NANI: MY IDOL
I consider myself fortunate to have my Nani still with me. We call our maternal grandmother ‘Nani’. At 84 my Nani is alive and kicking. My maternal grandmother holds a very special place in my life. She is my grandmother by relation but she is more like a friend to me. I have always looked up to her… Why? Because she has always been an inspiration to me. It is not that she is a learned person or has earned laurels in her life. On the contrary, she is a very normal looking person, who had lots of hardships throughout her life. The fact that she came out through all of those unscathed, still being as loving and kind as she was from the beginning is what makes me love her more and more.
She was married to my maternal grandfather at a very young age, maybe around 13. My maternal grandfather was in the army back then. He was away from the house most of the time due to his postings in different places every now and then. So the responsibility of the whole household fell on her young, inexperienced shoulders. At the tender age when she should have played and gone to school, she was busy cooking and cleaning, taking care of the whole family. Emotions of pity and anger used to swirl around me when she spoke about her life as a newly married bride, but then she always used to smile and say, ‘what has to be, has to be’.
When my grandfather took voluntary retirement from the armed forces, they both came to the foothills of Himalaya, in a small town and purchased the land which would finally become their residence. Slowly and steadily their farmhouse was ready and they started building their life around it. In one half of the land, there were fields of wheat and rice. In the other half, they further divided it by planting saplings of Mango, Litchi and other fruits on one side and a vegetable garden on the other. Then they also built a cowshed at one corner of the land.
It was the joint efforts of my grandparents that made the place alive. But then, my Nanaji (as we fondly called our maternal grandfather) was offered a job in the tourist department of the state. So, again the maintenance of the whole place fell on my grandmother. I wasn’t born then so I have heard this from my mother that my Nani was awake by dawn and used to go to the cowshed to tend the cows. After cleaning and feeding them she used to bring back the milk in buckets. As my mother used to get ready for school, my grandma cooked her breakfast and packed her tiffin. After sending her off to school, she used to go to the fields and orchards to work. She used to work there until late afternoon. This was her daily routine. As the years passed, they started hiring helpers for the farming work. But even to supervise them she had to be on the field most of the time.
As far as I can remember, I had always seen my grandma working and moving from here to there. In my younger days when we used to go for vacations to her house, she used to hover around us trying to feed us with all sorts of fruits, vegetables, sweets and much more. Every morning, for breakfast she used to give us one big glass of milk with paranthas overflowing with ghee. Now, the taste of cow’s milk was very alien for us. In spite of us begging her to spare us, she used to make sure that we finished the whole glass of milk. After filling our stomachs to the brim, she used to go to the fields after she had scoured the mango orchards for ripe fruits. We used to follow her with bags in our small hands, gleefully clapping when she found any fruits that had fallen. After running back to the house for depositing all the mangoes collected, we used to rush back to see her working in the fields. For the likes of city dwellers like us, first-hand experience to see the process of farming was mind-blowing. We used to see her directing the hired helpers to various fields and instructing them to harvest the crops. She herself used to work with them. Harvesting, Threshing, Winnowing… all these things happened under her guidance.
Her hands were full with work during the summers as they had to harvest the grains and then clear the field to make it ready for the next crop before the rainy season. Still, she used to always take out time for us. The simplest of meals made by her tasted so good. In the evening, after dinner, she used to make the bed for us on the terrace as we loved sleeping in the cool breeze under the open sky. Before we slept, we used to ask her to tell us stories and she never said no. It was her hard work, her love and care for us that made me admire her so much.
I was in seventh grade when my Nanaji suddenly passed away. I saw my Nani crying uncontrollably. My mother was also lost in the sorrow. It was a very sad phase but I saw my grandma coming out of it with more determination. The responsibility of the whole household had now fallen on her shoulders. My uncle had just got a job and he was posted elsewhere, so she had to single-handedly take care of the things. Although she was broken-hearted, she was a strong-willed lady who did everything that was expected of her as the eldest of the family.
Time passed and we all grew. I was in my twelfth grade. We had called her to stay in our house for a while. My uncle had now taken over many of her responsibilities which allowed her to relax a little. As she was staying with us for time-being, I used to tell her all of my school-stories and discuss with her everything possible under the sky. She used to hear everything with interest. I remember that FIFA was going on during that period. We used to watch it together as Soccer was one of my favorite sports. She used to shout or sigh according to the turn-up of the game. It was amusing to see her so much engrossed in the game. There was no question about her high intellect as she could easily understand the concept and rules of the game.
Not only this, we watched movies and many TV series also together. Her non-stop witty remarks on the ongoings of the drama used to make us roll with laughter. I felt that this humorous side of hers had been hiding throughout the time she had been taking care of all those who were dependent on her. But now as she was finally free, she could enjoy her life more.
Our relationship grew stronger with the passage of time. We fought, bickered, laughed and giggled almost all the time when we were together. She was there with me when I got my first job, when I was engaged and when I got married. As I relocated to places far off from my hometown, I couldn’t meet her so often. She said that she missed me and requested me to visit her with my children as she has grown old and can’t travel anymore.
When I went with my kids to her place she was elated. She kept crying seeing me and my children. She said that she is forgetting things and cannot remember much. She showed me all the photographs of ours which she had kept with her. She said that she looks at them whenever she feels lonely. Today also whenever I ring her up she becomes happy. Even though we don’t have much to talk about but she just loves to hear our voice. She starts reminiscing about old times and always worries about our health. She keeps on blessing us to be healthy and happy.
I love my Nani with all my heart. She is an idol to me. Whenever I feel disheartened with my life, I remember her. Her life struggles motivate me to come through those rough patches. I consider myself blessed that I am able to have such beautiful relationship with my grandparent.
This blog post is part of #A2ZChallenge. My theme for the year 2018 is Memories. This post is for letter ‘N’.