I have a sense of relief tinged with a little guilt now as I say this.
My mother's mother is no more.
I remember all that my sister and I have shared with this grandmother. Vivid memories of summer holidays spent in a small one room kitchen in Mylapore, where she stayed with my Uncle. Somehow the size of the house was not at all significant in my mind, and we spent many summers whiling away time playing PalanKuzhi, or Hopscotch, that we called Pandi.
Over the years she has shared her story with us and it flashes back to me now. A by-gone era filled with stories of struggle and difficulties. (Yet they raised children so well, and we balk at minute and insignificant challenges thrown at us...let me not get judgemental here...)
I remember the beautiful photo of Paati hanging in the tiny bedroom cum living room. She is sitting with a veena and looks like a movie star or a Raja Ravi Varma painting. What I cant forget is the look of confidence, self assurance that sits on her face. I am sure when that photo was taken the teenager had no clue what awaited her in future.
She was a wonderful singer; is how she has told us very proudly. Along with her brother, she spent her childhood passionately singing and playing the veena (is this where my daughter gets her talent? My FIL would say it is from his side!!). But later when she would recollect her talent and her ability to sing high pitch, the memories were so devoid of bitterness and animosity, I wonder how that generation moved along with life, rolling and falling, but not lingering in the bitterness of failed chances.
She was married to a wealthy man with car and office, unheard of at those times. Yet, the tragedy was that after 4 children and at 28 years she lost her husband to chicken pox. Yet the details she has shared with me about her married life is so tragi-comic.
Privacy was non existent and the elder women of the house literally stood guard over the wife, monitoring how many times and how many days a week. Can one imagine a life like that? After losing her husband, she had to travel between parents and in laws, not fitting in, not belonging anywhere.
What was her life? Where could she pour her passions?
Music and Movies.
Many summer afternoons, she would just take us to the nearest theatre for a movie show, Shivaji Ganesan or MGR, sometimes Gemini. Sitting by her as she lost herself in this world of make believe. We could not understand most of the dialogues, and would constantly ask her some question, she would answer or not, but an icecream/ snack was guaranteed.
Evening time was temple time and we would walk down to the Kapaleeswarer temple, to listen to some Kutcheri or Kalakshep or to just sit in the temple, gossiping and chatting with friends and neighbours. I still believe she led a charming life within all the difficulties she faced.
I remember that childhood with her, adulthood moved us apart; different priorities, different lifestyles. Flitting meetings, cursory and dutiful grand-daughterly visits.
We carry pieces of them in our memories and mine are filled with mixed feelings.