1990. The year my parents witnessed the entry of a little girl.
As my mother geared up to take care of baby number 2, a girl with long locks (that were a fine blend of blond, grey and white) prepared herself for another edition of child-like fun.
Four years hence, this girl and the little baby enjoyed long hours of pretend-tennis games, teacher-teacher, pilot, sugiyan and paysam making sessions, and of course Malayalam and Sanskrit sloka lessons. Amazingly, the big girl had more energy and zeal than any of her daughters could fathom. While she enjoyed playing simple games with the young ladies of the house, with the boys it was about Tennis or even enacting a scene or two from the Krishna leela.
Wondering who this superhuman is? She was Ammu, my maternal grandmother.
It has been a year since her demise. Despite witnessing her soul bidding adieu, I still believe that she is sitting before a television set or in a room somewhere reading her books on spirituality and munching on her spoon of chawanpraash. Each time I open her wardrobe, the essence of her bhasmam (the sacred ash), and chandanam (sandalwood paste), take me back to those moments of endless laughs and pleasant memories. The thoughts of her soft cotton mundu, her soft hands and 'basketball' tummy (as I would describe it) still calm me down after a rough day.
Was she pretty? I would tease her by singing, “Jawaani Deewani khoobsurat hamari naani”. My friends deemed her very pretty but to me, I adored her bunny teeth and her funny voices :). Interestingly, her personality had inspired to me to write a poem called 'My Granny'. The poem even went on to being in the school's magazine and was awarded a consolation prize in a national level competition!
Her laugh was a loud chuckle of air and still brings a smile on my face. No matter how pathetic the joke may be, she knew how to make it worth all the effort.
She was a cook beyond praise. Everything was delicious except her sujee ka halwa (she had admitted too!). But Pazhaprathaman (aka Banana kheer) and Butterscotch ice-cream were truly her best friends. A dose of these desserts would make her happier than the child on Christmas. Tea-time was Araroot biscuit time. Boy! Did those things make her eyes twinkle!
To her daughters, she was their inspiration and their rock. Ammu kept the family together and she vowed to pass the trait on to her grandchildren too. She, indeed, was a child in every sense. Innocent yet stubborn, naughty yet firm, fun yet emotional but all in all, the professional grandmother. The love in her heart knew no boundaries. A fantastic host, she never hesitated to entertain a guest, even when she did not know them well.
Ammu, in my case, was a friend, teacher, guardian and the link to my roots. Of all her grandchildren, only I had the pleasure of learning Malayalam (my native language) under her tutelage. She not only taught me how to speak fundamental Malayalam but also how to read and write my mother-tongue. Every achievement of mine was lauded by her. No matter how insignificant my awards may be, she was proud to tell the world about it. The stories of her childhood and the many tales of Indian mythology that she would narrate instilled my love for story-telling. Every prayer that I say was taught by her. More importantly, every mistake that I made, was forgiven instantly.
She had an uncanny sense of dressing too. No, make-up wasn’t her best friend. But she had class and elegance. When Ammu dressed-up it was evident that she would be meeting new people.
Life was not fair to Ammu. Her struggles were innumerable. Perhaps that was her strength too.
Indeed, she was rather broad-minded for women of her generation. Ammu never believed that a girl should be married even if she does not have a job.
She valued a woman’s financial independence and her ability to voice her opinion. Though it led to petty arguments between us, she took pride in those who could look after themselves. Yes, she did want me to tie the knot before it was ‘too late’. Then again, heart of hearts, she knew that things would happen when the time was right.
My grandmother knew that good things happen when least expected. This was evident from the necklace with the Krishna locket that she had handed down to me. For she believed everything good is a blessing from God and one must always be grateful for it.
Today, as I recollect those precious moments with her, I am glad to have been with her for as long as I could and enjoy a privilege that many do not have.
If I ever have a chance to see her again, even in a dream, I would like to say: Thank you Ammu for every second that we spent together. It was a desire to buy you something special with my own income. Yet, I failed to do so. When you yearned for my mature approach to life, I failed to give you the attention that you deserved. When you were sick, I failed to stand by and take a care of you. Yet, your love never dimished. Now, I promise to become a better person with each passing day and to think with my heart and mind as well as to do as much good to others. Like you always said, when you do good, good things happen to you. Shine bright like the stars and keep twinkling. That way, I would know that you are still laughing at my jokes!