Friday, November 12, 2010

A Love So Grand – Part II

Being the oldest child of my clan and an only child for several years, I have been pampered and indulged by a bevy of uncles and aunts. But more so by my amma (paternal grandmother). And she therefore has a very, very special place in my heart.

Since we lived in a joint family, my mother felt very comfortable leaving me in the care of my grandparents whenever she travelled. And if I go by the accounts that she gives me often, I never missed her even at the tender age of one. In fact, while she was the disciplinarian to a stubborn I, my amma was my refuge – a shelter from my mother’s temper and dad’s strict standards.

But let’s make no mistake. Amma’s a true matriarch, despite her leniency towards me. I remember my mom and aunt asking amma about the menu for lunch and dinner. What vegetables were allowed to be cooked and when. This was especially important when it came to onions because in our household like in scores of other homes in UP and Rajasthan, onion was considered an impure vegetable. In fact, I remember once asking amma about why it was so. After all onion is also a vegetable and therefore can be a part of vegetarian diet. She told me how when Lord Vishnu (he is one of three most powerful gods in Hindu mythology) once sat down for his meal, a bulb of onion fell off his plate. And from that day onwards, the onion was cursed and no true devotee of Vishnu was allowed to have the vegetable! Incredible, isn’t it? But to a six year old, it was gospel truth.

That is one of the charms of my grandma. She is so full of stories. And they are not always about gods and fictional characters. You should hear her speak about her childhood. You can almost see the house that she grew up in, her friends and her aunt who raised her, since her own mother had passed away at an early age. Amma, as was the norm more than fifty years back, got married at the tender age of fifteen. But she recollects all the details of those first fifteen years so clearly, more than what has actually happened in last fifteen years!

Did I mention that she is a great cook? Her aloo paranthas are nonpareil. Even the most mundane dishes are amazing. And I only have to whisper in her ear about the dish I want to eat and it would be done – from bharwan baingan to chole bhature.

Going vegetable shopping with her used to be fun because she would buy me all the roadside savouries that I liked, without my mom getting to know about it. I dodged naps in hot summer afternoons so that I could eat that extra mango that amma had saved especially for me, with my siblings safely tucked away. At night, if I felt scared, I could slowly inch over to her bed (I slept in my grandparents’ room) and cuddle her. And at three in the morning when she woke up to go to the temple, she often found me curled asleep on her bed.

I could go on endlessly about her. There are so many things that I have not mentioned. There are so many stories that I have not shared. The words I have written do no justice to a woman who has a flair for languages (she can speak Hindi, Bengali and Marwari – the last two she learnt post marriage), can manage the operational aspect of my dad’s business, pamper her brood of grandchildren and still manage time for her religious rituals and her husband. But over the last few years, as her health has slowly degenerated, my heart has been breaking bit by bit. The plump cuddliness of her body has withered away to frail bones. In the last one month or so, she has been hospitalized twice and is still being treated for severe kidney damage. Every time I see her now, her weak countenance, drained of all vitality, is like a jolt to my senses.

So, while she would never be able to read this blog or even understand what a blog is, I still needed to write this – to tell her how much she means to me and that I just want her to come home, recovered and healthy.

That’s all, amma. Come back home to me, safe and sound.

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