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My grandmother...A fine lady
My grandma...A fine lady
The other day was the second death anniversary of my grandmother, whom we called ammumma (grandma in our local language) which brought lots of fond memories of her. What follows is my little tribute to a fine lady....
She was one person whom I admired for her zest for life and quest for knowledge, who died 2 years back at the age of 92. She was always so full of life and energy, be it in singing songs,telling stories or even taking a couple of steps of dance to enthrall her grandchildren, when she was not busy with the half a dozen servants running their errands.
My grandfather was a doctor who retired from British government services and was widely respected in the society, which brought with it many things like frequent visitors and a host of servants in the house. Even after my grandfather passed away, grandma enjoyed the attention and respect of the society, which she very much cherished.
Born to a aristocratic Hindu family, in pre independent India, she was one of the lucky few girls to be able to go to school. Her quest for knowledge was alive till she was a healthy 90 year old, when she fell and broke her hips. Even when she was bedridden with broken hip joints, she never let go of her sense of humor, never losing an opportunity to pull your legs or crack a joke about her own health.
Some of the fondest memories are of her in her healthy self...always active and dominant be it to her children or the servants or just about any one around. She had a very stiff daily routine, like bathing in the pond at 5:30 in the morning and going to the temple, attending religious discourses, wherever it was held. Later into her life with age catching up with her, she did compromise on a few of these, but her food timing were always by the clock. Breakfast at 8:30am, lunch at 12:30, tea at 4 pm and dinner at 8:30 was never to be compromised. With memory loss setting in slowly, at times she used to forget that she had her food, and would ask for it half hour after she had her course of food. She had to be very patiently told that her food time is over and that she has already taken her food.
While she was fond of music, music of any kind..she struggled to come to terms with the modern trends in music and the lyrics. To her music was to be ultimately about GOD and it had to have the right chords of typical Indian classical music. Any song that did not satisfy these two conditions was just not a song for her!!!
With the advent of Television, grandma had to put up with many a cultural shocks. The bollywood films and songs, with skimpy clad heroines and dancers were something she could never put up with. The moment she hears the beats of a song starting off, she would rush to the TV, only to be alarmed that it was a film song and not a devotional one. In spite of repeated disappointments, her love for music always brought her back to the TV, and then seeing the skimpy dressed dancers would wonder loud “Ooh God!!! How do their parents allow these children to do this”!!! These used to be some of the rare opportunities we got to tease her, and we used to tell her that it is for the ease of dancing that they are dressed so, which makes her to compare these dancers with traditional Indian dances where the dancers where very well attired.
Grandma was a storehouse of information, be it folklore,history, mythology or recipes.She could quote stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and keep us entralled for hours together. Her favourite stories being of Krishna and Rama. With half a dozen servants to run the errant, she was often seen as the supreme commander of the kitchen giving orders, tasting the stuff that was made, and ordering changes if required. This is a very familiar scene during the festivals and vacations when all of us used to get together at her house.She had her own recipes for snacks and pickles, not to forget her interests in serving food even to strangers, as long as they ate well and appreciated it!!!
Another rare opportunity that we got when we could pull her legs was when there was a cricket match on TV. In the evenings, she would complete her prayers and come out of her room to watch TV, to find us watching a cricket match. For one, she never understood the game, secondly her much awaited time in front of the TV was not available. He favourite quotes where again like “why do these boys have to sweat it out in the sun??” She was worried why the “boys” who should be tilling the fields or doing some worthwhile work were wasting time. We used to tell her that the “boys” get paid by the millions to sweat it out...which was a big shock to her!!!
Grandma was a person of some fine principles. She used to put some great thoughts in our mind with her simple words or by quoting some famous poets. Some of her favourites were..”A family that dines together stays together”...whenever she needed to pull people out of what they were doing and to get them all to the dining table. Considering that all of us cousins, uncles and aunts put together we were a big crowd, during the holidays, to organise all us kids in various age groups to get together for food must have been a mammoth task for her!!!!
Another of her best quote was “Never try to live your life the way people above you live, always think of the millions who don't have the good life you have...” To this day this is a message that keeps me on the ground whenever I feel elated and / or is tempted even to make an impulse purchase or pay less attention to a deserving person. She had her list of favourite malayalam and tamil poets whose verses she would recite which would emphazise some basic virtues or spiritual teachings.
Her passion for her house and assets were to be admired. She was bedridden for almost 7 years before she died, and at some point of time partial memory loss had set in on her. Even when in pain from the hip fracture she was always concerned about her house/ the workers and the payments due to them. She would talk about how the produce from her farm were to be sold off, and money collected and that she had to get back to her house at the earliest to make the settlements. Poor grandma never realised that she was bedridden in her own house!!!
Like most old people she was very excited about small children especially babies. I always wonder how she would have reacted to my baby, who would have been her 27th great grandchild. She did see my baby as a newborn, before she died, but to think about how she would have enjoyed holding her and singing lullabies to her, and watched her pranks and laughed at it.
My mother was her eldest daughter in law. They got along very well, except for some minor difference of opinions they had once a while, which I remember they settled between themselves. On a few occasions when grandma was sick, my mother had taken care of her, and I heard her thanking my mother saying that “you are more than a daughter to me”. My mother had lost her mother very early in childhood, and admired grandma a lot, and once told me that she was like her mother to her. Both had an excellent understanding of each other and even judged each other's moods pretty well, which developed into a good relationship.
Grandma fell and broke her hip the very next day after my mother died fighting cancer for 5 months. She found it very hard to come to terms with the fact that my mother was no more. Subsequently when the memory loss started,she would enquire why my mother had not joined us in visiting her, and then suddenly realise her mistake and cry about it.
It is more than 2 years since she has left us, but still there are instances when you think about how she would have reacted to it, or what her comments would be like etc. There are moments when my father and I would discuss the two women who influenced us so much, my ammuma and my mother. Two fine ladies each admired by the other, both so irreplaceable in our lives....Both will be remembered for their passion for their families and their dear ones.