The Role of Health in my Maternal Line: The Rekindling of Lost Bonds
Throughout the years, people have become increasingly interested in discovering more about their ancestry. DNA testing has now made it possible for individuals to track their ancestors’ migration patterns. I have never had any doubts that my ancestry was one hundred percent South Indian; however, I was still very excited for the opportunity to learn more about my ancestors’ migration patterns. While growing up, I had countless disagreements with my parents over the implementation of forced arranged marriages as the norm in South Asian culture. Marriages were made based on similar family and financial background, those who ventured out of this norm were stigmatized in society. As a result, I did not expect any ancestry but South Indian in my DNA.
As I expected, my DNA test revealed that I am indeed one hundred percent South Indian. My maternal haplogroup demonstrated that I belonged to haplogroup J1b1. Individuals belonging to the J1 haplogroup migrated from the Middle East to the West and North, passing through Europe for thousands of years. I was surprised to learn that my haplogroup J1b1 is very uncommon and that it traced back to a woman who lived approximately 14,000 years ago. Unfortunately, my genetic test was unable to reveal what my paternal haplogroup due to there not being a traceable Y-chromosome. My data from search engines and family interviews have all pointed to the fact that I am purely South Indian. This project has given me the incentive to learn more about my family members and the factors that played in shaping their identity. The findings from my family interviews have allowed me to draw parallels between my generation and the previous generations in my family tree. I have learned that the topic of health has played a major role in my family.
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Health after Marriage, 1968, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh
Paripurnaa Gutta was born on July 19, 1947 in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. She was the second eldest of her four siblings, unfortunately, her oldest brother had suffered from a lifelong leg injury after escaping from a madman, thus, she spent her early years taking care of him. From a young age, Paripurnaa was very free-spirited; her father was one of the richest men in the village and as such, she was treated like a princess. In 1962, Paripurnaa was married off to a man who was 11 years older than her; she was 14 at the time. She had just passed 10th grade and most of her female friends were already married or looking for prospective matches. Suggestions from mutual friends and relatives led Paripurnaa Gutta to be arranged to marry Krishna Rao Venigalla. The two met for the first time on their wedding day, which was done in a very extravagant manner in a small village in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. Two years after her marriage, she gave birth to her first child at the age of 16, a second child at the age of 18, and her final child, my mother, at the age of 20. In 1968, after the birth of her third child, Paripurnaa’s long list of health problems began. Her third pregnancy took a heavy toll on her body; she would constantly faint when she would spend too long on her feet and she had horrible bowel problems. She spent five long years bedridden, her inability to move from her bedroom led to a large disconnect between her and her children. Her early days where she would play sports and sew blouses with her neighbors were long gone. It wasn’t until 1974 when she discovered Ayurvedic medicine that she stepped out into the world again.
It wasn’t just Paripurnaa who was battling with health problems, her husband Krishna Rao Venigalla had his own set of problems to worry about. An interview with my grandfather revealed that he was suffering from type 1 diabetes. However, as the man of the household, he took it upon himself to not let the disease take over his life. Every day, he would wake up at the crack of dawn to practice yoga and spend the remaining part of his day working as a mechanical engineer. He would walk two miles to get the best produce to cook for his family. These walks were the highlight of his day, it was an escape from the harsh reality that was waiting for him at home. He had to do both the housework and make enough money to support his wife and three children. This was far from normal in India’s society; women were meant to carry out household tasks while the men handled matters dealing with money. Over time, Krishna Rao took over the role of both mother and father to his three children. Unfortunately, his situation did not get much better after his wife started using Ayurvedic medicine. The divide between his children and Paripurnaa was far too great.
The five years that Paripurnaa spent bedridden took both a mental and physical toll on her. Her once free-spirited personality became one that was cold and reserved. This didn’t help shorten the already existent gap that was between her and her children. Instead of spending time with her kids, Paripurnaa would often spend her time with the neighbors. Any interactions with her children were often filled with nagging. Although Ayurvedic medicine helped her get out of bed, it didn’t cure her health issues. She visited countless doctors in hopes of finding out what was wrong with her. Her debilitating body pains and stomach aches soon worsened as a result of her husband’s work. As a mechanical engineer, Krishna Rao’s work often led him to move to new locations and as such, his wife and his three children followed. As a result, Paripurnaa was forced to move to Madras, Coimbatore, Delhi, before she finally settled down in Hyderabad, India in 1985. Her following years were spent marrying off her children, amid her rapidly declining health. Reaching her breaking point in 1995, Paripurnaa decided to make one last heroic attempt at receiving a diagnosis. A full-body scan was performed on her and the result was shocking; she had a hole in her heart. Doctors came to the consensus that she was born with this defect and it may have stemmed from the fact that her parents were first-cousins. To this day her health is not in optimal condition, but it has definitely gotten better and with it so has her relationship with her children.
Health after Marriage, 2008, Cary, North Carolina
Sujani Venigalla was born on July 7, 1967 in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. Her playful nature made her the oddball of the family. As the youngest of three, Sujani Venigalla never stood a chance against her two older siblings. She was constantly compared to her eldest sister who was praised as a beauty in the community and she would often get into fights with her older brother. Her mother, Paripurnaa wasn’t very involved in her life so from a young age she would help around the house. She would often accompany her father in the kitchen while he would cook and she slowly started to fall in love with cooking. This trait would later help her in her married life.
Fresh out of college, Sujani was now a perfect candidate for marriage. Recommendations from mutual friends led her to be arranged to marry Sathya Prasad Marivada, the son of a farmer. Sathya’s strong work ethic, determination, and engineering title immediately attracted Sujani’s father who sought only the best for her, and as such a match was between the two. Their engagement took place during the first week of August in 1990 and they later married on February 23rd, 1991 in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. At the time of marriage, Sujani was 22 and her soon-to-be-husband was 24. After their marriage, the two moved to Madras, Tamil Nadu, where she gave birth to her first child a year later. In 1997, her husband moved to America to find better work opportunities, and five months after, Sujani and her five-year-old son followed. She and her family moved to Cary, North Carolina upon arrival in America, and in 2000, she gave birth to her second child.
Not wanting her children to ever feel the absence of a mother, which she felt in her childhood, Sujani made it her mission to become as involved as she could in her children’s lives. As a housewife, she dedicated almost all her time to taking care of her children. Her days were spent driving her golden Honda Odyssey around town to drop her eldest child to classes with her second child in the backseat. In 2008, Sujani hit a roadblock; her eldest child was obese and on the verge of getting type 2 diabetes and her youngest child was suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder. Reminded of her mother’s history with health conditions, Sujani beat herself over letting her children’s health get to this stage. With a new purpose, she set out to help her eldest child lose weight and to manage her youngest child’s diet.
Every day, Sujani would take her two children to a trail that was next to their house. Her and her eldest child would run, while her youngest would ride ahead of them on a bicycle. Through diet management and exercise, Sujani was able to pull her eldest child away from the verge of getting type 2 diabetes and now she needed to find a solution for her youngest. This is when she remembered her childhood days when her mother turned to Ayurvedic medicine. With a new spark of hope, Sujani consulted her mom for help. Although her relationship was not the best with her mother due to the latter’s health problems, health is a topic that helped reconnect the two. Her mother, Paripurnaa was thrilled at the chance to make up for the lost years that she was unable to be present in her daughter’s life and she could sympathize with what her granddaughter was going through. Following her mother’s advice, Sujani began giving her youngest child Ayurvedic medicine and she slowly began to see an improvement in her youngest child’s health.
The Role of Health, 2020
Health has played a major role in my direct maternal lineage. It made up a significant portion of my grandmother’s life and it shaped my mother’s outlook on life. Although my grandmother’s health caused her to become distant during my mother’s childhood, it also caused her to become very present in both her daughter and granddaughter’s lives during her later years. My grandmother’s health impacted how my mother raised my older brother and me. I am fortunate enough to never feel the presence of a mother role missing in my life, my mother showered my brother and me with an endless amount of support and love. Both my mother and my grandmother’s passion for health is what drove me to pursue a career in medicine. From a young age, I have dealt with gastrointestinal issues, and after hearing more about what both my mother and grandmother have done for me, I have a newfound appreciation for my family.
23andMe. (n.d.). DNA Ancestry Test, Find DNA Relatives. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://www.23andme.com/dna-ancestry
Marivada, Snigdha, "The Role of Health in my Maternal Line: The Rekindling of Lost Bonds" (2020). Genetics and Genealogy Family History Narratives. 16.