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Mrs. Saraswathi’s diary

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Brahmin, married, one teenage daughter living at home. Educated to college level. Husband working for private corporation. Unusually this diarist had a small part-time job teaching the making of paper flowers. She also played the veena, as did her daughter, and, as the diary records, they all attended classical Carnatic music concerts together frequently. This diarist did not write an account of her religious observances.

Introduction

In order to find out how I spend my time, I am writing this diary. I used to write a diary daily [at] night when I retired for the day. That was when I was a student. After marriage, I could not do so, due to so many obvious reasons. After child birth, it went worse from bad. I could not even write letters to my friends. Inspired by Dr Patricia Caplan, I am writing this diary – and decided to write.

7th July, ’75 Monday

I got up at 5:30. Milkman came. I prepared coffee and breakfast for my husband who leaves home at 7am.

7:15: After he left, I dipped (soaked) clothes in soap. Started cooking (menu – rice, beans curry, carrot salad, ladies fingers sambar, curd). I read the newspaper.

8:30: I arranged for my daughter’s bath, plaited her hair. I gave her food and arranged tiffin carrier[1] for noon.

9:00: Daughter left home for school. I took a head bath with shampoo. It takes 20 mins for me.

9:20: Doorbell rang. Some strangers. They wanted to go to some other house. By mistake they came here. They did not know how to go. I directed them. They left.

9:30: I washed the clothes.

10:00 I took food and left for the [women’s] club meeting.

10:30: I got there. As treasurer of the club, [I am] asked me to collect the subscriptions. I did so. The meeting went on up to 12:30.

12:30: I went to my sister-in-law’s house to collect a necklace for my sister. She was not at home. So I thought I could do some shopping. I bought a schoolbag for my daughter. I bought ½ kg butter and some vegetables. I gave coffee seeds (beans) for grinding. I went back to my sister-in-law’s house. She had not yet come. I picked up some magazines from the [news]stand and kept reading.

1:30: I left her house. On the way back I took [collected the ground] coffee powder.

2:00: I got home. Prepared coffee for me. Within half an hour I finished preparing tiffin for my daughter, husband and myself (Rava uppuma and coconut chutney).

2:30: I sat to chop vegetables for the night.

2:45: I arranged the clothes I [had] washed in the morning and I kept them in their respective drawers.

2:50: Phone call from my friend. It is a long time since I saw her. She has come down from Delhi. She is going [back] on 17th. She wanted to meet me. She asked for a [paper] flower arrangement. I said o.k.

3:00: Evening milk came. Servant maid came. I gave her the vessels to be cleaned. She swept the floor. I supervised. I gave her coffee and food. She left.  

4:15 My daughter came from school. We both took tiffin.

5:00: I started cooking. After keeping pressure cooker on [the gas] fire, I plaited my daughter’s hair. She went to Veena[2] class. I finished cooking.

6:00: My husband came back from work. I gave him tiffin and coffee. We were chatting. I told him all about the club meeting. He asked [for] some details.

6:30: As we were chatting, a friend of his dropped in. I brought coffee and snacks for him. We three were talking.

 6:45: My friend who rang up this afternoon came. Again, I prepared coffee for her. As she wanted to go to a nearby shop I went with her.

7:15: We came back. My friend was chatting with my daughter. As she agreed to dine with us I prepared a payasam[3]) in their honour and fried papads. Finished.

8:00: We were all listening to records of Dr Balamurali Krishna [vocalist], Veena by Chitti Babu, MS Subbalakshmi, Flute by N Ramani[4].

9:15: We all sat down at the table] for food.

9:40: My friend went back. I finished all my kitchen work at 10:00. Till 10:30 I was reading some magazines and retired to bed.

8th July (Tuesday)

5:30: I got up, prepared coffee and breakfast for my husband. Helped him with his dress (clothes) and shoes, etc.

7:00: He left for factory. I took bath. Chanting slokas, I started cooking (chapathi, dal, beetroot curry, dal-lemon rasam, curd). I finished by 8:15. I went and gave rice and black gram dal to grind for tiffin for tomorrow to a friend who has got a big mixie[5] and she does it commercially.

8:15: I helped my daughter with her maths. She took her bath. I plaited her hair and fed her.

9:00: She left for school. I sat with the day’s newspaper. Vegetable vendor came. I bough some vegetables.

9:30: I washed all the clothes. Swept the floor. I took food and finished all work in kitchen.

10:30: A friend of mine came. A marriage proposal was [had been made] between my neighhbour’s daughter and my friend’s cousin. My friend came to gather details about the girl.[6] After some time she left.

11:15: I practised Veena.

11:45: When I was practising my sister-in-law came. I tape recorded my Veena recital  and her vocal music[7]. We listened to it. Recording was good. [We had a] Few comments on [our] Veena recital and vocal. We made a note to rectify the mistakes.

12:30: We went to my friend’s house. My sister-in-law wanted to buy her [the friend’s] house. While they were talking I went into the garden and plucked some beautiful flowers.

1:00: After drinking coffee we came back. I arranged the flowers in a vase and kept it on the stereoI prepared tiffin. My sister-in-law chopped the vegetables for me.

2:00: Evening milk came. We both took coffee and tiffin.

2:45: She left. Servant maid did not turn up. But, still, there was time [for her to arrive].As it was very early to start cooking, I decided to rearrange my Godrej[8] Bureau. I found some old letters (between self and my husband). I was lost in reading them. I forgot about cleaning and rearranging.

4:00: I came back to this world when I heard the doorbell ring. It was my daughter. After that, I gave up the idea of cleaning. I closed the doors [of the cabinet]. I gave my daughter tiffin and coffee. She went out to play. I arranged the clothes in drawers. I swept the floor.

4:45: I started cooking. When half done, my husband came from work. I attended on him. When he relaxed with some magazines I entered the kitchen.

5:45: When I was giving finishing touches to my preparations my cousin’s parents-in-law came. I welcomed them. When they were all talking I went out to get some fruits for them. That lady is very orthodox and would not take anything outside [the house] except milk and fruits[9]. The shop is nearby. I came back soon with bananas and mangoes. I cut and gave it to them. All of us were talking. My daughter came back from play. She washed her feet and lit the lamp in the puja room. She sat with her homework. My husband left with them to see his doctor friend.

7:30: As the servant did not come I cleaned the utensils (washed the dishes).

8:00: My husband came back. Phone call from Delhi from my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law. He enquired about his mother’s (my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law) operation. As I [had] visited my sister-in-law the previous day and she visited me back today I knew about the operation well enough to furnish him with details. As my sister-in-law is not on the phone he rings me up me every time. We talked for 10 mts. After that, my husband rang up [the] factory. When he finished the scooter mechanic came.

8:45: All of us took food. I cleaned the kitchen. I went and brought the ground batter from my friend who is nearby [who has the mixie]. I added salt to it and prepared it for the next day’s breakfast and tiffin.

9:10: I wrote a letter to my auntie who is in Bombay regarding the girl we interviewed [for a possible marriage] on Sunday for her son.

9:40: I painted some dry sticks for my Delhi friend and kept them to dry [to make paper flowers later].

10:00: We all retired to bed.

9th July (Wednesday)

5:45: Got up. Prepared coffeeand breakfast. Helped him [husband]. He left for factory.

7:00: Picked up the day’s newspaper and noted some addresses.

7:30: Cooking. Menu – idli, onion sambar, carrot curry, curd.

8:15: Attended on my daughter. Taught English to my daughter and her friend Ambika.

8:45: Neighbour’s servant came and wanted to borrow sieve. I explained about the dry (dried) flowers and asked [her] to bring a few for me.

8:55: My daughter left for school.

9:00: I went to take bath.

9:15: Washing the clothes started.

9:45: After finishing washing I went to a nearby laundryto give his shirts to press (for ironing) as I’m not good at pressing shirts.

9:55: Came back. I made some enquiries over phone.

10:15: After taking food, I went to a tutorial college to get a prospectus to study further.

11:00: I went to the stoltra class called ABIHIRAMI ANTHATHI (100 Tamil verses in praise of Goddess Parvathi). We learnt new verses and practised previous lessons also.

12:00: Came back with a friend from the class. Copied 4 or 5 horoscopes[10] from my file to my friend’s niece.

12:30: As I am teaching [the making of] paper flowers in a Ladies’ Club, I went there. 10 members are there. I got entangled in a confusion created by its secretary. I said I would teach [how to make] 25 flowers for Rs 40/-. She took it the other way, that is 40 flowers for Rs 25/-. How greedy people are! If it’s their money they explain 1001 reasons for it. If it happens to be others’ money, they just do not care about it. I said, what is there? (what’s the problem?). After all, it is an art. Even if you do not pay anything, I will certainly teach you. For I want to keep my word. We should earn that money. Money should not earn us. I am not a slave to money. My husband lost 1,50,000/- which came from his maternal grandpa. My husband put this money in his uncle’s name. (My husband lost his father when he was 3 yrs old). It is his uncle who brought him up. In order to give respect to him, my hubby did so (put the money into the uncle’s account). But this uncle cheated him. So, we are used to it. Let me proceed. I went to handle the class. I taught them 2 flowers in each class. Today I taught them Orchid and Sweet Flag. They are all very happy that I teach very well.

5:30: I came back home. As I started cooking, my husband came [back] from the office. He said no need for elaborate cooking. Idli and curd rice will do. So I took it easy. Till 6:30 I took rest. My daughter went to Veena [class].

6:30: I got up [and] lit the lamp in puja room. My daughter came back. Till 7:30 I was busy with a dry (dried) flower arrangement for my friend.

7:30: We all took curd rice. Finished kitchen work.

8:00: Retired. Felt very tired.

10th July (Thursday) 

5:30: As usual got up. Got coffee and breakfast ready for him.

7:00: He left. I took bath. Cooking. Till 8:30 I was busy cooking.

8:30: I attended on my daughter. She left at 9:00.

9:00: I washed clothes.

9:30: Took up the day’s paper. Finished it. Then read a Tamil weekly. Finished that.

10:30: I took food. My sister-in-law’s brother-in-law came. He wanted to ring up his wife in Bangalore. He was busy with the phone for 30 mts.

11:00: I gave him lemon juice. When we were chatting my sister-in-law and her niece came. We were all chatting about IIT[11]  admission etc etc

11:45: All left. As I felt very tired and painful all over my body, I decided to take complete rest. After locking all the doors, I slept. No one disturbed me.

2:15: Milkman came. Then again I slept.

4:00: I got up. Prepared Dosai (South Indians are very good in preparing Dosai) for evening tiffin.

4:15: My daughter came. We took tiffin. Servant came. Cooking (kool-kol kooltu[12], rasam)

5:30: My husband came from work.

6:00: My student from the Ladies Club rang up. She had a doubt (problem with the dried flower making). I explained and cleared [it up]. That took 5 mts. I lit the lamp.

6:15: My husband relaxed with some library book. I started the dry flower arrangement. Not yet finished. I required some more dry things. I opened my store room and carefully examined the collection. I selected something. After painting and polishing, I finished it.

7:30: His friend and his wife came to invite us for his niece’s marriage. They wanted the [same] photographer whom I [had] arranged a year back for my cousin’s marriage. I fixed up that photographer over phone. I gave them cocoa and biscuits.

8:00: They left. We took food. I helped my daughter with her homework.

9:00: We retired.

11th July (Friday)

5:30: I got up. As usual prepared coffee and breakfast.

7:00: He left for factory. Started cooking.

8:30: As I finished cooking, I had a glance at a Tamil weekly.

9:00: My daughter left for school. I took bath (had a shower) and started washing the clothes.

10:00: I took food and finished kitchen work.

10:35: I was going thro’ the day’s paper.

11:00: Went to sloka class.

12:00: Came back. As I have to go to the hospital in the evening at 4, I started preparing tiffin and cooking for the night.

2:00: Milk man came. I prepared coffee for myself.

2:30: I took a nap.

4:00: My daughter came from school. I explained everything to her. (She has to prepare coffee for Daddy). I went to Hospital to see my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law. Operation started and finished by 5:00.

5:30: My husband and daughter came to the Hospital.

6:00: We came back. Nothing particular.

9:00: We retired.

12th July (Saturday)

5:30: As usual things wenton.

7:00: He left for factory. I finished cooking.

8:30: I took bath. Washed clothes. Today is a holiday for my daughter. After [wards] [her] friend came I help[ed] them in [their] homework.

9:30: Friend left. We took food.

10:00: After reading newspaper, I prepared Idli for tiffin and started cooking for the night.

12:30: I left for the Ladies Club to teach them [the making of] paper flowers. It is very interesting to meet different kinds of people. Some are very sociable, some are very shy, some ask very personal questions… Everybody is a character. I taught them 2 flowers namely rose and oleander. I gave them homework also. For, it will not take much time if they do something at home [to practise]. Now they take 4 hours to do 2 flowers. Nobody can afford to waste time like this.

5:30: I came back. He came from work. He took coffee and tiffin. We went to a Music concert by Mr K.V. Krishnan[13].

9:00: We came back. Took food. Retired. 

13th July (Sunday)

5:30: As usual.

7:00: My husband went swimming.

9:30: He and my cousin came back.

10:00: We all took food.

11:00: I washed all the clothes.

12:00: I took the day’s paper.

12:30: I prepared tiffin and coffee.

1:45: As the tiffin was heavy my husband said only curd rice will do for the night. I said ok. I prepared curd rice for the night.

2:30: No work. I settled with kolam. Kolams are drawings drawn at the gate and in front of Gods’ pictures [in the puja room]. It is a custom in South India to draw kolam daily early in the morning, before dawn. There are so many rules for this (these) kolams (see below).

5:00: I got up. I dressed my daughter. I also got ready.

6:00: My husband, my daughter and self went to a [Carnatic] Music Concert by Mr T.R. Subrahmanyam. The concert was very good. He sang only ordinary Ragas, but extraordinarily well. To understand Carnatic Music and to sing, one must be really gifted. I explained some points to my hubby and daughter.

9:30: We returned home. Took food.

Kolam rules:

 

  1. Before drawing, we should wash the ground with fresh water mixed with cow dung.
  2. Before dawn, we should finish this. Otherwise, the Sun God’s mother curses us.
  3. To draw patterns, we should use only rice flour. Ants and crows which eat this rice flour will recommend to the Sun God that our land in the village should bring more and more prosperity to us.
  4. If the kolam comes out nicely, it is a sign of good luck.
  5. While drawing a kolam, we should stand facing West or East and not South or North.

(The note book [with above kolam rules was] borrowed from a friend of mine. I should return it as soon as possible)

14th July (Monday)

5:45: I got up as usual, my husband went to work.

7:00: I took bath. Started cooking.

7:30: Insurance agent came. I gave him the money[14]. He handed over last month’s receipt.

8:20: I finished cooking. My daughter took bath. I plaited her hair.

9:00: She took food. She left for school with her friend. I started washing the clothes.

10:00: I was reading the day’s paper.

10:30: My friend came. She wanted to practise slokas as we had to sing separately (solos) that day. We practised for a while. I took food.

11:00: We went to the sloka class.

12:30: I came back. My friend came with me. I prepared lime juice. We took [some]. We were chatting.

1:00: She left. I started cleaning the bureau. Phone call, but wrong number. I asked her [why] – having called me wrongly [by mistake] , can not she listen to my words? She said yes. I explained all about paper flowers and said, if she is willing, I would teach her. She said, she will think it over and ring me later.

2:30: Milk man came. Cleaning was over. I prepared coffee and drank. I started cleaning the chest of drawers also.

3:30: That was over. I prepared sandwich[es] for the evening. My cousin dropped in. I asked him to get me cakes from a nearby shop.

4:00: My cousin came back. My daughter came from school, along with her friend. They wanted to finish their home work. I gave them sandwich[es], cakes[15], banana and milk.

4:30: I started cooking. My cousin left. I helped my daughter with her home work.

5:30: I finished cooking. She finished her home work. Her friend left. She changed her dress [clothes]. Washed her face. Left for Veena class. I wrote a recipe for a famous women’s magazine, Femina[16].

6:00: My husband came from work. He was having a severe head ache. I gave him an Aspro tablet with coffee and applied Amrithkanjam[17]on his forehead. Rubbed nicely. He took rest. I posted the recipe.

6:30: My daughter came back from Veena class. We practised Veena for some time.

7:30: I woke up my husband. He did not want food. We both took food.

8:00: I finished my kitchen work. We pasted bonus stamps in the album. My daughter started studying, I wrote 2 letters to my friends.

9:00: We retired.

15th July (Tuesday)

5:30: I got up. My husband went to work.

7:00: I took bath. I started cooking.

8:00: I finished cooking. My daughter took bath. I plaited her hair. She took food, left for school.

9:00: I washed clothes. I cleaned walls, that is removing [cob]webs.

10:00: I took food and finished kitchen work.

10:30: My friend came along with his brother’s wife. She is setting up a new house in Madras as she is newly married. She wanted to buy plastic containers, clothes lines and so many other petty (small) things. They suggested Spencers[18]. I said it is costly. We can get anything in Luz[19]. So, we went to Luz. We started hunting. We bought so many petty (small) things. She wanted to learn embroidery, tatting and [making] paper flowers from me. I said ok.

1:30: We came back. I took the day’s paper and relaxed.

2:30: Milk man came. I prepared coffee and started tiffin.

3:30: I finished tiffin. I arranged clothes in chest of drawers.

4:00: My daughter came from school. We both took tiffin. I started cooking for the night.

5:00: I finished all my work. I copied kolams. My daughter also practised some patterns on a slate.

6:00: My husband came.

6:30: Again, I started copying kolams. There are so many patterns in that book.

8:30: We took food. Till 10 o’clock I copied kolams because that friend wants the book [back] very urgently. Somehow I finished.

10:00: We retired to bed.

16th July (Wednesday) 

5:30: I got up. Took bath. Prepared coffee. My husband left for factory.

7:00: I started cooking. Curd and buttermilk, sambar, lemon rasam, potato curry, Thengai pal (extract juice from coconut, mix with jaggery and bring to a boil. Add cardamom powder) and Vadai. Today is the commencement of Adi – fourth month in Tamil [year]. We celebrate it [by] inviting newly married son-in-law for dinner.

8:30: I finished cooking.

9:00: My daughter left for school. I washed the clothes.

10:00: Took food. Went to sloka class.

11:45: I came back from class. I prepared tiffin in a hurry as I have to go to the Ladies Club to teach [the making of] paper flowers.

12:45: I went to the Ladies Club. I met my old friend in the bus stand (stop). She was wearing a sari with attached tatted[20] motifs all over. I said it looked fine. As the design was a bit complicated (that is, it was padded) I wanted to learn it from her. She gave [me] her address and asked me to come to her house.

1:15: I reached Nandanam. 3 students had not come [to the class]. We were talking about the paper flowers and dry (dried) flowers till they came.

1:30: All came. Class started. I taught them 2 new flowers – gave them homework. During the class a lady came and asked whether she could also join the class. I said it will be difficult for her, because they are [now] doing the 13th flower and I said I will start [a] fresh class if she collects at least 6 members. She said ok.

5:30: Came back. Took tiffin. My daughter [had already] finished all other things. I thanked her. I said a few words of appreciation. People, at all levels, need words of appreciation, affection, and love. She went to Veena class.

6:00: My husband came from work.

6:30: My daughter came from Veena class. We all went to my cousin’s house. The previous day she had arrived from Bombay.

8:00: We came back from her house. Took food. My daughter did homework. I went thro’ the paper.

10:00: We retired. 

17th July (Thursday)

5:30: As usual.

7:00: My husband went to work.

9:00: I washed clothes.

10:00: I took food. Phone call. A lady from Ashok Nagar (a far off place) rang up. She said she is a member of the Ladies Club. She wants to learn [how to make] paper flowers. As it is far away I will ask my husband [whether I can go to Ashok Nagar] and let her know later. There is no direct bus from my place. What a demand for my class! My goodness. But I thought this time, I should make it very clear that the Fees are40/-. If I take classes, I need [some more] specimens. What all (everything) I did, I gave to friends and relatives. So I have to do [it all over] again. They will understand better if I show them the flowers I did. So I started doing flowers. I finished 2 flowers.

1:00: I wanted to clean kitchen shelves. I removed old papers and spread fresh ones. I washed empty bottles with soap.

2:30: I prepared coffee and tiffin. Went to hospital and handed over hot water, coffee and tiffin [to the sick relative].

3:30: I came home.

4:00: My daughter came from school. We took [ate] tiffin. My daughter went to her friend’s house to play.

5:30: My hubby came from factory.

6:00: My daughter did [had] not come [home] yet. I wanted to ring up her friend and find out [where she was]. But hubby said ‘no, let her realise her responsibilities. She’ll come by herself’. I said ok.

6:15: She came back. She started home work.

7:00: I finished 3rd flower. I helped my daughter with studies.

8:00: We took food.

10:00: Till 10, I did paper flowers. I finished 4th flower also. 

18th July (Friday)

5:00: I woke up my daughter to take oil bath. (In this Tamil month of Adi unmarried young girls and sumangalin[21] whose husbands are alive) should take oil bath and pray to Goddess Lakshmi). I gave her oil bath and I took an oil bath.

6:00: I prepared coffee.

7:00: My husband left for factory. I prepared food. We went to a nearby temple and offered puja.

9:00: My daughter left for school. I washed clothes, went to laundry to give pant (trousers) and shirts for ironing.

10:00: I took food. Read paper.

11:00: Went to sloka class.

12:30: Came back. Prepared tiffin.

2:00: Milk man came. I prepared coffee and took it to hospital.

3:00: I came back from hospital. I wanted to do paper flowers.

4:00: My daughter came from school. After tiffin she went to play.

5:30: She came back and dressed [up] and went to Veena class.

6:30: She came from Veena class and my husband came from work. We went to a Music Concert by T.V. Sankara Narayan[22]. We all came back with a redoubled spirit. Nothing to beat our Carnatic Music. We forget all our worries in the Music.

9:30: We retired.

19th July (Saturday)

5:45: As usual.

7:00: He left. No school for my daughter. I cooked food. My daughter helped me washing the clothes.

9:00: I read the paper. We took food. I started doing tiffin (idli with onion sambar). I asked my daughter to take hot water, coffee and tiffin to hospital, and asked her to be there till her daddy comes and takes her home in the evening.

12:00: My daughter left for hospital.

12:30: I left for Ladies Club. I taught them 2 new flowers namely Bells and Hibiscus. Gave them home work.

5:00: I came back.

5:30: My daughter and husband came.

7:30: Till 8:30 I did paper flowers. We took food. We retired. 

20th July (Sunday) 

5:30: I got up.

7:00: My husband left for swimming with my cousin.

10:00: He came back.  We all took food. I cleaned the kitchen. Washed the clothes.

12:00: I did paper flowers. Even though doing a thing continuously is quite boring, I will do [it] continuously because I will give up [doing] that if I lose interest in it. So I will finish a thing very quickly. Others wonder how I do things like this. But I have a weakness. I have understood it. That is my reply to them.

1:30: I started preparing tiffin.

2:30: After giving coffee [and] tiffin to my husband, self and daughter started for hospital.  When we first stepped out, his (her husband’s) uncle came. I spent 15 mts with him. We went to hospital. On the way I bought fruits (banana, apple and orange), cakes, biscuits, etc. I spent some time then [visiting] in hospital[23]. Tomorrow she will be discharged. They all thanked me very much.

4:00: We came back.

4:30: We went to a Music performance.

9:00: We came back. Retired.

* The banner photograph is of a group of women belonging to one of the organisations studied. It is not a photograph of diarists.


[1] Tiffin carriers are interlocking dishes which are used for food such as rice, curry etc. They are either taken to work or school by the person who will consume the contents, or a tiffin carrier boy on a bicycle delivers them at the appropriate time.

[2] Veena – a stringed instrument played in south Indian Carnatic music

[3] It is customary in south India to prepare a sweet porridge if a guest drops in

[4] These were all famous Carnatic musicians at the time.

[5] Food mixers, or processors, were just beginning to be used in some households at this time.

[6] She is referring to the negotiations around an arranged marriage

[7] In other words, the sister in law sang while she played her veena

[8] Godrej was a company which made furniture out of steel, such as desks and wardrobes.These were  very popular among the middle classes in Madras.

[9] Although the diarist is herself a Brahmin, and thus her food is usually acceptable to fellow Brahmins, a few highly orothodox Brahmins like the female visitor will only eat food cooked in their own homes.

[10] Part of the process of arranging marriages is ensuring that the horoscopes of both bride and groom are compatible.

[11] Indian Institute of Technology – these are run by the federal government and considered to be of a very high standard. Entry to them is very competitive.

[12] Vegetable dish cooked with rice

[13] A well-know vocalist at that time in the Carnatic tradition

[14] Some households pay insurance money on a monthly basis to an agent who calls at the house.

[15] The use of bread and cakes was relatively new at that time, and only done occasionally

[16] Femina was the first and most widely read of the new kind of all-India magazines for women – it was published in English.

[17] A kind of pain-relieving balm

[18] Spencers – at that time Madras’ only department store

[19] A bazaar  area of Madras

[20] Tatting is a handmade knotted lace formed with fine thread and a small shuttle of 3" or less in length

[21] Married women with husbands still alive

[22] A well known vocalist

[23] Presumably her sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, referred to earlier as having had an operation.