I never thought I understood. Not completely ofcourse. She was so far away from me. Yet, I loved her so much. We probably shared something, right from the day I was born. I entered this world with a Wagon R -like head ( if you know what I mean) maybe due to the hard labour my maa had to endure. Family members and friends , am sure, must have wrinkled noses at me at the disfigured baby I was. Probably I looked more like a beat-up football player Then, comments followed “Arey, whom does she look like?” “Certainly, she doesn’t resemble either of her parents”
But not her.
Paati (grandma, my maternal one) , thought I was beautiful. Her eyes twinkled with happiness when she held her first grand-daughter. She told me, a few years later over kodbales & sajjappams, how it was love at first sight. She didn’t really use the same words though. Summer vacations to me meant paati and paati meant food
Just the thought of going over to the beautiful home in the quaint little town near B’lore where she lived, would make me look forward to writing off all my exams on one day. The thought of travelling in a rickety bus (there were just 3 buses that would travel everyday at 5 A.M. , 11:30 A.M. and 4.20 P.M.) and the discussion that we would have at home to choose the bus, was something that I found very exciting. I still vividly recollect paati standing at the doorstep waiting for our auto. As soon as I hopped out, she would always say the same thing, ” enna. paati ippo gnapakatuku vandaala?” ( you remembered Paati now??) and I’d always say, ” Ille paaaaaati.. school.. exams” and the same stories. After feeding us some great lunch that always had appalam, she would ask me about school.
She was a great listener. She would always ask me about school, Chintu’s kindergarten and later on school and unlike many paatis would encourage me to experiment new things. I remember her telling me that women, these days, need to study a lot, be ahead of men and all the revolutionary talk. For someone as old as my paati, this was a refreshing and rare attribute.
There was this summer vacation, when I had been to paati’s place and joined a summer camp. I’d come home late at 8:30 P.M. (ya well, it was considered late) with an aunt and paati used to always wait at the door for me, even though her favourite soap was on T.V.
Paati and T.V. soaps shared an undefinable bond. She always watched Hindi soaps, especially there was this “Shanti” on T.V. and then “Junoon” which she used to watch with so much interest. She loved “Surabhi” as well on DD. She’d finish her work quickly so that she could watch all her soaps. I remember her laughing , crying, shouting in sync with the actors on T.V. She had a particular chair for her soaps, at 45 degree azymuth. I still don’t know why she wanted that place – maybe it would help her see and hear better. But, whenever I think of her, this is one image I always have of her in her resting chair, glued to the T.V set.
Cricket!! was her life – another understatement. She used to watch all the matches, ball-to-ball, even the highlights of matches that India won. I remember her cursing the Pakistan players, South African players, her head almost inside the T.V. screen. I remember her asking my aunts to make a sweet after India won a really good match. I remember her shouting in glee everytime India played well – batting, bowling, fielding and even the commentary.
Paati, went beyond bedtime stories and rangolis. There was something unique about her. Everytime I went behind her and closed her eyes, “P”, she’d say and laugh. Of the 9 daughters, 14 grandchildren who had assembled there for summer, she knew it was me and I always loved her more at that moment. And then, she’d always give me her hand-fan, something that I used to be fascinated with and would go on fanning her and tell her about li’l nothings. Her most priced possession towards the later years was the mosquito-hitter, the electronic one, which looks like a shuttle racquet and you just have to switch it on and go phat phat phat and presto!! all mosquitoes die due to shock. I found it amusing too and still do. I used to wait for her to lie down and watch her go phat phat phat all over the place.
I remember her being there for my moggina jede ( a long plait adorned with jasmine flowers that is almost a compulsory milestone for a girl in Karnataka, atleast was) , for many Janmashtamis, Sankrantis, for a few of our b’days, for a prize distribution and so many more. Every memory I have of her, has her smiling face, those twinkling eyes behind the brown-rimmed glasses.
There was something that kept her happy, always. Even the day before she left us, she asked for a potable T.V. in her ward and watched a cricket match. That was my paati.
I was not there when she left us. And that is a feeling, I will always carry with me, till my last. Paati had promised me that she’d visit us that winter and that was probably her only unkept promise.
When I looked at her fast asleep, never to wake up again, the magnitude of whom I lost hit me like a storm. Whom would I tell school stories to? Whose eyes would I close stealthily, from behind? The thought that Paati won’t see me graduate,will never be there for my wedding, will never see her great grand child, came flooding to me and I stood shocked, not able to shed even one tear. I’d never receive all those goodie packets she’d give me when I left for the next academic year, none of the peek-a-boo sessions would ever happen, no one to tell me stories of how people managed all subjects at school with just one notebook, no one to make me feel proud for being a girl and later on a woman, no one to sit on the chair I loved to see her in…..
I wanted to cry too.. but couldn’t.. But when I took one long last look at her , I could only think of one thing to say.. “Paati, you look beautiful.”