The late Senator
Edward M Kennedy
An article by Ms.Gita Ravi – A Resident of Covai S3 Senior Care Centre
While Indians all over the world were busy celebrating Diwali and sharing happiness with friends all round, I got to a corner and opened out the Pandora’s treasure chest of mine and soaked myself in one of my many childhood memories.
The Kennedy family occupied a large space in my life during my growing up years in Singapore. As my father was then working with the RAF he brought home all those glossy magazines which were published in UK and USA which had many pictures and articles published on the then President John Kennedy and all about the Kennedy clan. I do not know how, why and when they started to make an impact on me who had just started school. Maybe the way they carried their family along with the presidential/official duties, the picture of the adorable children under the oval office table, the close knit family outings that made headlines, everything about them amused me. I use to cut out all those pictures of the Kennedy family that occupied the front pages of the magazines and meticulously paste them in my scrap book. When John Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald i was devastated. Death……I never thought about it till then. Growing up in a family where most conversations were taboo death was never mentioned or spoken about. In Singapore we never grew up with relatives or cousins whom we mingled with. Visiting friends was a strict NO NO. When Jack Ruby shot Oswald I was thrilled. My little head did not understand the politics that was played out then. Still, it is one of the world’s most debated and talked about mystery as to who shot President Kennedy. The pictures of the funeral were etched in my mind, then, now and will be, always. I wonder how some people can make an impact on other people world over for whatever reasons.
PRESIDENT KENNEDY WAS CLEARLY MY CHILDHOOD HERO
I detest people who come out with personal stories of how famous people misbehaved with them while in power. I never understand what these people stand to gain with mudslinging after the person has gone and thus unable to defend themselves. This practice should be banned. Speak when the person is alive, not otherwise. On the other hand there are people like me who when a trust is placed, it remains as solid as a rock, nothing and no one can change our opinion. What I meant to say was irrespective of whatever heard or I continue to hear, to me “PRESIDENT KENNEDY WAS THE BEST”. When Jacqueline Kennedy decided to marry Aristotle Onassis my young head was full of anger and hatred for this lady. I remember tearing all her pictures I had in my scrap book. Now to an extent, I can realise what made her to take such a step. Maybe all she needed was security and to be away from scrutiny of the American public so that she can bring up her children normally. My attention shifted to Senator Robert Kennedy who was grooming himself to be President after Lyndon Johnson. I followed him closely and prayed that he would be President. Clearly he was a favourite of the American public too. He came so close the occupying the White House. Alas! He was assassinated too, by an Arab, Sirhan Bin Sirhan in one of his public meetings. The picture of him lying on the ground made its way to the Time Magazine cover, a memory which stayed with me a long time. My childhood took a beating again. My father came back from office and asked my mother if she has heard the news of the assassination. Oh God I could not believe what I was hearing. I cried my heart out and remember my mother screaming at me asking if one of my family members had passed. I collected all the magazines and my collection of pictures was my favorite past time while my friends were busy with their stamp collection and other hobbies.
Later I remember reading a news item wherein it said that Senator Edward Kennedy was asking for Sirhan Bin Sirhan to be pardoned. This news item shook me, and, not completed ten full years of life in this world I decided to send a mail to Edward Kennedy pouring my heart out. As I was scared of spanking from my parents I secretly wrote a letter addressing him as Uncle Ted and posted it c/o United States Senate, Washington DC because that was all the address I could think of as I was scared to ask anybody. Looking into my diary and having discovered what I had done I still remember the spanking I got from mother because she thought I had committed a crime writing to a Senator who would be President of America one day. That was my last entry in the diary. Till today the thought of diary scares me. Anyway I forgot about the incident till one day I noticed the post man trying to push a big envelope through the door of the flat where we lived.
I pulled the other half of the envelope and could not believe my eyes when I saw that it was addressed to me and it had come from United States Senate. On the top right hand corner was a signature of Edward Kennedy. Inside the huge envelope were three pictures of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Edward Kennedy. On Edward Kennedy’s picture was his signature which said” All my best wishes to you, Edward M Kennedy “. I was on cloud nine.” For one second he had held a pen to write me a message. What else could I have asked for? I forgot the pain of all the spanking I got. I treasured all the three pictures and held on to them for life.
When we came back to India and unpacking was done, there was no trace of my treasures. My parents must have thought it was not worth to be packed and moved to another country. I was dumbstruck. I never forgave them for breaking my heart but this was only one in a series of heartbreaks that I was to face in later life.
I tucked this memory into my treasure box of losses. When the plane piloted by John, John disappeared along with his wife and when finally Senator Edward Kennedy bade farewell I was again glued to the TV bidding farewell to the last of my childhood heroes.
Nothing ever changed my opinion of this family. Not the mudslinging on the late president’s personal life, not the rumor of Robert Kennedy having an affair with Marilyn Monroe not even the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969 which hindered Ted Kennedy’s chances of ever becoming president.
This family will forever remain very close to my heart. A family where in-spite of tragedies being a frequent visitor stood up with dignity under any circumstances. An example for the world to emulate.