfather’s tradition of marrying from the global gene pool. My eldest brother married his sixth-form crush, originally from Trinidad. My middle brother married a woman from Portugal. I married a Turk from the eastern Black Sea. Who knows what adventures the next generation will have.

This is the age of global families. Such families always existed in the cosmopolitan cities and trading ports, but international flight has opened up whole new worlds. We can now eat breakfast in London and lunch in Istanbul. We are all from somewhere else.

I wonder what tales our grandchildren will tell about their grandparents. What stories will they tell about me? Will they take their kids to see the places I met my beloved? Will they marvel at ancient landmarks, recalling strange artefacts on my bookshelves? Who knows what tomorrow will bring, in this age of the global family.

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