To grandma

One of my favorite memories of grandma goes back to the Baywatch days on TV! Yeah! Grandma would happily sit watching the show with me and was always
intrigued how the Baywatch beauties were so flawless and spotless! And I was like, wow! While most grandmas were scandalized by Baywatch, here was mine
enjoying the show thoroughly! That’s how I want to remember her today, it’s two days now since she passed away – grandma with a sense of humor, never
judgemental giving me my space, always a little ahead of her times.

Granma, the busy bee, up and about always upto something doing a little bit of everything. She could white wash the house, chop wood and sew like a dream. When we went visiting during the summer holidays, she would always want to make something special for us to eat. A tasty snack one day, a spicy fish curry the next day and everything made in the old fashioned way, no electric mixers or grinders back then. The masalas would get ground on the stone and the rice flour would come out of the wooden mortar and pestle. And the dishes were simply mouth watering.

She had her theory about everything – God, growing old (she called her wrinkles, frills), death. She even had her stuff packed and ready and everybody knew where to find it just in case God decided to give her an emergency call! And her biggest worry was not having any clean underwear on when that call came! So her advice was “always wear clean underwear, you never know when!”

She’s been waiting for this call for a long long time now. She firmly believed that she would go straight to heaven. Little did she know that she had to serve her own personal hell here on earth, bedridden for over three months.

My relationship with grandmother changed drastically after my son was born. Until then grandma was someone I associated with Kerala, my ancestral home, fish curry, the funny cannoore dialect, white spotless mundu and blouse, the old woman with the huge tummy and the gentle laughter, the expert seamstress… I think the turning point was somewhere between getting a set of hand stitched baby clothes from grandma for my newborn son and grandma saying “you’ve ruined the
baby’s nose, all that sitting during the pregnancy and plastering him against your stomach has flattened his nose!”

Between taking turns to rock the baby during our midnight shifts and our heart to hearts
Granma: why is the baby crying, give him the breast.
Me (exasperated): I have given him the breast for the past half hour!
Granma: Give it to him again!
Me : But the doctor said…
Granma (groaning sleepily): I’ve had 6 kids of my own!
Me (relenting)
Both of us: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Oh we had a lot of heart to hearts the time gran was staying with us and the time I was at my mum’s after my son was born. Mum taking care of me and my baby.

Gran in charge of the baby’s massage and bath time. While mum got her few winks after an exhausting day of taking care of me, the baby and the household, gran and me talked for hours late into the night about her growing up years. Growing up in Mahe, formerly a French colony, her father remarrying, her
relationship with her step brother and sister, gran marrying a much older and educated man.

I got busy with my job, kid, family. Gran moved back to Kerala to live with her younger widowed daughter. The occasional phone calls kept me updated. When I announced to her that I was going to have another baby, she told me that I would have a daughter this time and that she was praying real hard for that to happen. And I did have a daughter.

Visiting her a month before she passed away, I was apprehensive she wouldn’t recognize me. But she did recognize me, my husband and was very happy to see my daughter. On her good days, she would automatically switch to the jovial person she was and jest around. I was simply awe struck by her grit. Wracked by pain, confined to her bed, she still could laugh and be funny.

Now that she’s gone I was compelled to write this post, to pin down my memories of her so that I can come back to them even if my memories start to fade.

I left Kerala with a heavy heart knowing fully well that I wouldn’t see her alive again, praying for exactly that to happen painlessly and as soon as possible. I planted a kiss on her forehead and told grandma that I was leaving and she said – “your hair is all messy.”

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