Last night, I called my grandmother as I usually do once every few weeks. She is hard of hearing. Our conversations usually start with me trying to let her know which one of her five granddaughters she is talking to this time around; and, more often than not, after trying hard to get who is on the other end, she just goes on to assume, out of the blue, which one of us is calling and goes with that flow. This has never been a problem for me so far – as long as she is hale and healthy, I didn’t have a reason to bother her much by continuing to push the fact that it’s me and not one of my sisters or my cousins.
This time around, though, it was important for me that she knew I was on the other end of the line. For I had a news to share with her that I didn’t want her to confuse it as coming from my sisters or my cousins. So I kept at it – my efforts to let her know who she was talking to. And after a few tries, she heard my name right and I was elated.
The discussion began as usual – me inquiring her about her health and she explaining her current situation, beginning from what went wrong that made her go see the doctor to how it’s all rectified now with ointments and other medications. Touchwood. With that topic covered to my satisfaction, we moved on to talk about family – general inquiries from both ends on how other members were doing, and it is in the middle of this chat that I let her know that I’m to visit India end of this year.
There was a pause. I thought that there was a problem in the line; Paatti, I called out, to check if she was still there. So you are not able to make it this year too, huh? Your father told me few weeks ago that you were planning a trip, what changed? Why aren’t you coming? came a dejected voice through the phone. I smiled and repeated what I’d initially told her, and prepared myself to say it again, when I heard a soft joyful squeal. When are you coming? Are the dates confirmed? How long will you be here for? … a series of questions came flying.
And, at that moment, I would’ve given anything to see the face that carried her gleeful smile. But I happily compromised to be content with the delight that I could so clearly hear in her voice. It made up for all these years of disappointment of making and breaking plans. And I’m sure when I knock on her door not so long from today, the tight hug that’ll follow will make up for years of shattered promises.
My grandmother was an important part of life growing up. We lived in a joint family setup for a good part of my childhood and hence, spent much more time around our grandparents than our working parents. Growing up with her around, I couldn’t have missed that one thing about that made her stand out and made me look up to her. And of all values I would credit my grandparents for instilling in me, if I had to pick one that is most important to me to date, then it would be what I respected my grandmother for the most – how she was the embodiment of a strong, independent woman. She’s always been a proponent of women’s independence, especially in the financial terms, and she made sure she emphasized and encouraged it in all of her granddaughters.
She moved to the big city from a small town after she wed my grandfather in her teens. In the city, with my grandfather working long hours to provide for the family, she made sure she utilized her time in a constructive way. She learned Hindi and Sanskrit, with my grandfather’s help, and then started tuition classes to teach the languages to neighborhood children. And with the money she made from that, she not only supported her growing family, but also made sure she put away some for her future aspirations.
Till date, at the age of 73, she lives in the home that she built along with her husband. She refuses to move in with any of her children, just because she thinks that will tie her down in some way. She has put aside enough all these years – her earnings and savings from grandfather’s earnings – that gives her a steady monthly income today. And with that, she lives happily in her own haven, by her own terms, without having to depend on anyone.
At a time when everyone around me, including my parents, don’t let go of a chance to remind me that I’m getting old and that my biological clock is ticking, my grandmother is the only one who tells me not to rush into anything just because I’m soon approaching 30, and to take my own time to decide, for getting married at some particular age isn’t everything. Even though, growing up and understanding better what went on in the household made my relationship with my grandmother a little rocky, my respect for her in some aspects remained the same. There are many things that I don’t see eye to eye with my grandmother, yet there is no better role model than her when it comes to her principles regarding women’s independence. And for instilling those very values in me, I can’t thank her enough.
So, here I am now, waiting for November to knock on my door, so I get to hug and kiss that person who has been a big part of making me who I am today. I can’t wait to see that shine on her eyes when we meet. I can’t wait to nag her to buy me kulfi that she’s denied so many times throughout my childhood. I can’t wait to eat the most delicious potato fry I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to let her in on the happenings of life. I can’t wait to take her along to the new home, to see her meet and greet the family, and to have her by my side, as I pen a new chapter of my life.
I can’t wait to see you, Paatti!