the room would mostly be dimly lit. an unforgettable odour, of what i am not sure, would constantly permeate the place. it could be the dampness, for it was an old fashioned house. one of those kinds that had mud tiles on a slanting roof, with an attic. i remember i used to look for every little chance to climb in there and look into the darkness. it was one of my first tastes of adventures as a little boy, a spirit that has never left me since.
as children, most of our summers were spent in that house. the front had about 8 ashoka tress lines up, four on each side. and she’d usually be in the same room. innermost. dark. dank. seated on her steel cot. almost everytime. for we usually landed quite early in the morning. this was what, twenty years ago, maybe a couple more, but i still have that picture of her in my eyes.
our grandparents are special to each of us i suppose, and since i’d never seen my grandpa, it was just her – my ammamma. short, stout, with the cutest belly and the most benevolent look i’ve ever seen on any woman. looking back, she had a beautiful face. the little boy in me probably did not think of the exquisite feminine charm in her then. that enamoring smile, which later contorted a little owing to some paralytic attack or something. that single pearl stud on her nose. she must have been quite a bombshell in her younger days, i think in retrospect.
grandmoms are known for their cooking aren’t they? what fascinated me though, was her unlimited source of energy. she loved having people around. she loved pampering them with all the goodies she made. me, i’d like to think i was special. the eldest grandson that i was to her. she’d never fail to ask me, over my meal, what i wanted for the next meal. ‘you should’ve met your grandpa’, she used to tell me, ‘you’d have loved him’.
the most striking quality about her was her patience. it wasn’t the happiest of families. her husband had deserted her long back, even while their children were still in school. her elder son went to a college in Kerala and soon turned out to be a commie freak. one of her daughters was a schezophrenic. another, my mother, had married out of the community. her own daughters-in-law never really gave her what she deserved. why, i do not know. sometimes i think its a standard MIL-DIL thing or something. her own health was not good. not even close to it. and yet, none of this showed on her face. it wasn’t simple stoicism, but now i think maybe it was that she had learnt to appreciate the brighter side of things in life. and thats probably what kept her ticking. so much so, i’d hardly come across a situation when she lost her temper. they say animals are more sensitive. maybe it is true. the dog at home, he’d go on one of his sprees – barking, running around, just playing basically, and not listening to anybody at home. she seemed understanding enough, for she’d let him frolic. and when she thought he’d had enough, she just walk over, and ask him to shut up. thats all. one word. ‘tommie..’. and he’d quickly stop wagging his tails quite literally, put his head down, and curl up under the bed-cum-sofa next to her steel cot.
all this nicety in her in spite of the unfair deal she had got in life made her quite an inspiration. her love for her children and grandchildren was unlimited and would manifest in every word and deed of hers. her mere presence was like the gentle and comforting breeze. her health was always the trouble though. she had high blood pressure and was also a diabtetic. she had survived a stroke and a couple of heart attacks if i know right.
i still remember, i was in my first year at college. it was a sunday morning and since i was a part of NCC, we were going through our march past drill, when someone informed me that that my father was on the phone. mobile phones weren’t all that popular as yet and we had one phone for the 400 of us in our hostel. i ran to take the call and could hear my dad talk in a hushed voice.
‘leave now and get there as soon as you can. grandma is unwell.’
‘don’t ask any questions. just get there. we’re leaving. i don’t want to talk, mom is around and she is already upset.’
i knew it then. when i did get home, and i got there before my parents did, there were a few people and i could hear mild sobs. her body was laid out in the sitting room, covered in a white sheet. she looked prettier than ever. the parents arrived a while later and mom started wailing even as she was entering the home. mom wouldn’t stop crying for the rest of that evening and night. i didn’t cry, just sat there and kept looking at her pretty face.
coimbatore. every summer of my childhood. the same home. the same inner most room. the little figure squatted on the cot in the dimly lit room, early in the morning as we landed. her words ‘puta…’ * still ring in my ears and greet me with the same warmth.
A good friend had tagged me a while ago. it was about sharing one of my oldest memories. there are many, though this is something special. this post is in response to the tag.
* – means ‘son’ in my mother tongue.