Sunday, September 30, 2007

My Little Granny

She was small and myopic but a great lady. In my family the women folk had guts of steel. And my granny had tons of it! She lost her husband early and her only son, our silver tongued ‘Humko Mama’, died of a horrible accident in the prime of his youth leaving behind a young widow and two bonny children! Those did falter her steps, but she didn’t indulge in the misery, instead she immersed herself in work and more work.

I remember her as a cherubic, buxom and witty lady always ready with a smile and chirpy laugh. She would tell us crazy stories and help us in our studies with equal passion. Mind you, she was a professor at the reputed Banares Hindu University! Yet she was so down to earth and such a jolly good person that all of us loved her.

She was the one who named me ‘Samudra Guptan’ after an illustrious warrior king who invaded dozens of kingdoms and brought them under his rule. Don’t be under the impression that I was a warrior of any sort. Far from it, I was a timid one. Very Very timid indeed. Yet she named me after him because I used to move around in my sleep and kick the hell out of the unfortunate one who happened to sleep near me. In my teens I grew up in my uncle’s place. So at night all of us cousins used to sleep lying one next to other. Our little Granny would also sleep with us. During one unfortunate occasion, she was pushed out her pillow and came to realise that I was conquering her. Till her death, may god bless her soul, she used to refer to this embarrassing part of my life much to the delight of the audience, whenever there was a family gathering.

Her tutoring of one of my cousin was a classic example of the tenacity she displayed. He used to be in 4th or 5th year in school and it was mandatory to learn the multiplication tables by heart. Well, that was for every student except my cousin. Fed up with his poor marks in math, li’l Granny took it on her to drill it out my cousin, who was very enterprising and found some way to escape the torture. But granny was adamant. Loud sessions of chanting multiplication tables would reverberate in the study hall. She would ask, “Eight nines are?” and the sad boy denied playtime would scratch his head as if the answer was stored there. He would repeat, “Eight nines are. . . eight nines are. . . eight nines are. . .(all of them in different tones). Then granny would shout, “Tell me what eight nines are?” Purposefully, as if he knows the answer my cousin would say, “Oh you want eight nines huh? Well eight nines are,” “Are?” expectantly granny would urge. “Well eight nines are. . . hmmm . . eight nines are . . .lemme see (biting his lower lips and hiding a smile). . ” Granny would chide, cajole, beg and plead but my cousin would play her around his thumb no matter. Finally she would yell at him and ask him to get lost. Next day, again the hungama would be repeated without much variation and the next after that and next. But in the end we were amazed because my cousin did manage to learn the whole tables by heart every way; up down or centre. My granny had the last laugh.

She sharpened her skills in linguistics till her end, helping family relatives and neighbours master English. Indian history, yoga and kids fascinated her. She doted on us and was always obliging. We played with her, disobeyed her with impunity for she would never resort to punishment, took delight in her and sometimes even ridiculed her. Then, her greatness was taken for granted. Now, we feel ashamed for mistreating her at least sometimes by denying and disobeying. However we cherish the poignant moments we spent with her more.

Everything good has to stop someday. So did our li’l Granny. Till the end she was passionate about her chores. She stood dying as she prayed to the deities. I was fortunate to put her to her death bed noticing her awkward stance and give her last drops of life as she breathed her last. I will never forget the scene of stunned inaction, when slowly the fact of her departure sank in our mind.

That was the end of her physical existence, but her memories and legacy lives on.

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