"A child needs a grandparent, anybody's grandparent, to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world"
I came across this quote when I was randomly searching for something to make an interesting blog post and the truth of these simple words pierced through me.
There are a few people in our lives who are responsible for building up a definition of the person we become later. The most obvious choice for most of us would be parents, then siblings but in my case it would be my grandparents too, especially my grandmother.
I was one of those lucky kids who got the opportunity to grow up with her grandparents rather than visiting them every summer. And growing up with your grandparents means a mixture of all the things you can ever ask for. Hindu scriptures, interesting tales from my grandparent’s life, anecdotes about relatives, reminiscences about the old days, old black and white Telugu movies, B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharata, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana, learning alphabets on a black slate with white chalk, Telugu poems, Shlokas from Bhagwad Gita, songs praising the Lord, and books, endlessly books.
It was I think due to my grandparents that I along with my brother grew up with a blend of the values and culture of the old along with the modern thoughts of the current era.
And this is a post I write straight from my heart recounting a few memories that I treasure, memories that are priceless to me... because it is only memories that I have now…
This was when I was 3 or 4 years old. We had this separate Puja room in our house which had a grand wooden Mandir that my mother had hand painted. My grandmother used to take out all the idols once in a month or before any major Puja and wash them. On one such day, the little me strolled into our courtyard where my grandmother was sitting on a high stool and applying tamarind paste and surf to the small bronze and silver idols. I then expressed this urge to clean them to and just to amuse me, my grandmother gave me the Kalash with Ganga Jal to wash. She must have been surprised and pleased to see the effort I had put in that little task because after that, it became a routine.
Every time my grandmother used to plan the idol-cleaning process she would call me “Chanti (a sort of pet name she used to use. Telugu word for ‘small’ or ‘tiny’) we would be washing the Mandir tomorrow. Wake up early ok?” I used to swell with pride at the ‘we’ in her sentence. My grandmother wanted ME to help her with her precious task! So I would get up early in the morning, bathe early, have my long hair washed by my grandmother and mother, sit on a little stool beside my grandmother, fold the frills of my frock demurely and start scrubbing the idols till they shone.
Later she used to tell everyone about how I did the job better than my aunt, or even my mother and I used to be elated with pride and happiness.
This was one of the most cherished times of my childhood, the hours we would spend together very early in the morning with my grandmother telling me stories, or saying something or the other, giving my mother instructions in the kitchen.
This continued till I came to class 1 when life got too busy for me with school and these cherished moments were reduced to memories…
Whenever I say I am sixteen and a class 12 pass-out, I am met with a lot of eyebrow rising. It is then I have to explain the weird double promotion I got when I went for admission in school for LKG. And Voila! I was in UKG before I even knew what had happened :P I call this weird because the story behind this is definitely out of the box, but I am saving that for some other time :P
So the thing was, I was a year ahead of my studies and I had this weird fear for teachers and not completing my homework though I was a sincere student. What happened was we got homework of writing 1 to 1000 in words in a just a single day. I came home freaked out; I couldn’t finish it in a single evening!
I cried so hard with tension that day that I caught a fever and my grandmother started calling the teacher names for subjecting her small, tiny granddaughter to such an impossible task. My parents got a lot a lot of scolding too, for getting me admitted in a school that had ‘gone to the dogs’ and which had cruel witches for teachers :P
But all this talk couldn’t soothe me and though my mother and brother tried to convince me that no one could probably finish it in one day and I won’t be scolded and I could even take the day off with my fever but the idiot I was, I wasn’t consoled. I started my homework between tears and continued pampering from my grandmother who was clearly instructing my mother to complete the homework in my place :P She suggested to write some of it herself, but I wouldn’t hear of it. Handwriting mattered too :P
My family still makes a laughing stock out of this incident- someone crying to fever over a silly thing such as homework is very rare. But all I remember of it is the love my family showed for their small Kirti that day, the sweet affection behind all the indignation of my grandmother who had gone as far as to suggesting she would do my homework out of love for me, just out of love for me...
Apart from telling us mythological stories, my grandmother also used to play indoor games with us. Carom, Ludo, Snakes and ladders, Business, Card games, and a game from her own childhood played with shells. She taught us some, others I and my brother had taught her. My grandmother had an amazingly sharp mind even for the limited education she had and I distinctly remember being beaten by her at carom; something I had taught her.
When I was in 3rd grade, we shifted to a larger house in a relatively lonely neighborhood where I had no children of my age. My brother was too busy playing cricket and football with his own friends so I had no one to play with. It was my grandmother who used to my playmate in those times and used to tell me so many enthralling things about my father, my aunt and her life in general. Stories of black magic, voodoo dolls that had really happened in their village, of the thefts in their house, of her first journey alone with her children when they were little with her ticket apparently a station before the destination.
I used to tell her stories of my own, mostly the stuff I used to learn at school-Science and social science and she was an amazingly bright student for me. She even learnt the Hindi alphabet just by watching my mother teach I and my brother and she could read the movie titles and serial titles on the TV with ease.
She was a part of my life that I had taken for granted- my short, white haired Grandma with a powerful, confident voice and soft, soft hands that used to oil my hair… but my fate didn’t allow me to keep her for more than 16 years of my life.
She left me, left me alone to the silence of the room we shared, to the neat bed beside my own that I can’t look at without getting a lump in my throat- reminding me of the countless times I had snuggled up with her in winters with an Enid Blyton. She left me taking away the securities of life I had in her presence; I would fight with a million boys in my class, get angry with hundreds of teachers in my school, get hurt by innumerable people, but I would come back home with my heart knowing that God had someone waiting there who loved me unconditionally, loved me despite my mistakes… of course children do need grandparents… oh how my life would have been incomplete without them!
But she has left me now and in the wounds of pain that come bare when I sit in the empty silence of my room, it is memories like these that act as a soothing balm. These memories cast a painless veil over the last image I have of her- lying on the hospital bed peacefully, her hand still warm, blood gushing out when the IV was taken out, but she won’t wake up when I shook her, she won’t call my name in that affectionate tone again… it was so hard to believe she had left me forever, still so hard to believe…
Forever now, seems like too long a time…
But she had taught me to fight, taught me to walk and this lesson I mean to carry all my life, with memories like these as a proud talisman on my chest…
|Image by Antara|