Two weeks back, I was struck with the loss of a loved one- My paternal grandma- Achamma (literally translated as father’s mother). Usually the sound, undisturbed sleeper I am, I surprisingly woke up around 3 am to answer nature’s call and came back to bed with mixed thoughts. Ten minutes later, I receive a call from my father and somehow I just knew even before I answered the call that it beget terrible news. I still remember my Acha’s (father) muffled and trembling voice.
Loss of your loved one is a strange feeling and a miserable one at that. As much I wanted to rush home immediately to comfort my father and my mother (who also had grown so close to Achamma during her 30 years of marriage), distance and time posed in front of me as unsurpassable challenges. I did want to see my dear Achamma for one last time but I must be honest in saying that it terrified me to see her in this last stage of life.
Achamma was a fiercely independent and strong woman, hardened by circumstances and then later softened by old age.
I hear that she was an extremely good student even for her times, who endured all the hardships of the bygone era of lack of transportation and infrastructure to just attend school. It seems that she was determined to have a career and stand on her own feet.
She successfully went on to become a teacher and marry my granddad who also was a teacher. I hear that they were so deeply in love. He used to work in a school quite far away and hence used to come home to her and their 4 children only on the weekends. They apparently used to do everything together then ; be it even the washing of the week’s piled up laundry of the children. But fate played a cruel trick with Achachan’s (father’s father) sudden demise due to a heart attack. Achamma was just 35 years of age then with 4 kids; eldest being my dad at 10 and his youngest sister at 3.
I remember Achamma telling me; how she refused to see light after that and stayed in the attic for days together before her mother and others got her to move on with her life. She says her teaching job kept the house running. She also used to narrate that how troubled she was especially due to the anxieties caused by her 2 notorious sons (my dear father and uncle). How she had no one to share her innermost fears and worries about life and of course mostly about her children.
But by the grace of the Almighty, everything worked out and all her children went on to get settled with their lives and children of their own.
I believe that it was somewhere around the age of 50 that she actually began to enjoy life again and impart in the little pleasures be it wearing jewellery or ornate saris. She was always misconceived to be a lady especially in her old age to “not dress” as per her age. I recollect one such incident when she was in Bahrain that she wanted to purchase a pretty big piece of gold jewellery which I admit that I too wouldn’t wear now. Though I was dead against she buying it, my dad left it to her choice completely. What he said was she couldn’t enjoy these simple pleasures during her youth due to the tag of being a widow and circumstances, so if she derives happiness from this then so be it. After this I’ve always tried to be extra sensitive about her “decking up”.
A trait which I so deeply admired of her was her orderliness and cleanliness. Her organization skills till her very last day would put any of us to shame. She was very meticulous in terms of arranging her belongings and her clothes. However late into the night we reached home after a party, she would have to straighten and have it folded perfectly. She was also extremely punctual in administering her medicines and insulin injections which I believe helped her going till the end.
She was also an avid lover of the Malayalam soap operas and I remember how I and my eldest cousin sister used to fight with her for the TV in the initial years before finally giving in her likings later on.
Unlike most of her counterparts, she used to loved to come to Bahrain probably due to the attention she enjoyed from my parents’ friends or the relatively accessible lifestyle out there. One thing I must highlight is her love for KFC, yes -Kentucky Fried Chicken !!! Inspite of its bland and non-spicy nature, she used to adore it and did not even mind it being given to her reheated the next day. How we used to pull her leg then. J. When I used to indulge in Mrs. Vannellis pasta or McDonalds during my trips to Bahrain, she always would take an interest to find out what it was and even enjoy it quite sumptuously to our surprise. Quite an adaptable grandmom, right?
Another hilarious instance I must quote without which this memoir would be incomplete is at the time of my marriage. I had just gotten married and was at my husband’s place. The first morning, when I spoke to my parents and Achamma, she inquired about my well-being and also said- “ I hope your first night went off well” !!! I was stupefied beyond words and apparently she was reprimanded by my aunts. J
To conclude I must she did live a full life of 82 years and had the good fortune of attending mine and all of her grandchildren’s weddings (Roshu- You know you are too young !). Infact she was supposed to come to Bahrain during this week and had even purchased a very expensive piece of jewellery just a month prior to her demise. This just reiterated the fact of how she wanted to live her life to the fullest which I admired so much.
I was unable to speak to her during her last week for which I feel terribly guilty now. So this is my way of remembering her, bidding her farewell and capturing her memories for mine and my cousins’ kids. I would like to think this she has been reunited with Achacha (granddad) now and don’t they have 47 years of catching up to do ??
Love you Achamma always and forever.