Saturday, September 29, 2007

Two Lives.

There have been enough things happening around me lately for me to retire into my habitual cocoon and watch the world through the crook of my elbow. World Cups. Revolutions. My mother’s thirty-third midlife crisis attack, which made her buy a pair of bright blue leggings.

Which is why I am profoundly happy that Paati has arrived. Paati, my maternal grandmother, is one of my Favourite People in the world because she’s never given up on me, no matter what I’ve done. Nothing I say seems to ruffle her, and nothing I do is unwomanly (did you ever think it possible?). She flies down from Bombay once a year to brighten my world, reteach me the Tamil I have forgotten, and cook me some exotic South Indian dishes, the secret recipes to which are so well-hidden that my mother can never recall where she’s put them. And she never buys me anything, because she knows instinctively that I will love her all the more if she hands me the money instead. And, most importantly, she talks enough sense into my mother to last another year.

She arrived today. She looked as straight and capable as ever, but there is a stoop about her shoulders that was not there before. She moves more slowly than last year, and has more tablets to swallow. And I heard her comparing her medical evils with my paternal grandfather, and it seems like not all is quiet on the Ageing Front. I feel rather heartbroken. Two of the people I love most are getting old, and how. And though they don’t show it, there is that vague feeling of inevitability and rheumatism and ointment about their conversation. I wonder why I never noticed it earlier. Maybe it’s the horridness of having to grow up and realise things. Maybe it’s just something you have to realise sooner or later.

This post wasn’t meant to be about Paati, or about how depressing it is that people have to grow old, but now that it has turned out this way I don’t think I’ll change it. I’m lucky to have two wonderful grandparents left, and I’m thankful that they’re here now, sitting on the sofa, sipping their tea and conversing in the unique mixture of Hindi-Tamil-Malayalam that comes only to people who have lived long enough to transcend the boundaries of what words mean. These are people who know about silent company.

I did not mean to sound whimsical or nostalgic. I suppose it comes out of my incorrigible liking for stories of any sort, and grandparents are synonymous with stories. Their memories are entire universes, and there isn’t a better way of spending an afternoon than curling up in the balcony and listening to sepia-tinted stories of forgotten childhoods and long-dead romances and family scandals. For someone growing up suspended between three cultures and five languages, hearing family histories recounted is sometimes the best way of hooking on to an identity. This woman sounds like me. That is something I would have done. This is how my grandparents got married. This is what my mother did when she was three. This is why I am. There is much hidden romance in memories, and it is when they are recounted that I see how much hidden romance there is in grandparents. I just have to get the stories flowing, and the wistful wisdom comes out in ways that astonish me, till I remember that these stories are bits of their lives.

Grandparents are very exciting. Yes, I know what that sounds like. But it is true. They make my world a more interesting place, and I don't know what I shall do when they're gone.

14 kindred spirits have swallowed my rambling:

Clezevra said...

I agree. Reading all that made me feel sad, nostaligc, and appreciative of all that I have

heh? ok said...

you know that typical grandparent smell? when i was a kid, i loved sticking my head into my grandma's waist and just soak in her smell. and now there's just one grandma i have left, and she's become smaller than i have. i can hug her with one hand and that just breaks my heart everytime. loved the post.

new age scheherazade said...

oh, man. can't comment on this one. it's too close to my raw spot, and maybe someday i'll be able to post about it.but not now.
my grandfather was my whole world.

anyway,wow. you're very lucky.and loved the post.

Revolver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revolver said...

I second Anasua. I'm sorry, but she said it before I could.

*applauds*

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ clezevra: thanks.

@ heh? ok: don't i just. i'm still thankful my grandma's tall.

@newage: you know that one line? "my grandfather was my whole world"? i'd like to elaborate on that someday, a whole post maybe, but i know i'll delete it the moment i've finished. it's better when a post just evolves, like this one did - i know i'd never post on dadu otherwise.

@ revolver: another thank you.

Safdar -- veil-unmasked. said...

upheavingly touching. to try to analyse this wud be loser-like.

speedpost said...

How come only I get stuck with mean, miserly, and general embodiment of evil, child-labour using, abusive, chasing my late grandfather with a broomstick, messing up my dad's childhood forever, heartless grandmother.

but I guess other people have good memories. the only reason I would ever speak to my grandmother is to make sure I dont end up like her. and she lives down the hall.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ safdar: haha, analysis always was a drag. read and shut up is a good policy.

@ speedpost: i know. i KNOW. i had an evil grandma too, but thank heavens she's dead (evil side of writer comes out, hide your fluffy animals.)

cynic said...

Since you are evidently an admirer of Dali’s, you’ll be able to appreciate the difference that perspective makes. The same cowshed where you would smell the hay was also a vantage point for members of the family to watch the locomotives steam in, between the homestead and the dry river-bed, conjuring up dreams of distant cities. You could walk along the railway tracks till they forked apart like Robert Frost’s paths wondering which path was yours. For many it was an escape from ones roots, for others a return.
When a link to your past and the identity you have built up snaps, you could lose your moorings quite apart from experiencing the grief of loss; a few months, a grandmother and her two sisters, other cousins…But those links could be as tenuous or as resilient as you choose. The tharavad could be a temple of pilgrimage and a source of renewal and rejuvenation or it could be baggage. Perspective and choice...
I’m sending you a photograph of the caretakers and guardians of your ancestral house. You might like to show it to your father or even post it on the blog….then again, you may not.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@cynic: thank you. but who are you?

Maximum Boy said...

Now i know why safdar's link list says "What a blog!".
Read it three times over.

Maximum Boy said...

"Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost. We just like the landscape."
-Witty.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ maximum boy: i feel drowned in praise. thank you.