‘Madhama’ (foreigner lady) is what we used to call our maternal grandma out of pure love. Her actual name was ‘Mariyama’, derived from holy mother Mary’s name, and to us, she was the epitome of sacrifices. Yes, that’s what she was, divine love, a pure God-fearing soul who knew nothing else besides loving us. In her younger days, she was a petite, skinny figure with flourishing, flowing crow-black hair as long as her short stature. She used to wear the traditional white dress that grandmas wear in Kerala. Not once had I seen her in any fashionable clothing, yet she was stunning. Not to be misguided by her skinny stature as it had worked ten times its size was capable of. It must not have been an easy task, raising ten kids in a patriarchal society some 80 years back. She was living in a joint family with a very demanding husband, who as a very demanding ‘head of the family’ would expect her to conjure up instantaneously just about anything he wished for randomly or required for the family’s survival. She had lived in utter poverty, yet she was the richest woman filled with so much humility and life. She would always smile, pray, cry and laugh, all at the drop of a hat.
Back in my childhood days, we used to visit Kerala regularly, and we got most excited to go to my maternal house. It was a small village with nothing around fascinating for kids of my age, but we all were pulled to that place only because of our mom’s parents and our cousins. Our lovely gatherings, folk stories, and not to forget the excellent traditional food, was add on attraction. Everything was arranged and organised by my beautiful granny. She would cuddle us, pamper us, and she had a peculiar way of kissing us like she is breathing onto our cheeks. Someone rightly said that “Grandparents make the world … a little softer, a little kinder, a little warmer.”
From my childhood, I used to hear a lot of stories from my grandmother. I recall her telling me stories of how I was born into her hands. I have listened to this tale from her so many times, the ‘dramatic story’ of my birth. And she would enact the entire incident as if it was happening now. As per her, it was a quiet early morning, just like any other dreary day, and suddenly her daughter complained of painful contractions. Commuting anywhere, back in those days, was difficult and they had to cross a river by boat and then take a taxi jeep booked to reach the district hospital. Well, the vehicle gave away in the middle of nowhere and caught fire. My granny tried stopping every car in vain. And when that didn’t help, she decided to jump and lie down crying out loud down in front of the next one approaching. The vehicle was returning from a wedding, and the melodrama created by my dearest granny made them agree to take her daughter to the hospital. I was born within minutes of reaching the hospital and passed onto my granny’s hand. And thus I can say, without hesitation, that I owe my life to her will and determination. It was her unconditional love and courage, minutes before I was born that makes me the woman I am today. I don’t remember, but she used to say I was a monster who sucked her blood when I was hungry, and I believe her.
She was not just loving or caring, but she was incredibly courageous as well. I remember like a prudent mother she would be there for all her daughters whoever it may have been in need. When required, she would travel all the way to Delhi, a three days journey in a train from Kerala, even when she couldn’t even speak Hindi or understand it. For her, it was all about her family. My sister was born with bent legs, and my granny would not take a break but try and massage her legs, as much as she could back in those winter days. She now thanks granny for her straight legs. And not just my sister or me but all our cousins have been pampered by granny in their childhood days or even in our adulthood. Even our children were lucky to be spoiled by their great grandmother.
Another amazing quality about her was the positivity with which she was always glowing. She would always turn any bizarre situation into a happy one. I remember when I got my long hair cut short into a bob, and everyone was scolding me or teasing me, she called me and said darling “do you realise you look human now with all the hair gone?”. She was always so encouraging and would entirely make all our imperfections vanish like it was never there. She would always be cheering for us in all situations. I feel so proud when people say, “you are like her”, “that dignity that you possess you inherited from her”. She was such a fantastic person.
But now all of this is just a memory. My grandmother meant the world to me. Her passing away has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. Her last words to me where “may God bless you with his choicest of blessing and may his guardian angels protect you, I am praying for you, pray about everything, worry about nothing, lots of kisses and hugs”. Her wisdom, life lessons and unconditional love will always be instilled upon us. That unique smile, that caring heart, that warm embrace will forever be missed. She would always bring back smiles on our face even when we were in some deepest trouble. That’s how my granny was a strong pillar for the three generations to hold on to. My grandmother was my angel on earth; now, she is my angel in heaven. My beloved granny, who lived to be 101!!