We all have people in our lives who by there being there and not being there leave a profound impact on it, both positively and negatively. Ultimately it is up to each one of us as to how to react to this. The most obvious influences come from our parents as they not only pass on their traits and characteristics but also their way of thinking explicitly and implicitly. Another, not so obvious, influence is that of grandparents. I believe I will not be wrong if I state each and every one of us have a special place for our grandparents in our hearts, both paternal and maternal. Due to the societal norms we Indians follow, a majority of us would have definitely lived with our paternal grandparents for at least some part of their growing up years.
While my paternal grandfather passed away much before my parents even married, I was lucky enough to have lived of all the first 22 years of my life with my grandmother who, unusually enough, I used to call by her first name T. This continues right from the time I started speaking till she passed away in 1999 and even today, in my thoughts she is still T. While I have countless memories about her, what follows in no particular order are things about her which remain and will always be imprinted in my heart forever.
· When I was just 4, refusing to go out with my parents when they went to a friend's party / wedding, preferring instead to stay at home with T. Spending time in a make-believe airplane that was taking us to America. Me asking her if she would like to eat something on the flight - assuring her that she could get anything she liked, I only had to tell the "air-hostess".
· Being petrified of Rang Panchami during Holi and her hiding me behind her saree’s pallu when any of my friends came home to forcibly apply colour on me.
· Listening to the many stories she used to narrate to my younger brother and me (us listening open-mouthed) and then pestering her to repeat a particular one after having just heard it from her anyway. And her obliging us each time.
· Her crocheting beautiful pieces using wool with those long crocheting needles. In the later years, her carefully saving all the plastic bags that the groceries came in, cutting them into strips and using them instead of wool to make just as beautiful doilies. These are still there in the homes of most of my aunts and uncles and our houses and are used to cover telephones or as table mats.
· The distinctive sound her slippers used to make as she walked around the house.
· Her perfectly draped sarees and neatly tied hair.
· Sleeping adjacent to her at night all throughout with one loosely linked through hers – her sometimes patting me to sleep.
· Her reading of the Marathi newspaper Loksatta on a daily basis through her thick glasses and then in the later years, also using a magnifying glass to make the letters appear even clearer.
· Her concern for the health of all of us at home and the home remedies she was master of.
· The tough life she led; from losing her husband, seeing a lot of hard days but doing everything possible to ensure that her children never suffered, a trait she passed on to all her children and all this without losing the smile on her face and her trust in the almighty about never forsaking them ever.
· Her weathering some turbulent days with her usual fortitude over certain family issues which seem trivial in the longer scheme of things.
· Her habit of carefully preserving greetings cards, wedding invitations and hand-made gifts given to her by her loved ones.
· The patience with which she handled these two extremely hyper-active grandsons.
· How she could turn out the most delicious traditional dishes and make us lick our fingers after eating and always want more.
· Her going to sit in the building compound most evenings with her “friends”.
· Her being able to actually treat her daughters-in-law feel more like daughters and always supporting them in any way possible to her.
· How all my friends would love her after having met her just once and get drawn to her warm, gentle and loving demeanour.
· Loving to listen to her reminisce about the days gone by and the incidents she recollect from a long while ago like the
· How she used to nurse me back to health along with my mother when I used to be delirious with high fever.
· Her mock irritation when my brother used to tease her.
· The way she used to pronounce certain words.
· Her extremely warm persona that radiated all around her in spite of her simplicity.
· Her pride in her children and even more so her grandsons and granddaughters on their every achievement, big or small.
When it is about T, I can go on and on but then this would have to be a book. I cried very bitterly and developed a temperature when she left us to go to her heavenly abode in April 1999. Life was never the same again. Having said that, I have never really had to miss her as I have been extremely fortunate to feel her by my side every waking moment. In fact, there are times when I see her in my dad. Today is her birthday. While there is no such milestone required to say something which I am sure she realizes, I will still take this chance and say “I love you, T!” I hope I have lived up to any aspirations you had from me and that I have grown into at least a quarter of the human being you were. Though knowing you, you would still be biased and say you don’t expect anything at all. Happy birthday!