Leela Talwalkar née Jatar

By Dr Prafulla Talwalkar, son of Leela Talwalkar

My mother, Leela Talwalkar (née Jatar), daughter of Lt Col Sir Nilkanth Shriram

leela jatar
Leela Jatar before marriage

Jatar (nee Bhausaheb, son of Shriram Jatar) lost her own mother due to TB in infancy. She was looked after by her sister Indumaushi initially and later by her stepmother Jiji. My mother was tall, 5′4 inches according to her at least, very fair, and was slim and very pretty.  She was a beauty queen at Fergusson College.

My father, Dr Arvind Talwalkar, saw her once while riding his bike in Pune and instantly fell in love and requested Bhausaheb to allow him to marry her, but Bhausaheb said no, not so fast, you are going to the UK for FRCS, you go get your degree, and come back, then we will see.

My father, Dr Arvind Talwalkar, went to the UK, passed his FRCS in no time and returned. I wonder if you would call it lagna chi ghai? Anyway, they got married with Bhausaheb’s blessings. This was in 1937.  Later my father told us he married my mother because all the Jatars he met were tall that was the only way to make the next generation tall.

In my practice I have come across a dad who is 5′ 2 inches tall, married to a woman who is 4′ 11 inches, and their children come and want to check their heights as they are short. If you want to have tall kids marry a Tallwalkar, that is my answer and believe me many of these children have done so and have brought their spouse to see me.

Anyway, my dad worked hard with his practice and my mother worked harder to bring us up. She was very kind but very tough and we all knew it. She not only made us study hard but made her say subhashitas, Shotras like Ramraksha and we knew all the artis by heart. She was a great cook, a simple bhaji (vegetables) amti (lentils) and rice and chapati (flatbread) was like a gourmet meal. We never needed chutney or koshimbir (salad) to make food test better. We had strict rules as to when to get back home.

Therefore, when the other day one Indian couple came to me and said their daughter comes home at 2 or 3 in the morning and we cannot sleep because of worries, what should we do? I said you need to show tough love. Make it clear to your daughter that she has to come home before 9 or 10 or whatever time they the parents agree on and be firm as it is not negotiable. Coming home every day at 2 or 3 is unacceptable and do not feel bad about doing what is right for your children, be assertive.

I think my father was intelligent and hard-working but he was more motivated and driven by my mother. He trusted her completely. Behind each successful man, there is a woman and it was true in their case. My mother was brave like Bhausaheb, Babamama, and Annamama. She was braver than all of them in my opinion.

When Shrirang, my younger brother, was born in March of 1945 and had an infection in his hip joint, he needed penicillin. My father was in the UK doing his MCH or Orthopedic training and penicillin was not available in India so my mother took Ranjan age 6, me age 4 and Shrirang less than 1-year-old and went to the UK alone on a ship full of British soldiers, in 1946, prior to our independence, and treated Shrirang with penicillin. The treatment was by Prof Mcmurray the doctor who popularised Mcmurray Osteotomy. How many women could have done it? She saw to it that all of us graduated, got our degrees and led productive lives. A successful sansar (family) does not depend on how many crores you accumulate but what your children and grandchildren achieve.

(Prafulla has two brothers, Ranjan and Shrirang and a sister, Lata. Lata is married into the Chinchankar family and is known as Charu by friends)