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Title: Pramila Jaypal Interview I
Narrator: Pramila Jaypal
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 10, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-jpramila-01-0001

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AI: Today is May 10, 2004, we're here at Densho in Seattle, Washington. I'm Alice Ito, and on videography is Dana Hoshide. We're with Pramila Jayapal. Thanks, Pramila, for coming today.

PJ: Sure, Alice. Thank you.

AI: And I wanted to just start off with the basic question of when and where you were born.

PJ: I was born in Madras, India, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, and I was born on September 21, 1965.

AI: And what name was given to you when you were born?

PJ: Pramila was my given name, but I was pretty immediately, my nickname was Munna, which actually means "little boy," because my parents, everybody around them was convinced that I would be a boy, because my sister was a girl, and the second child, you know, they thought for good luck, should a boy. And so my sister used to say -- my parents were living in a Hindi-speaking area up in the north part of India -- and my sister used to say, "Chota munna aayega," which means "a little boy is coming." And so that just stuck, even though I turned out to be a little girl. [Laughs]

AI: Well, tell me some of your family background, your mother, your father, and their families.

PJ: My mother's name is Maya, her maiden name was Maya Menon, and my father is -- actually, his real name is M.P., which is the house name in Kerala, the state where we're from -- which stands for Muduvangad Puthanveetil, and then his actual name was Jayapalan. So his given name was Jayapalan. But he changed it -- I think when he left India, he sort of used to always be called Jayapal. And so he made that his last name, and he made M.P. kind of his first name. They're both from Kerala, which is a state that's really well-known for a lot of things, including being one of the Communist, two Communist states in India. Very strong union movement, labor movement. My father's father was in the railroads, which was actually a, one of the most coveted jobs in India at the time, it was a very stable, government job. And he didn't earn very much money at all. My father was the youngest of four kids, and he was kind of the brainiest, nerdiest kid. He was, he went to college and he decided that he was going to -- basically, I mean, he ended up supporting the family. He would send a major portion of money that he made -- 'cause he would tutor other kids in engineering -- back to his family, and even though he was the youngest, I think in many ways he sort of ended up taking care of the family quite a bit.

My mother was the youngest, also -- actually, the oldest of four kids. And she spent a lot of her time away at boarding schools in her early life, or with relatives. My grandfather on my mother's side was the, in the police, and worked under the British. And so he would move around a lot, he was in Pondicheri, and then he was in Madras, and he was kind of all over the place, and so they would send my mother off to be with relatives. And I didn't really know my father's family very well because my grandmother on my father's side died before I was born. And my grandfather was quite old by the time I came along, and we would see him, but he had already lost a lot of memory and things like that. And my father's siblings, I really only knew one of them well. His younger brother had a lot of problems and actually was an alcoholic and ended up committing suicide when we were living in Indonesia. My aunt, my father's sister, I had met several times, but just for whatever reason, we weren't very close. But it was his oldest brother, who I'd heard about for many years, and then actually reconnected with him when I went back to India, and that was just delightful. He was the Secretary of Labor in Kerala, which was just such an interesting state as far as labor and unions go, and so he was just always somebody who was very interested in the world.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.