“But Ammamma, I was only two years old then!”, I tried to reason with my Grandmother.
“I know Molu. You were playing in my lap and Thud! You fell back with a bang hitting my teeth. Haha. That’s how I lost this one”, she flashed her toothless grin at me. Though she was all smiles, I felt sad. But she was quick to change the subject and asked, “Where’s the notebook? Did you complete the work I gave you?”
“Yes, Ammamma. I did and I wrote more than five words that rhyme with the word ‘tail’. See this! Pale, Mail, Fail, Tale, Rail, Wail, Snail”. I showed her the notebook in excitement.
“Good girl. Think about a few more. How about ‘kale’?” she asked while working on a beautiful embroidery on my pretty pink petticoat.
“What’s kale, Ammamma?”
“Kale is a green leafy vegetable”.
“It doesn’t look like spinach. But yes, it’s equally nutritious and good for health”.
“Then Popeye should have Kale as well!”, I exclaimed.
“Haha. Okay now. Did you take bath? You’ve been playing all this while. Go. Quick. Everyone should take bath daily. It should become a habit. It is important to be clean and tidy always. You should take bath with soap, cut the nails, wear well washed and pressed clothes on a daily basis.”
“Oh, Ammus. I took bath in the morning. But I will wash my hands and legs now”, I pinched her cheeks and gave her a mushy kiss before running off to the washroom.
It was time for the daily prayers and Ammamma had lit the lamp. She closed her eyes in reverence in front of the hundreds of idols in her beautifully decorated Pooja room. It was now my turn to say the prayers she had taught me.
“Amme Narayana, Devi Narayana,
Lakshmi Narayana, Bhadre Narayana,
I continued to chant. While we headed downstairs to the living room, I heard the door bell ring. I ran to open the door, for I knew it would be Mom returning home from work. “Mamma….”, I hugged her and got hold of her handbag.
“No Shalu. I couldn’t buy the crayons. I would’ve missed the bus”, she said.
“You are bad, Mamma. I don’t want to talk to you”, I was dejected and ran to a corner to weep my heart out. But then, I saw Ammamma tottering towards me.
“Shalu. Come here, let me comb your hair”. She took me on her lap and untied the hair bands. She opened the blue coconut oil bottle and poured a little on her palms. She began applying oil to my hair, gently massaging and combing my hair again to make two beautiful braids as always. I don’t know whether it was the magic in her fingers, but I calmed down almost immediately.
She took this opportunity to guide me, “Shalu, You are a sweet child. Your Mamma left you here with me during your vacations, because she knew you loved it here. And every day she is traveling so far from work and your Dad, just so that she could be here with you. What if she missed the bus? It would be dark outside and you know there are many bad things out there that come out at night!”
I was scared and ran to hug Mamma. “I’m sorry, Mamma. I didn’t know Wee Willie Winkie would come to get you”, I cried. “I don’t want crayons. You please get home safe”.
She smiled and wiped my tears. “It’s okay, sweet. Come. Let’s have Dosa“.
As the aroma of gingelly oil and crisp dosas filled the air, my stomach began to rumble. We sat down together with Ammamma to have her special crisp dosas followed by lots of laughter and merriment.
Today, this Grandparent’s Day, I want to tell you, Ammamma; that I know you are far away from all of us. But I still remember you fondly. Those little things that you taught me – to mind my manners, to keep my room clean, to always respect elders are deeply imbibed in me. Whenever someone tells me that I’m humble and grounded, I owe it to you.
You have always emphasized the importance of education and I’m proud that you’ve did your graduation even at that period of time. You made sure that all your six children were well-educated and had a job before they were married.
You had a huge collection of books – classics including Shakespeare and Amma still treasures it in her library. I remember you giving a Rs. 1000 note to a thirteen year old me, to buy the books of my choice. When I came to you with ‘The Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Anna Karenina’, you beamed with joy.
You were always an inspiration to my Mom as well. Today, when I ask her she remembers how you make the bed so tight every morning, and that you won’t say goodnight until the kitchen sink was sparkling clean. Your accomplishments wouldn’t have been engraved on a trophy, but you lived your life in perfect service to your family. There is no trophy for that.
I had and still do love you very very much. You weren’t physically by my side during my major milestones – be it when I got placed in my dream MNC or when I got married. Life would’ve been so much better if you were with me to #LoveJatao; sharing family stories and answering any questions I ask.
These are moments, however impossible, that I want. Because when I was with you, dear Ammamma, I felt like the most special person in the world. But I know for a fact that, I’ve your blessings, now and for always…and that you know how much I miss you, your warmth and your smile.
Here’s how I’m celebrating this Grandparents Day – by sharing some beautiful memories of her with you. Are you blessed with having a grandparent? I look forward to hearing from you, how you would celebrate Grandparents Day. Do check out #LoveJatao by Parachute Advansed for creative ideas.
P.S: Yes, the one thing that I was scared of as a child was Wee Willie Winkie!