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My Maternal Grandma

Discussion in 'Cheeniya's Senile Ramblings' started by Cheeniya, Aug 3, 2018.

  1. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    When I was born, both my paternal grandparents as well as my maternal grandfather were dead. Only my maternal grandma was alive almost until my thirties. When she was born, they named her Meenakshi, the presiding deity of Madurai. As she grew older and older, her beautiful name got transformed to Meenachee Patti which sounded almost abusive. She never called me by my name as it was her husband’s name and stuck to calling me ‘Pappa’ (Child). She continued to call me so even after I became father of two daughters!


    She was a very orthodox woman who wore a white sari which covered her clean shaven head – the mark of a widow. She regularly took the services of a barber who came home to shave her head. My grandma would never fail to tell him to shave off only her hair and not the head. Not only after her tryst with the barber but even on regular days, she would summon all the known gods as noisily as possible. She had two reasons for this practice of hers. One was to beat the cold of the early morning bath as she would never use hot water. The other was to warn others that there was someone inside having a bath as the bathroom had no doors!


    The trade mark of my grandma was the chanting beads in hand throughout the day. She would keep rolling it chanting the lord’s name and every time the chanting reached ten or twenty she would break it to enquire if the sambar was getting over-cooked or who was knocking the door and things like that. She would add to her query about knocking at the door that we should make all our payments regularly, her assumption being that only creditors knocked at the door in the mornings.


    She was an excellent cook and whatever she cooked just melted in our mouth. She was unparalleled in making pickles and she made delicious pickles of anything and everything. Her bitter gourd pickle was a speciality. There was a shop close to our house that sold herbs of all kinds. Regular visit to the shop made her a quack and even when we sneezed, she would make a concoction of some strongly smelling herb and force it down our protesting throat. As a result, we never aired our health problems in her presence.


    She had great belief in ghosts and the ghosts too never failed to whet her appetite for them with regular visits. She had very sensitive ears to listen to them particularly when sleeping at night and would answer them in a loud voice. Their topics had a great range and she would tell us the scary details of their conversation in a matter-of-fact way. Despite her close association with ghosts, she was regular temple goer. She would spend her time in the temple to pick up gossips and come back home to narrate the same to us after applying the holy ash on our forehead. She always started narration of her gossips with a ‘You know what?’ As there was no TV or radio in our house, she was our main source of entertainment.


    As I fondly recollect her overwhelming presence in our family, I realise how modern life has destroyed our interpersonal relationship. Everything is so very mechanical these days. But then who am I to say that our days were better? How can I rate the scary stories that our grandmas and aunts narrated to us as way better than today’s TV shows and reading materials?


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  2. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Cheeniya Sir,

    Thank you for sharing your memories of your maternal grandmother. I remember you saying about your mother so much but this is the first about your grandmother. I remember Mrs. Cheeniya mentioning about your loving grandma during my visit to your home.

    No matter how old grandma or you become, she wasn't going to call you by name as it is her husband's name. Chanting the Lord's name during shower has become a habit for many whether they could lock the bathroom or not. Even I sing many bhajans during my shower and those who don't know me well would think why this guy is calling the Lord while having a shower.

    It pains me a lot to see grandmas in white or saffron dress with clean-shaven head even today. For some strange reason my heart breaks. But those days, what grandmas thought didn't matter much but what others perceived them mattered more.

    It is interesting to know that you grandma like mine kept asking all the questions interrupting recitation of the name with the beats. I always asked my grandma why she interrupted her recitation with such questions. Later I learned that chanting the name of the Lord while performing our own duties is more holier than reciting the name in a secluded forest.

    Frankly, those concoctions grandmas made would never have any side effects but cure the disease without fail. It has a placebo effect on us seeing their love.

    Nowadays, our company has become laptops, desktops, smart phones, television, etc. The stories we heard from grandmas were as interesting as the programs we see on television. But their narrations were so unique and different. We are heading towards an age when most would be communicating through texts and emails unless they need to speak to an audience.

    Viswa
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018
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  3. Srama

    Srama Finest Post Winner

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    Dear Cheeniya Sir,

    Grandmas I tell you! They are really 'grand' human beings. Your grandma seems to be all that a grandma should be. If you are thinking of her even ow so fondly, she must have left an indelible mark but then what has age got to do with fond memories!

    I am fortunate to have my paternal grandma still and the most unique thing about her is she speaks in Telugu and writes Telugu in Kannada script! Don't even get me started on the confusion we have in our family as far as language is concerned! She is super good at singing and gets excited like a child when I record her on Ipad and play it back to her. She at 94 is still a practicing Ayurveda doctor and I still call her for every sneeze and cough! And even to this day all of us (cousins/great grand children etc) vie for a place in her lap :)

    But then grandmas have always played a significant role in my life - my maternal grandmother who passed away recently was a strong woman who has taught me the strength of silence, then there is my guru grandma (my paternal grandmother's aunt!!) who is everything in my life. The one unique things about all these three important grandmas in my life is - none of them were bound to kitchen!! They were fierce independent women making a difference to the family and the society. Grandmas got to love them!!

    Thank you for sharing your memories - your writing as always brought a picture of how your grandma might have been to life and also allowing us to share our own memories.
     
  4. knbg

    knbg Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sir,
    Best regards.
    Such an interesting topic and nostalgia which is my cup of coffee....Your post is like strong filter coffee - perfect blend of A and peaberry...:)...which my grandmother would remind us every time when we go to buy coffee powder....
    T
    Like a master painter, you have skillfully and effortlessly painted a classic portrait of your grandmother...her attire, appearance, voice, mannerisms, interests, values....systematically.., with the details and subtle nuances. Your signature was the last paragraph with your reflections...and could see you as a naughty little grandchild of majestic Meenakshi paati.
    In Tamil movies, the same plot would be treated in different ways by different directors.... yours, I felt was K.Balachander sir, Sridhar sir , Bheemsingh sir...all in one. Only with words you brought that satisfaction...yet another time..!
    Thankyou Sir...!
     
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  5. GeetaKashyap

    GeetaKashyap IL Hall of Fame

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    @Cheeniya Sir,

    You have described your grandma so well that you transported us back to those olden days! Your recall of her with such accuracy and detail says a lot about the place she occupied in your life. Widowhood is a curse and in the olden days, it must have been worse. I feel sorry for them and their plight. No one ever asked them what they felt or what they wanted! Yet these women stayed strong and braved it all; my salutations to them.

    Both my grandmothers lived well past their 90s and both were remarkable women. Maybe someday in the future, I will write about them.
     
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  6. shyamala1234

    shyamala1234 Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Cheeniya sir,
    After a long long time blog from you in snippets. To me they are not ramblings.
    Grandmothers.... Why we love them so much you know... They always support grandchildren and never the parents of children. Unconditional love for grandchildren. Do not expect anything, except a little love.
    Paternal grandmother I do not know but maternal grandmother I know. If we have the patience to sit with them we can learn so many life 's lessons. They are not gadgets.... Live people with all emotions!
    Syamala
     
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  7. jayasala42

    jayasala42 Finest Post Winner

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    Dear Cheeniya Sir,
    Your writing on'maternal grandma' moistened my eyes.In our village in every house there was one such woman, not necessarily grandmas,even young women of 20s and 30s with white madisar sarees with shaven heads.
    In our joint family we had three women,my paternal grandma and two of my father's sisters who became widowed at younger age.My father's eldest sister got married at the age of 4 to a boy of eight and when she was seven, her husband-, young boy 0f 11 died.The girl was playing 'paandy' on the roadside when the sad news arrived.That athai was all in all in the house, busy like a bee, never rested for a while and she was an expert in everything-cooking, kolam,preparing thatches for roofing,,singing, kolaattam, composing songs etc,including conducting safe deliveries, though she was not fortunate to become mother.
    I remember well ,the kolaatta jothra festival in Aipasi( Oct-Nov) every year. There will be several sets-girls below 5, 10, 15, young married, middle aged, above 60 and a separate group for these widows with shaven heads.
    There were no electric lights.Many pandals would be erected on all the four car streets( Ratha veethis) There was a separate big pandhal on the way to kollidam river in a cross street of north car street.The kolaattam by these women would start at 9P. M. and would get extended upto 10.30 P. M. This was an opportunity to exhibit their talents. There would be hilarious songs intermitted by songs of pathos from Ramayana depicting the lamentation of Thaarai and Mandothari when their husbands passed away.Perhaps they got reminded of their husbands' death.I remember a mandapam in which they performed 'pinnal kolaattam' with the song composed by them.

    No adorning,no silk sarees, no ornaments-with the same'naarmadi ( white half saffron)sarees they danced to the perfect rhythm of kolaattam with the best choreography ever known.It was a real feast to the eye.

    No woman thought of remarriage.They would do all arrangements for every function ,but got isolated as inauspicious during the function.Many women were brain washed to consider themselves as'amangali' and secluded themselves.There was one mami in her thirties,Chellappa by name ,who was very efficient in doing'seer Bhakshanams .She would volunteer doing these giant sized murukkus with complicated geometric design.She was an expert in adorning the bride, adorning Varalakshmi Amman and was very good in Thanjavur painting.Her hands did everything auspicious .She was always behind the screen, her form being treated as inauspicious.They were thrown like curry leaves spreading aroma to the sambar but discarded while eating.What a pathetic plight!

    jayasala 42
     
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  8. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @Viswamitra
    My dear Viswa
    I am so happy to receive the maiden response to my grandma tale from you. Grandmas are all mostly alike except for some minor variations here and there. Our parents are strict for our own good and our grandparents take the sting off the parental control. That's why we call them 'grand'parents.
    Till about my 40th year, I used to sing film songs at my bath. When I came out from my bath, my brother would ask me why I was howling during my bath. My brother had vocal chords that were not made for singing. I had fairly flexible ones and I always gave it a go! In one of my recent posts on Hindi film music, Ashok Kumar enters the bath room with a song in normal way and as the ice cold water strikes his body, the speed of the song increases incredibly!
    That surprises me. I have not seen one for over two decades. Probably the ones you came across might have just returned from Tirupathi. They don't wear white clothes any more but they select very sober colours for their apparel. Maybe the practice of shaving the head continues in rural areas but certainly not in a metropolis like Chennai.
    Hearts do not break for strange reasons. They break only for valid reasons but then heart-break is usually very personal and others may not even know of this breakage.
    Sri
     
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  9. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @Srama
    My dear Sabi
    I wrote about my maternal grandma because only she was alive at my birth and for quite a while she lived with us. I had heard from my brother who was 7 years elder to me how great our grandfathers were. It's strange coincidence that my grandchildren say the same thing about their grandfather!God willing, I may become a great grandfather in about 2 or 3 years. I may have to work very hard to justify the additional adjective 'great'! Grandfathers are usually seen in movies and serials as persons who normally hide themselves behind a newspaper till the cows come home! The best thing about passage of time is how it changes our status from time to time. When I was around 18, I got very upset when a girl called me uncle but with the passage of time, I love being called grandpa by even the classmates of my grandchildren! Borrowing your expressive style, 'Grandchildren I tell you'!
    sri
     
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  10. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @knbg
    My dear Bhargavi
    Thanks a lot for your wonderful response. Anyone will become a wordsmith when he writes about his grandparents. We learn from them all about selfless love. I remember the movie Godfather here. It is so nice to see a ruthless Don Vito Corleone played wonderfully by Marlon Brando. But the Godfather was also a grandfather, a family man who loved playing hide-and-seek with his grandson, Anthony! It was a touching episode in the movie. Another equally forceful movie on 'grand' relationship is Barefoot to Goa
    I remember the Tamil movie Thevar Magan in which Sivaji Ganesan plays the role of a grandfather. It was a touching scene seeing him die as he was singing with his grandchildren.
    Grandparents are manifestation of God on earth.
    Sri
     
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