My earliest memory of her is of a bed time story. My aunt (who is two years older than me) and I would wait up for her to come to bed and tell us a story before we slept… And boy could she spin some wild ones! Be it mythological.. or ancient family stories and gossip.. no one quite tells a story like her. Full of dry wit and tongue in cheek humor..she told a great story and send us off to lala land with big colorful pictures in our heads. Between her and my mom, I developed a fascination for stories and a love of the written word
She taught me that it was important to start the day with a prayer… if you couldn’t pray ( and she would consider you nuts, if you told her that) just thank God that you were alive. There was a picture of baby krishna by her bedside and she would wake up and say a prayer before her feet hit the ground.
She had a wild sense of humor but she had a hard time telling a joke…. and that’s because she would double up before the punch line… with tears in her eyes and shoulders shaking with silent laughter.
She had the mommy scent…
She could do anything with food. She made the best moloshiyam and olan in the world.
She had a story for everything and every situation and was incredibly wise…
She had pride and was a survivor. Life in a male dominated patriarchal Brahmin society in Kerala was not easy. If life was tough.. she was tougher and she did it with a sense of humor and a heart full of pride and love.
She could get mad and remain mad.
She thought my grandfather was the hottest man on the planet. And yes.. they constantly argued…
Her idea of a kiss was to put her nose against your cheek and deeply inhale your scent – but she once told me… that when memory fades.. one might forget names but not scents. Scents and smells always evoke memories. Of course she saw no reason to ” put saliva on someone’s cheek…” it was something we constantly teased her about…
She could be unintentionally hilarious and was truly a sport when we tripped on her.
She raised six kids.. handled a tough mother in law, a joint family of over 20 members and random guests…spent a big chunk of her life- cooking seriously yum food… and getting everything ready for pujas at the family temple.
She had this favorite spot in the house.. in the naalukettu- leaning against one of the pillars – it was like Sheldon’s spot for her- perfect to watch the TV, see if anyone is coming home… keep an eye on the kids playing in the naalu kettu , say her prayers and get the flowers ready for the pujas.
She was feisty as hell and the moment she stepped outside the house- she was the grande dame – an epitome of dignity.
She was imperfect. She had a lot of faults. She never pretended otherwise. She was beautiful. She was strong. She was capable of great love and unconditional loving.
She spent a lot of time teaching me about the culture and our rituals while I did my undergraduate degree in Kerala. we argued bitterly over quite a few of them. She told me- You need to learn about all this. Given that you keep saying, you will never marry a malayalee boy.. you will need to teach your kids about your roots. Who else will do it? and I’d ask her.. Why? Where are you going?
Orphaned at 2, raised by an uncle, married at 18, mother at 20, grandmother at 38, great grandmother at 63…. she celebrated her 84th birthday this March.
I think it’s because of all that storytelling at bedtime that I ended up with a habit of reading half hour every night and sometimes till I finish the book if the story is gripping. In boarding school, I would use a torch light to read under the blankets till the nuns confiscated three of my torch lights.
But the last few days, reading doesn’t give me any pleasure.. and my sleep remains disturbed… It’s been a little over two weeks of disturbed sleep with random dreams of wood paneling, some of the most exquisite wood carvings… of teak pillars and a diminutive figure sitting leaning against the pillar, the sounds of the night… the heavy rains in Kerala…this particular picture of Lord Krishna.. the smell of camphor, of til oil lamps, of sandalwood.. of ghee, the smell of wood burning …the huge mango tree and its incredibly sweet fruit… of jackfruit and chakka varthi, of buttermilk… of churning of butter…of the family kolam, and most of all.. the sound of a voice that showed no hint of tiredness after a long day… to entertain her kids with stories. Random scenes slip in and out of my head… disconnected and yet connected to her…only to her…
Maybe because the mind is forcing me to accept what the heart refuses to- that the voice that told a million stories has finally fallen silent.
RIP gorgeous!! I am glad that the last words you ever spoke to me were in blessing.
I am pretty sure that in some other world you are weaving a tale and holding court of a spell bound audience … Lucky them!