For most of y’all, your grandmother would be fondly addressed as pattima, patti, aachi or nana, but I called my grandma, “Gamma.” My Gamma died when I was in an age where I didn’t know what death was. She was less than 10 years from hitting a century and I was “just” 10 years old.
I came to know of this beautiful soul when I was born on this earth. Though she never held me in her arms since she was almost 80 years old when she saw her first grand daughter, but she had a strong heart. I went by the name “Paapa” at home by her.
Blessed are those who get to live with their grandparents, in my case I had my Gamma. We were a family of four. My Gamma was my dad’s mother, born in 1911, born and brought up in Chennai, studied Zoology in Women’s Christian College, and retired as a School teacher. Now you know why I opted for zoology.
She was a woman who everyday at home would adorn herself in those soft beautiful sarees, bejewel her with elegant gold earrings and a chain, with her silvery hair perfectly wraped into bun. I found beauty in her smooth wrinkled skin.
Being a single child I never missed playing with a sibling, because there’s always my Gamma who would play dress up with me, make me do her hair, watch movies with me, excites me with her childhood stories and most of all protects me from amma’s so called beatings, which by the way never pains. Which sibling would even do that? Ha-ha!
There are also times were I showed her my side of naughtiness. I remember her screaming for my mum because I was jumping on the sofa (the very sofa where I’m sitting down and typing this) like a crazy person thinking that she’s enjoying the jolts.
As many of you could see I have a strong connection to animals, well it all came from what my eyes caught sight in my tiny tot days. My Gamma was the first person at home to take in a small Myna, and she affectionately kept it in her room. The myna was named as “Baba” since my dad repeatedly sung to her the rhyme, “Baba black sheep” and to our surprise it really sang it one day. There were also times, when Noel, my dog who is 16 years old now was a little puppy then, scared the bejesus out of me by just sleeping on the floor, and I deciding to take cover on my Gamma’s bed who was deep asleep. I was kind of a trouble back then I know, any less now. Ha-ha!
I faintly remember her playing the piano and singing few songs to me. Her time daily was spent in reading her Bible, watching old movies, for which she remembered all the dialogues by-heart, and sitting by our veranda in the evenings. She rarely goes to church, but if she does she attends the American college Chapel vespers.
And then, began the days, were she would forget things, see people of the past and start calling their names and resisting to eat. Her body started to wear out gradually. I remember my dad hand feeding her breakfast every morning before he goes to work.
As time went by surgeries had to be done to have her leg amputated. My mum looked after her needs so well. There were days when my parents would have to go somewhere and I had to tend to my Gamma with a bed pan when she has to go. We never planned on keeping a maid for my Gamma until my dad got sick temporarily. There were occasions when she couldn’t differentiate or indentify people. We had many of my dad’s colleagues, friends, students, help us in our time of need. Three of them I still remember are Premkumar uncle, Peaceponraj uncle and my aunt sheeba. We are indebted to them.
Her body started deteriorating as days went by. I vividly remember one early morning on October 21st 2002, when my aunt woke me up to tell me that my Gamma had passed away, I didn’t know what should I feel. Though I felt sad I didn’t know why I should cry and I never did too. My parents gave her a meaningful prayer meeting in memory of her.
It was 2003, an evening were my mum and I were cleaning our living room with beautiful tamil keerthanai’s singing away in our cassette player. There was this particular song called, ”ThevaPitha Enthan Meipan”which had no connection with my Gamma, started playing and I was moved all of a sudden. I had a hit of nostalgia. After a few minutes without my own knowledge I found myself crying over her memories. It took me one whole year to understand about death and for my feelings to come out. My mum saw me weeping and consoled me with positive words.
The time spent with my Gamma was short-lived but the experience she and the moments taught me was huge. I know you all might have had similar experiences as I had and I’m sure we have some lessons to take with us on our journey.
I planned to write this blog in memory of her last October but due to some incidents I couldn’t. So here it goes. I am lucky to have known her not just as a grandmother, but also as a woman.