22 April, 2007

Maternal Uncles

Relationships are very important in man’s life. In Indian culture, maternal uncle relationship is something which binds a woman‘s family side and her in-laws side. Out of all the relationships this is the one which had attracted me a lot. A man has so many roles to play and what a great role it is to be an Uncle!

From my childhood I was very impressed by the Maternal Uncle roles. Luckily I have four maternal uncles. My mother was born with four sisters and four brothers. I would say their family is very lucky to have men like my uncles. They all have done great help to their sister’s families a lot.

Of course, my father too had brothers and they were of great help too. But this post I am dedicating it to all maternal uncles. My mom had a great maternal uncle and he was lovingly called as ‘Ram Mama’ by everyone. As far as I know, he was there in Central station to receive each and everyone of my relative who arrived to Chennai in those days. He trained me how to receive people. In those years say 70 or 80 years before, I was told the boys married their own nieces in India. Marriages within relationships were held, in order to create a binding among the relatives and distribute their wealth among them. Ram Mama was one among those men. My uncles must have been inspired by their maternal uncle and they happened to be very good in their role.

All my four uncles were great persons. I am lucky to have two of them still alive. My eldest one who is lovingly called as ‘AKD’ is above 90 and the second one lovingly called as ‘Venu Mama’ celebrated his 80th birthday last year. Two other uncles are no more. They were lovingly called as ‘Sesha Mama’ and ‘Kitchu Mama’. But I owe plenty of qualities I have achieved today to all my maternal uncles and other elders of my family.

I do not have words to describe their love towards their sisters. Their wives were never on their way, when my uncles cared for their sisters. This is a quality which women of younger generation should pick up from their seniors. One of my aunt who was issue less was widowed 30 years before and she is still taken care by ‘Venu Mama’ who himself has crossed 80 and his sister i.e., my aunt is above 85.

Girls get married and leave their parents to start their new life with an unknown family, or a little known man. After this, it is the brother who acts as a new way of communication to his sister and her family in our tradition. The brother carries gifts now and then to show that they still care and love their sister. Again they help her when she is in distress and share her joy and sorrow. I doubt whether many of us are able to do this in today’s world. I know at least few of my friends who try to keep up the tradition.

My uncles had never left our family in distress. In 1974 when my father expired suddenly it appeared as though none of my uncles will be able to participate in the funeral. But still ‘Venu Mama’ air dashed from Pune (comparing to all those air travel facilities in those days in India and the cost). I still remember that I was about to set the pyre on my father’s body and relatives requested to wait for few minutes, and there was this sigh of relief when we could see the white ambassador (MSL 2197..I think) approaching the burial ground. There my uncle stepped out to console our family and to represent my mother’s parents (who were not alive then).

Women should feel proud about their brothers who turn out to be good maternal uncles. Men should equally understand the responsibility and many culture and ethics are based upon the relationships in Indian traditions. My other uncles who are no more had done equally a lot of help to all our relatives and I am really proud of them. I have learnt a lot from my uncles and trying my best to keep my nieces and nephews in good spirits. I still doubt whether I could be like my uncles.

No wonder my mom who is in her late 70’s was talking about them last night and it brings smiles on her face whenever we talk about her brothers.

I thought this is something we have to learn.


arvindh said...

Wow you remember the car's license plate number after all these years!

I feel very close to my maternal uncles too. I am the firstborn grandchild in the family and had the privilege of being doted on by all three uncles before the other children came along!

Kavi said...

Maternal uncles are a treat! So are traditions into which one is born into.

Your post wonderfully captures our traditions and the roles of a bygone era.

The times now have changed. And uncles that kids of the new generation know are the ones that are called so for want of a better word !

Wonderful post ! Great reminscenses !

Jeevan said...

Maternal uncles are great. i am blessing to have 2 uncles and one was my well-wisher, who lived for our happiness and the life we live now is because of him.
My uncle shyam is younger bro of my mom who shared his childhood with her and done schooling at same school and very closer to mom, and have great respect with on his uncle (my dad is a maternal uncle to my uncle shyam). It distress me why he went soon to heaven (I am sure he would be there only).

For me he is a Hero!!

Rama Iyer said...

Rightly said.That was a touching piece.

My mama too is very special for me as we are to him. Even today, he takes pride in all my achievements how much ever trivial they might be. I remember when I was in Class 10, my Krishna Mama had come home and asked me to go with him to his place. I told him I need to take my mother's permission when he said he is my Ma-Ma meaning double mother :). He is all that and much more. He was the one who took us to see lots of movies and we went to 5 star hotels only with him.

My children too dote on their mama. This relationship is very very special I agree. Wonderful post

Anonymous said...

Uncles can be great. Not to dampen the spirit of uncledom here, but, I know quite a few people who were abused by their own uncles. Their innocence robbed and adult life ruined. Please do not brush this under the carpet terming it as one-off incident. Its pity that in India child abuses are not reported owing to family honour. If it is not reported, do not infer that it does not exist.

Dan said...

Very good post on a beautiful relaitonship. Me too have very good memories about my mama.

visithra said...

sweet - never had that though - u were lucky

Sundar Narayanan said...

My only uncle was asked to wait for days before he could see me because of my birthstar being Rohini! they told the poor chap that me being his first nephew it was bad for him.. My granny still tells me stories of how they sent him through all the "pariharam" stuff.. they couldnt have been farther from the truth.


Loga said...

Good to read about ur uncles..I have also three uncles..and i m close to all 3 of them, Any problem in family, my eldest uncle is on the spot to help...

Balaji S Rajan said...


I know how a first grand child of the family would have received attention from both the sides. Oh..yes I remember the car driver too. He became very close with our family. I wanted to see him even last time when I visited Madras. But did not have time.


Yes.. maternal uncles are a great treat. I agree with you with the present generation too.


I know you must have enjoyed. Because you had already mentioned in your earlier posts about this uncle who passed away.

Balaji S Rajan said...


I agree with you. Uncles are great. Glad to know that your kids are having their fun time with their uncle.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Every coin has two sides. I do not say no. I could only pity for those bad experiences.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Is it? I knew that you should have had similar experiences.


It is sad that you were not lucky to have a maternal uncle. They are lovely I tell you.

Balaji S Rajan said...


I pity your uncle. Yes uncles do have to under go few things. I think there is a belief that if the child is born in a particular star it may affect the uncle. Oh... I remember that when my wife was carrying my first child, my in-laws were worried about it. LOL.. Also do you know the crazy idea that if you lose one tooth in the childhood, get a coin from maternal uncle and rub it on the surface of the gum, the tooth will come quickly. LOL... Probably you can tell this as a story to your daughters.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Nice to know that you have great uncles who are there whenever you need. They are wonderful!

Dubukku said...

nice one. on the lighter side...Kizhakku cheemaiyile Vijaykumar dialogue ketta mathiri irundhuthu :)) (just kidding)
I being an uncle myself know what a special relation this is .

I liked your previous post. Excellent photos :))

Balaji S Rajan said...


Truly.. I was very impressed by
"Kizhakku Cheemaiyile" Vijayakumar role. Having lost my younger sister, and wanting for a change I preferred to go for a movie. Kizhakku Cheemayile was just released and not knowing anything about the movie I went to watch the movie. It was like adding fuel to the fire. I became more emotional. It was one of the best film by Bharathi Raja.

Barbienan said...

This is so true balaji, my uncle was not in talking terms with either of his 4 sisters but now finally he attended my brothers wedding and i could see that great joy in my mom's

Balaji S Rajan said...


WOW! that is fantastic. Should have been a great re-union.

Kavi said...

Hope you are doing well ! Its been some time...

Balaji S Rajan said...


I am fine. Thanks for your enquiry. Pretty busy with work and hectic schedule. Should be back to normality.

Deepthi said...

in most of the families boy children are molded by their maternal uncle.. you can see many guys having characters, behaviors, attitudes similar to their maternal uncles..

Ravi said...

Balaji Sir,
Nice post and I amazed by the details! I think the importance of "thaai maaman" in our culture is very high and even today most rituals require the presence of the maternal uncle or atleast someone in his 'sthaanam'.

deepthi, I think that is in the gene as well. Infact I know a few who resemble their maternal uncles.

prabukarthik said...

One of the very few, if not the only relation, i admire and respect.
Could not agree more!

Kittu said...

very true balaji. everyone for sure would have great memories about maternal uncles. they are in a way our heroes in many aspects in life. but i would saym, the maternal uncle these das are drifting away from that very tendancy of helping the families in distress. i liked all your mama names particulary kitchu mama :)

a nice post that you've given. not many have talked about uncles and this is a very good one.

Balaji S Rajan said...


I agree with you. You can consider me to be one among them.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Thaimaman culture is something great in our tradition. I am the only brother for my sisters and I know the relationship and how important I am for my nephews and nieces as my uncles were for me. It is wonderful relationship.

Balaji S Rajan said...


Well said in a line.


Oh..is it? I understand the uncles of today. I do not know who is to be blamed. We too liked our mamas names and I still remember the pride on my mother's face whenever she talks about her brothers.

"Kitchu Mama" was liked by every youngsters in our house because he was the youngest of all other uncles.