After a conversation at school, with a five-year-old yesterday, who shared with me how much he loves his grandma I ended up reminiscing about my own rich experiences with my grandmas. Both my grandmas were known to be very strong women, who endured a lot and also came out loved and respected by one and all. They seemed to have touched many lives in some way or the other and I feel lucky to have known them somewhat in my growing up years.
My paternal grandmother passed away when I was 8 years old so I don’t really remember much, except the nostalgic sense of scent that comes with that memory. I distinctly remember how she smelled and it always brings comforting thoughts to mind. She had this little multi-colored cloth pouch with many pockets that she carried around everywhere in her waistband and I loved playing with it. The pockets hid money, betel leaves, nuts and some kind of tobacco. Those scents intrigued me and I remember asking to chew on the betel leaves and enjoying the strong flavor. Another recollection I have is of her telling me stories as we sat basking in the sun when I was little or when I lay next to her in the night begging for one more story! I remember the stories so vividly because many of her stories involved ‘poop’ and we all know how that genre of discussions appeals to the young minds! She must’ve been a very creative person because they were all stories she made up on her own. People tell me she was very funny and quick-witted, but she was gone too soon and I didn’t really get to know her much personally.
My maternal grandmother was the one I have an abundance of memories with. She was what one would call a typical grandma; affectionate, loving, doting, warm and huggable. The big red bindi on her forehead, nose rings on both sides, flowers in her hair and the colorful soft saris that she always wore, is a visual and tactile memory that is etched in my mind. We would spend most of our vacation time and many important festivals at my grandparents’ village. I have many memories of her waiting by the door, waiting to greet us with tears of happiness in her eyes, and again tears of sadness, everytime we went back to our homes. There are memories of her yelling to the helpers, to pick the best chickens to chop for lunch (Yeah! gruesome but true), go to the fields and cut some fresh chillies and vegetables, milk some fresh milk for the kids and so on. Her excitement never waned no matter how old she got or how many times we visited. We always got treated like we were special.
I always felt I was her most favorite grandchild but then she was such that probably all her grandkids felt so special. I remember her picking out the best pieces of meat from the curry and very slickly put it on my plate without the others realizing. She would also send out some guys to find some raw mangoes, tamarind, tender coconuts, raw peanuts, sugarcanes, and so on which were all my favorites (yes, I spent a lot of time eating on my vacations!). She made sure I had enough to eat and take back home at the end of the trip. I have memories of her bathing me as a child and scrubbing me with her rough hands, until my skin turned raw and red, murmuring under her breath that we don’t take care of ourselves properly and how important it is to do that. I know I complained to my mom that she was too rough, but I miss that love with which she took care of me! I miss that special tall shiny brass glass of milk with Ovaltine that I got, topped with puffed rice, or the twenty-five-paisas that she would give me without my mom’s knowledge to go buy a candy from the village shop, or that she let me have the fluffiest pillow and bed to sleep on every night that I was with her in the village or the many times she oiled and braided my hair so tight that it didn’t need rebraiding until my vacation was over!
There were many times in the year that she would visit us and she always walked in armed with food, fruits, and vegetables that she brought for us with lots of love. She would stay with us for a few days and I would get more days of snuggle and cuddle with her. I can still picture her sitting outside in the sun, by the door, waiting for us to come back from school. I would sit with her a few minutes telling her about school before running off to play with my friends. She would often regale us with stories of her childhood, which involved a lot of her taking care of her siblings. I found it shocking that she was one of 25 siblings!
She is no more today as she passed away a few years ago when I was in the USA. Her absence has left a gaping void that is so real whenever I visit our village on my trips back home. It is not the same anymore. There is no one waiting by the door, there is no hustle-bustle of people in the courtyard because we have arrived… it’s just eerily silent everywhere, reminding me of her absence. I am glad though that my kids got to meet her and know her for a bit. Today, I wish I had spent more time with her, I wish I had taken more pictures with her and documented all her stories. I wish I told her how much she meant to me and how I have silently watched her take care of everyone with so much love and care and absorbed it all. I wish I had listened to more stories about herself instead of just sharing mine. I wish I had listened more than talked. I wish I could just tell her that I am thinking about her and I dearly miss her!
If you are the lucky few to still have your grandparents with you, take some time to listen to them and give them the gift of your attention. Life is short, memories are lasting, so take some time to create that treasure trove of memories.