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RN Documentary: Ode to Josephine - Memories of a Parallel Mother

From: Radio Netherlands Worldwide
Series: RN Documentaries
Length: 29:30

A personal odyssey into the producer’s childhood in Bombay India, where she remembers her ayah (nanny) Josephine. Read the full description.

Josie180_small Producer Dheera Sujan remembers Josephine Fernandez, the horsy faced, bow legged 20 something Goan ayah (nanny) who looked after her and her sister when they were very small children growing up in India. The programme is an essay in memory. The smells, sounds and tastes of childhood are all evoked in these memories of Josephine: her card games, the way she combed her knee length hair, her unforgettable fiery fish curries. It is an essay of love and thanks. A musing over being a child, about being a mother, but most of all, about childhood, which lasts a lifetime.

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Piece Description

Producer Dheera Sujan remembers Josephine Fernandez, the horsy faced, bow legged 20 something Goan ayah (nanny) who looked after her and her sister when they were very small children growing up in India. The programme is an essay in memory. The smells, sounds and tastes of childhood are all evoked in these memories of Josephine: her card games, the way she combed her knee length hair, her unforgettable fiery fish curries. It is an essay of love and thanks. A musing over being a child, about being a mother, but most of all, about childhood, which lasts a lifetime.

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Review of RN Documentary: Ode to Josephine: Memories of a Parallel Mot

My first childhood friend had the New York City 1950s equivalent of an ayah. I hadn’t thought about Lily in years, but this beautifully narrative brought a wealth of childhood memories to mind. It’s a perfect piece to listen to on a snowy Sunday. Took my mind away from the chill to warmer climes, took me back in time and into all sorts of mental meanderings on the power of love and mentors, the intensity of scent and sound in memory, the comfort of shared remembrance. I loved listening. The writing is poetic, evocative, the imagery radiant. Lovely to eavesdrop on phone conversations between the producer and her sister as they tumble back in time, sparking each other’s memories –– Josephine teaching them the twist on a talcum powdered floor, singing and sweeping on the balcony, her voice like fine sandpaper. Their reflections on parental jealousy, on values they learned from Josephine, and on their own parenting styles is interesting and provides a study in contrast –– the sisters are very different in nature. Fine use of music and occasional ambient sound to change the scene that always feels organic to the story. My only note is that the curry-making section felt a little forced, but it is a minor quibble. Rich and rife with nuance, this is a program Proust would enjoy.

Transcript

INTRO
Radio Netherlands presents Vox Humana. In this programme: Ode to Josephine: Memories of a Parallel Mother, Dheera Sujan remembers one of her first loves.

SFX – traffic, crows, Hindi music on the radio.

I’m four years old, maybe five. And I’m hiding behind a corner eyeing the new ayah.
She glances over at us – my sister and me, nudging and pushing each other for a better look around the doorjamb - and flashes a grin you could hook around her ears. She has a long, slightly horsy face, and flary black nostrils. She’s wearing a flowery dress that comes in tight at her waist and then bunches out to her knees. She’s a little bowlegged and her shins are dusted in long fine black hairs. Her face has been powdered pale and the wisps of hair on the forehead and in front of her ears lay in neat oiled curls.

Later, when she is installed in our lives, and we have long...
Read the full transcript

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Related Website

http://www.rnw.nl/special/en/html/040917vh.html