I packed my bags to catch an early flight to attend my granny’s 10th death anniversary. My parents wanted it to be an intimate and a small affair with close friends and relatives. We generally stopped all work to be together on that day to relive her memories.
Have ten years gone by without her, I asked myself disbelievingly. She was very much alive in spirit for me – I still have an imaginary conversation with her before I undertake anything significant. My friends teased me about it good naturedly – I have been nicknamed ‘granny’s godchild’; a title that I proudly carry!
My granny came from a very wealthy family; she fell in love with her neighbor (a few streets away) who was rather poor. Since there was strong opposition to their relationship from her parents, she chose to elope with my granddad. They had a fairy tale life till death cruelly snatched him away from my grandma. He left behind a devastated wife and four young children. Her parents asked her to abandon her children and return to them and they in turn would forgive her and get her married to a man of their status. She spurned their offer and decided to move to a new city to start a fresh life with her children.
Initially, she did measly jobs in a number of houses to earn a living; so that she could educate her kids. One day she got a lucky break, she became a cook for an elderly couple. Over time she became family to them; they took the responsibility to educate and look after her and her kids. A few years later history repeated itself, her small world got disrupted again; the elderly couple died in a car accident. My granny and the kids were heartbroken, they were orphaned once again. To her surprise she was told by the lawyers that she was to inherit all their wealth and property.
In the course of time my dad (her eldest son) got a job and settled down. She chose to live with him. Her youngest son leads a bohemian life; he is a bachelor who fears commitments. Her two daughters are also well settled; we all keep in regular touch.
My Mom and granny were the best of friends. They shared a great rapport and got along like a house on fire. Many a time my Mom left my granny in charge of the house, she travelled extensively on work. My granny did a commendable job of taking care of her son and her three grand children.
My granny had an indomitable spirit to learn, experiment with new things. She was a great cook and we loved her innovations with food. She had a close circle of friends with whom she met frequently. They had diverse interests and hobbies and it would generally be a riot when they met. Imagine, they were the envy of the neighborhood. Sometimes my Mom would go with her to help them in their affairs. We too tagged along with grandma whenever we were free.
My parents would ask her to plan our holidays sometimes. Our holidays were very special because the six of us got to spend quality time together. She loved to see my parents free and relaxed, away from all the corporate pulls and pressures. My parents loved photography and they would pull my granny into their activity. They would leave us to manage on our own while they went hunting for rare birds to ‘shoot’. My granny used to enjoy these forays immensely.
Once we went to her native village to spend a few days. While the elders were busy with their activities, we kids romped around the farms in great abandon. We loved the clear air and open spaces. My granny was much respected here, so we ended up being spoilt rotten. We learnt a lot about farming and the history of the place. The locals would regale us with stories about our granny’s antics; she would admonish them for exaggerating the issues and we would be in splits.
She loved the simple things in life. I still fondly remember the tet a tet between her and the vegetable vendor Kanakamma. Kanakamma would have to climb a flight of stairs to reach our home; she would be completely exhausted by the climb. Granny would first placate her with a snack and drink before she began her negotiations. My granny always managed to outwit her and get the best deal. She would come inside and victoriously display the fresh vegetables she got at a bargain. Once my Dad wanted to consult her, but my Mom held him back with a “Don’t you see she is the midst of an important negotiation,” she grinned. My Dad shrugged his shoulders helplessly and murmured – “What is she doing wasting her skills sitting at home, when she could be a marketing consultant at any top corporate of her choice.”
She always loved to play ‘cat and mouse’ game with the house help and sometimes we too joined in because it was so much fun.
She missed granddad a lot, we could see, and we did our best to fill the void. Her children and grandchildren visited often and my parents would send her to spend some time with them for short spells. Granny and her children would tell us stories from their younger days and we grandchildren would sit glued to our seats to listen.
Granddad had encouraged her to be independent and to have her own identity. After his demise, she took to writing poetry and short stories for English magazines. She had quite a fan following! She would tell us that she wanted to venture out to write lyrics for songs.
One night she complained of breathing difficulty and was rushed to the hospital. Little did we know then that she would never return home. The next few days in the hospital were painful for her, she fought valiantly but her luck did not hold out this time round. We are still struggling to come to terms with the truth; her loss is a void that is difficult to fill.
I was awoken from my thoughts by the ring of the mobile phone. It was my Mom – “Anu, I called to wake you up in case you were still asleep. You have a flight to catch shortly,” she said.
“What time is it Mom?” I asked.
“Five – honey, are you okay?” she asked concerned.
“I am fine Mom, thanks for the call, I will see you shortly,” I said and hung up.
I reached home and went straight to my favorite person’s room. She welcomed me and was smiling broadly from out of the photo to say – all is well, don’t fret about me anymore. I smiled,
You hold a special place in my heart
From my life, you can never depart
I want to grow up to be like you, I pray
I’m sure I’ll have your blessings from faraway.
Usha Sridhar is an independent researcher and resides in Bangalore. At a personal level she loves traveling, is an avid bird watcher and an amateur photographer. Usha, is passionate about poetry and short stories. She loves to observe the ebb and flow of life around and weave them into tales in verse. Her poems and short story contributions have appeared in RatemyLiterature, MuseIndia, and efiction India. Her poems have also appeared in several anthologies. Her first poetry collection called ‘Life Matters’ is being released shortly.