Memories of Paati

A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend. ~Author Unknown

Grandmother-grandchild relationships are simple. Grandmas are short on criticism and long on love. ~Author Unknown

Grandmother - a wonderful mother with lots of practice. ~Author Unknown

A grandmother is old on the outside but young on the inside. ~Author Unknown

When I think about paati, the house in Thiruvamiyur automatically comes to mind. I attended my first school (International school in Thiruvamiyur) from this house. Thatha used to drop me to school and pick me up and paati used to take care of me at home. The one thing that always amazed me about paati was the ease with which she used to adapt and gel with people of all age groups and classes. She had the gift of understanding people and their interests. She was a voracious reader and would always be reading something in her spare time. This is something that a lot of us have inherited from her. She was very fond of translated books and knew a lot of stories written by national as well as international authors. Sarat Chandra chatterjee was among her favourites. She also knew an astounding number of mythological stories. She would always tell us these stories emphasizing on the moral of the story.

My fondest memories of childhood are from the annual vacations made to Madras. We would spend a major part of the vacation with both sets of grandparents in Mandaveli and Thiruvamiyur. The flat in Thiruvamiyur was very lively with a constant stream of visitors. It served as a hub where relatives met each other from time to time. The most frequent visitors as I recall used to be Varadachari periappa, Kannan periappa (adyar), Sriram, Ramesh and Rahul. I used to enjoy the movie shows in the flat where 2 or 3 movies would be rented and watched as a group. The kitchen used to be raided during these shows and we used to discover some things that had been around for a long time. We generally ate anything and everything in the kitchen but there were occasions when something in those containers tasted really awful and was not edible. When asked about it on the next day, paati would say something like “this was given by so and so almost a month ago and I completely forgot about it !”. She also used to pack the refrigerator with a lot of items. My father used to tease her a lot about this. Once the phone was ringing and no one could find the cordless instrument. Appa jokingly told paati to look for the phone in the fridge. Thatha used to tease paati very rarely but once I was a witness to thatha’s comment on paati’s cooking. Paati had made medu vadais on that day and they turned out to be slightly hard. When she asked thatha about how they were, he said with a half smile on his face “kallu nanna irruku” (The stone is nice). Paati turned to me and said “paaru ma epdi sollararu” (look how he is commenting). She always used to take all comments very sportingly.

I also remember eating in a group were paati would make balls of sambar saadham, rasam saadham and thayir saadham and give these to everyone in a round robin fashion. Paati used to enjoy these group feeding sessions as she would feed her children as well as grand children together.

She had a very modern outlook towards life and had the capability to accept and adapt to any kind of changes. She could do this better than her peers as well as younger generations. She was full of positive energy and always had a cheerful disposition. She always found ways to keep herself busy. She was very fond of carnatic music as well as devotional songs. She had a small radio that would always be playing one of these. Whenever any of her favorite songs were played either on radio or on TV, she would continue humming those songs much later as well. She was very fond of mythological serials like Mahabharat, Ramayan, Shri Krishna etc. She would watch these in Hindi even though she did not understand Hindi very well. Later she also watched the repeat telecasts of these serials in Tamil. She had also been writing “Shri Ramajayam” in notebooks for a number of years and continued doing so till the end. She was very fond of card games and old games like Dayakattai and Sozhi. She would also play chess, carrom, snakes and ladders and ludo with all the young ones. Mail was her favorite card game and she would thoroughly enjoy playing this game.

When she was informed about the problem with her kidneys around 5 years ago, she took it very cheerfully and followed the very strict regime that was prescribed without complaint. In the initial days, her diet restrictions were not very clear. Everyone did their own research and found one more item that paati could not eat and conveyed this to her almost on a daily basis for a couple of weeks. Paati would be very depressed when items kept on getting added to the list. Her greatest regret with this problem was that she could not eat her favorite fruit i.e. banana. She also told me that she regretted the fact she was not allowed to eat savory items like mixture, murukku etc. whereas she was allowed to eat many different types of sweets (Without dry fruits). Another example of her adaptability was the fact that she started eating papaya, a fruit that she had never eaten in her life earlier. There was a time in Ayanavaram when both my grandmothers were in our house. They used to talk a lot. My paternal grandmother, Kamala paati was bed ridden but did not have any diet restrictions. Jaya paati could move about but had severe diet restrictions. Paati would always say that it would be very nice if she and Kamala paati could exchange roles for a short time. She always wanted to be a part of everything and make her contribution. She would insist on helping amma with chores like making snacks during festivals or when amma made them for me or Aarthi.

I consider myself very fortunate to have interacted with all my grandparents and spent a lot of time with them. In losing Jaya paati, I have lost my most favorite and last surviving grandparent. I still get the feeling sometimes that paati is either in Kanna mama’s place or Santhana mama’s place and will be visiting us in Arumbakkam soon when reality sinks in. I miss you paati and hope and pray that you are well and happy wherever you are now.

January 2007