The Lakshmi and Raman Family Archive


The lives of the polyglot K.G. Lakshmi (1922-2008), and her husband P.K. Raman (1909-97) and their immediate family offer a compelling case study of economic life, migration, and family business in 20th century South Asia. Although this was an ordinary family, it was unusual in that Lakshmi and Raman had six daughters and two boys and put down enduring roots in Batavia (today’s Jakarta) and Singapore, despite returning to India more than five decades ago. The family’s third generation is scattered across the world, from Jakarta to Palo Alto, largely due to reasons of work.

This fragmentary archive is composed of four parts:

(a) Letters between Raman, a typist at Messrs Ross, Taylor and Company in Batavia and his brothers in Palghat, a predominantly Malayalam speaking locality in the Madras Presidency, 1930-4 »

(b) A family photo in Singapore from 1957, with a thick description by youngest daughter Padmavathi/Meera »

(c) Records of a Madras High Court Case in which Raman’s name and company appears »

(d) Reminiscences about Lakshmi and the family by the granddaughter whom she raised, Shwetha Balakumar »

Family trees, oral history podcasts, photos, and videos are forthcoming.