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.’

‘what happened?’

‘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.


62 thoughts on “ammamma

  1. Kali VanneikumI didn’t realise you spent time in Coimbatore. That is my home in India – the home of the Integral Yoga Institute, Sri Swami Satchidananda, founder. Now you’re in Pondy – are you with the Sri Auribindo community there?I have a photo of myself at my great grandmother’s funeral. I don’t remember it a bit. :(Lovely post DBum,xxpinks

  2. The post was so like her. Described all that was pretty and cheerful in the midst of sickness and adversity.Thanks for sharing this memory. Helps one realise just how you are as sweet and special as you are- puta! 🙂

  3. What a beautiful homage to your grandmother! Very moving. These kinds of memories we will treasure forever.You’re probably aware of the other meanings of that word “son”, aren’t you? Well, anyway, this isn’t the occasion to talk about them.

  4. how beautiful Dharma… it felt like a story!and i felt like i knew ur gramma :)really nicely penned!wats MIL-DIL by the way?thanks for taking up this tag…

  5. PINK,vanakkam! pleasant surprise to know about ur indian contacts.pondy is where i was born and spent most of my life. am in madras (chennai) now, working here. coimbatore has connections with both my parents :)i’m not really part of any community, yet, a part of all communities :)thank you.Z,sometimes, tears are good, aren’t they?AKKA,i am specially fond of pple who can smile in the midst of adversity. sweet? special? bah! bum onli 😛

  6. ADITI,thanks, it was a pleasure. writing abt it al was like reliving those most precious days with the lady.DEVIL,not exactly sure what u r talking about @ son, but do mail me about it wil you?thank you.MISS IYER,thanks ma!GAIZABONTS,u won’t believe it, but when i read the post – i had the feeling it was raw too. am quite thrilled u felt that way :)thank you brother, am sure u r being generous, but coming from you, it makes me feel on top of the world.TRINNIE,u probably did know her u know.mother-in-law daughter-in-law – oft spoken about, atleast in the indian context. why, they make mega serials about them :)KESHI,nice. i’ll learn the language from u someday 🙂

  7. “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.” She had become immune to hurt- I will say.You wont know what all suffering she underwent in her fairly long life. That made her strong, sweet and loving. As a son in law who also contributed to her anxiety and worry, I have no hesitation in saying that I have never felt more relaxed than in that house- not even in my own house- till she was alive. Part of herself still lives in her eldest daughter.

  8. dharma – your modesty someday will be hurdle for you to take feedback! 😛 listen to what Akka has to say – she is right. and genererous? me? you would know better ! 😉

  9. She has a wonderful grandchild who still fondly remembers her – and that my friend has made her life worth it!I love their comforting curves – just to hide in a hug means the world

  10. ADITI,a hiatus? hmmm…APPA,so u still read all this? :)GAIZABONTS,point well taken, sir!VASU,thank you :)TRINNIE,but i told u na…SMITA,thank you, thats very kind of u 🙂

  11. wow dharma, i never knew the tag would bring out such amazing memory…amamma’s are alwys great. I love mine dearly.If you believe,it she did leave the wealth of these memories behind ne???

  12. CHITRA,achacho, no cry pliss :)TRINNIE,tube light? :DDEEPTHI,well, i didn’t know either, but tags are fun aren’t they?SUGARLIPS,assalam valeykum! thank you. and stay beautiful, beautiful 🙂

  13. made me cry Dharma – this was a “pearl”of a celebration of your love for her.I miss my grandma very much -and you ignited beautiful memories for meof her:) – love lives on – what will survive us is love andyour ammamma was clearly loved.

  14. I don’t think my comment will really express the emotion that I went through reading this. I think after reading this post I will even more regret that I didn’t spend enough time with them when they were alive. I think I can identify with ‘Puta’ very well also. Thank you Dharma.

  15. KESHI,checked, thanks!MADDY,good to see you, as always. yes, love lives forever!JOLVIN,welcome here! sometimes, providence has its ways.thanks for commenting, to keep coming by :)HDWK,if u feel strongly abt them, u must write too 🙂 thank you.NANDITHA,thank you.

  16. Dharmabum, that is a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. You’ve really managed to distill the essence of your memories and relationship with her into words, which is not an easy thing to do at all. Absolutely beautiful.

  17. Hey Good one about your granny. I met my ammamma this time and it was a very sorry/sad situation:( I hate it all the more because I really cannot do much about it:( Damn!

  18. VESPER,thank you.IMUGI,thank you. that is very nice of you.KESHI,gonna check em out- right away! ;)ASH,thanks, and its good to see u here.THREESTRONGCOFFEES,thanks, do keep dropping by. and my posts aren’t always emotional, in case u r worried :pPINK,thanks, am doing fine. been out of town and just got back.DIVSU,am sure u could do something?ADI,no words is sometime good, no? :)KIWINDIAN,thats a curious name u got! welcome to this place and thanks for visiting. am going to read abt ur gramma right away!ADITI,thanks girl, am absolutely ok. and no hiatus and all – had to go to delhi on work. spent the whole of last week there.

  19. heatfelt post…all ammamas r like that 🙂 i never got a chance to spend time with my maternal grandparents because they passed away when i was very little but there are very hazy memories of my grandmom running after me to feed me food as i jumped on sofas lol…and my paternal grand dad expired before i was born and im not too fond of my paternal grandmom…i know i am missing out on something wonderful because ive seen the love between my other frnds and their grandparents…and it makes me smile remembering the little that i can… 🙂

  20. well I hv updated many times since then lol! But yeah scroll down n check it out.btw Im smiling today…cos u always say I dun smile. Keshi.

  21. ADITI,sure was a lot of fun!MICHELLE,good to see you around. somtimes i think we need to encourage grandparent-grandchild interaction. its good for both parties mostly :)KESHI,keep smiling :)ADI,yes my dear friend, thinking in retrospect, it really is quite stupid of me. i guess i didn’t remember delhi dreams 😦 the next time, we have a meeting, i shall remember. 🙂

  22. a good post not only because of the way u have written it but also because i never got to spend much time with my grandmother n who is not here anymore, so…….B/W a nice blog.

  23. Hi! Just dropped in the first time and bum is the last word I’d use for you, if your writings are anything to go by! Will come back for more.

  24. DEEPTI,welcome aboard and thanks for dropping by.D,don’t go by the writings – bums will remain bums :)thanks for your kind comments – do keep cmoing by more often.

  25. I love this post anna.. Brings back a lot of wonderful memories… Now I wish I pick up on some of those qualities… Love you anna.. Thanks for this post… 🙂

  26. SUGARLIPS,thats so nice of you. warm hugs to you too, dear friend.NITHYA,welcome to this space, little one. love you too.ME,you are most welcome, dear friend 🙂

  27. ~ME,madras(i prefer it to chennai. whats in a name, you might ask, but thats how it is) it is. do let us bums know when u come down next time :)PRIYAMVADA,good to see you here. indeed, she was a beautiful lady. thank you.

  28. poignant!! u have written about ur grnma in a different light…it made me value mine a lil more…I actually called my pati(grnma) after reading the post…for me..i just want to thank u for making me realize the value of a treasure often taken for granted…am blogrolling u!!cheers!

  29. VITRUVIAN,i am pleasantly surprised, and deeply touched by the fact that this post prompted u to actually call ur grandmother. heartening it is :)patis are best. do give her all u possibly can.@ blogrolling – likewise.cheers rahega.

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