My dearest Nanimaa turns 70 on the 21st. And here I am, lazing around in my pyjamas, thinking of what to do for her special day this time around. As some creative ideas float around in my mind, a thought crosses my soul and is held captive. I am so, so lucky, I conclude. Not everybody gets a grandmommy in their lives. I live in a joint family and my cousins’ maternal grandmommy expired way before they were born, unfortunately. So they grew up clueless about what a blessing it is to have a Nanimaa. I quickly touchwood the moment.
I was born in the military hospital at Mathura, where my Nanu, a Colonel, was posted at that time. Like many other babies, I guess I was having a ball in the womb and wrapped the umbilical cord around my neck, threatening suicide if they tried to get me out. Hahah! But, but, the army doctor managed to convince me otherwise. Funny as it sounds in hindsight, it might have been a scary situation for my grandmommy, awaiting the birth of her first grandchild. And so happy she was, that after the news of my arrival was conveyed to her, the lady dragged my Nana to a rather secular darshan, in a bid to thank the God(s). Quite in the MMGC spirit of the Indian Army. Beautiful, right?
It was she who fed me honey as part of the Janam Gudti tradition. They say the child takes after the person who offers the sweet. And I think it is quite true. I spent a major part of my childhood (and beyond, to be frank) with my maternal grandparents. Every school holiday began at their place. It was only after I had soaked in my much needed Nani time that I let my parents materialize their plans for the break. My Nanimaa is very beautiful. Not a biased opinion, folks. She is. I can still visualize her coming out after her bath, hair dripping wildly, with her trying to drape the cotton saree. She still wears sarees. I think the major reason behind me being a saree person in this era is her.
She was so accommodating of my crazy demands as a child. Where a mother puts her foot down, the Nanimaa smiles and readily agrees for it. Want to have cornflakes in a strawberry milkshake, sitting in a bathtub? Check. Wish to try hanging onto her saree pleats? Check. Wish to jump on the sofa with the dog? Check. Want to draw a peacock on the walls? Check. It was she who made me feel like a princess every night. It was a ritual, I daresay. I used to put on her nightgown. I, a three feet tall child. And she proudly held the (loose on me) garment much like train of a gown, announcing my arrival to the fantastical commoners. That brings me to the morning memory. I am an early riser and again, it was because of her. She had a habit of waking up early, walking upto the garden with a box of bajra in her hands, and it was quite a we time for us, feeding the pigeons around. I never missed the ceremony for a few hours of sleep. She often had to dodge the dog Buzo, who competed with me for her attention all the time. She made me sponge balls, knit beautiful hats for me, force fed me butter and nuts on a daily basis, made singsongs alongwith me, which served as secret code words when the (clueless) family was around. She taught me how to make the worls’d best halwa; a skill I am rather proud and sure of, of all the other feathers in my hat.
She still makes me listen to her stories/anecdotes/life lessons and I always turn into this child, who can never have enough of her grandmommy. I am an only child. But my mother isn’t. Haha! So gradually, the other cousins came into the picture. I had no qualms about sharing my grandmommy with my maternal uncle’s two brats, for she was their Dadimaa. But I went and still go into this territorial mode with the jealousy meter striking an all time high, if any of my maasi’s kids try and be cozy with her. It’s as if, she’s exclusively my grandmommy. And though she will never say it out loud, for she’s a sweet soul, but deep inside, I try and be content with the whole situation. For I know no child has that place in her heart as I do. For they never spent that enormous amount of time I did with her. I made a point to celebrate my milestones in life with her. Be it my board results, my college farewell, or any other occasion, she was by my side. It is a family joke that the guy I get married to might have to move in alongwith two oldies, in addition to me. Haha.
She being the seasoned army wife personifies strength, grace and beauty for me. She’s taught me some valuable lessons in life. For I realize my choices in life have greatly been influenced from her. She made me realize the importance of a clear conscience. I pray for happiness, peace and contentment the way she does, choosing to sideline every other petty or materialistic thing. She’s taught me to analyze a situation from multiple perspectives and then take a step forward. She’s always ingrained this sense of patience in me. Life is a series of impossibilities, coincidences and events. And we have no control over these. So take life as it comes and try and have no regrets. She’s taught me to value my self respect more than anything else in life. As a woman, these are the contents of the rulebook according to which I live my life. The ideals I would take to my deathbed.
Today, I was thinking about how a person seeps into your very existense and how exactly does it happen that you cannot imagine your life without that person. That person turns into a habit and even if you don’t get to see them often, you are content with the fact that they are there somewhere. And thinking about my grandmommy in that context, I became very emotional; fighting tears. The very thought of her not being around at some point in my life in the future disturbs me a great deal. I don’t want to think about it, but I do. Witnessing the death of my Dadi had a profound effect on me. I realized you never come to terms with the loss as great as that. It leaves a permanent void in your life, which torments you to no end. You turn inconsolable. Maybe it is this fear that compels me to do silly things. I make her write her life stories, take candid pictures of her whenever I have the opportunity to and record her voice relentlessly. I bear hug her like there’s no tomorrow. She asks me with that puzzled expression if everything is alright, and I beam with an extra effort, for I don’t want to voice the unknown fear. It takes great courage on my part to even write about this and my throat feels heavy for some reason right now.
But, anyway, shoving this rather black thought at the back of my mind, I have to remind myself that it’s her birthday. I have already given her all the possible gifts I could think of all these years and written heavily emotional letters, which gave us silly moments as a grandmommy granddaughter duo. So, this time around, I have decided to give her a rather weird note. I have learnt Urdu recently, which thankfully, both my grandparents are proficient in. So, I’ll surprise them with this rather funny quatrain.
This, until a more crackling idea bangs my lid. *fingers crossed*
I can still imagine Nani shying away, blushing heavily, as I wish her a loud ‘Happy Birthday, Sexy Nani’. The reply being – ‘Sexy at 70, child? No way.’ But it’s only me who knows she’s sassy, unmatchable, unbeatable and a gem of a grandmommy.