Anna Joseph: A Grandmother’s Intellectual and Moral Legacy

I feel blessed to have spent five days at Ammachy’s bedside, touching her and talking to her before she left us on September 14.  Being physical present with her reminded me in a powerful, palpable way of the enormous role she has played in who I am today.

Anna’s Namesake

Through her spirit, the physical strength she still had in her, her smell, her feel, and the personality she still exerted as best she could while surviving on IV fluids, I physically felt all the ties that bind me to her.  There is the wonderful intellectual and moral guidance that I was immeasurably lucky to have been born to receive from her. There are also all the emotional ties of a grandchild who learned to read, speak grammatically correctly, in a clean accent, think through, weigh and judge the world, from this wonderful person. And there are also the ties of childhood comfort, happiness, silliness, and meaningfulness that belong only to her.  I could not be luckier than to have been her grand-daughter and cherish that I am her namesake.

She was a deeply philosophical person who questioned and observed the complexities of life, but never allowed them to dissolve her into nihilism or uncertainty.  She possessed moral certitude and an unshakable faith in God’s love and Christian ethics.  She was a great observer of humanity, and in her reserved and implacable way she was a deeply self-assured and moral person.

Everyone respected her, but she was no blowhard.  She commanded attention but was never aggressive.  She stood her ground, and had the backbone to never sway.  Her command of the English language and literature was expansive. She quoted poetry and was quick to offer reflections and allegories from literature for any occasion–particularly the vicissitudes of Indian politics on which she wrote plenty of wry, activist commentaries in newspapers.   She had a humanistic outlook because of that intellectual background and a Christian outlook because of her faith.  She took the time to teach the humblest of students English conversation.  Nothing was beyond her, nothing was too low for her.

Ammachy, Anna Joseph, Baby

Ammachy, Anna Joseph, Baby

Writings by Anna Joseph I Want to Share!

I want to share with you a small sample of writings I retrieved from a jumble of fraying papers in the library of 249 (as we nicknamed her home) by both her and my grandfather, Rev. Dr. K.C. Joseph.  I marvel at their timelessness, the play on themes from a broad range of literature, the humanism, the activism against injustice and on behalf of the needy and poor, and the theologically thoughtful Christian belief that these writings demonstrate:

1) Caring for the Dying Patient, by Dr. K.C. Joseph (PDF, undated) (Ed: so touchingly written and so timely when I found it)

2) Children and Good Manners, by Anna Joseph (PDF, undated) (Ed: A MUST READ!)

3) Are You Mentally Healthy by Anna Joseph (PDF, Reprint from The Church Weekly, undated)

4) Learning to Love by Anna Joseph (PDF, Reprint from The Church Weekly, undated)

5) An 80th Birthday Tribute to T.B. Thomas by Anna Joseph (PDF, written out in her pearly hand, undated)

6) Austerity for Whom? by Anna Joseph (PDF, Letter to the Editor: Indian Express, undated) (Ed: on the hypocrisy of politicians)

7) An Indifferent Nation by Anna Joseph (PDF, Letter to the Editor, 1980s) (Ed: expressing outrage at an incident of Sati)

8) Politics at its Lowest Ebb by Anna Joseph (PDF, Letter to the Editor, undated) (Ed: on the role of Sonia Gandhi as a political leader)

9) Is This Democracy, by Anna Joseph (PDF, Letter to the Editor, undated)

About ansuseye

Blog writer and photographer
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4 Responses to Anna Joseph: A Grandmother’s Intellectual and Moral Legacy

  1. Sarah John says:

    Thank you, Ansu for doing this, and reminding us of the wonderful person Anna Joseph was. Those who saw her at the end of her life would not realize what a brilliant, witty, exciting companion she had been to those of us who knew her earlier.

  2. Silloo Daruwalla says:

    Hi Ansu,
    thank you for enlightening me about Ammu’s mother, whom i knew so little of- wow was she Brilliant!!and looks like her genes have been passed on even to her grand children.

    It was also very touching to read a grand daughter’s loving point of view about her favourite Grandmom.

  3. ahalya says:

    Hi Ansu,
    How wonderful for all of us that you could do this for people who knew her and people who did not know her. I will read each article of hers, I wish i had known her,through Ammu.
    Thank you, ahalya

  4. abraham verghese says:

    Thanks for these insights into someone who I knew was pretty remarkable, but it was nice to be reminded by her writing.
    Abraham Verghese (sajan)

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