Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The grand past..

Some children are fortunate enough have both their sets of grandparents and get to see the love and affection between the pairs, but I have never been one of those. Since I was born, I had only my grandfather on my dad's side (I called him "Ajja") and my grandmother on my mom's who I called Ammamma. Ajja was there for 15 years of my life when he succumbed to a heart attack (I was studying 10th std then and it happened right before my final exams) leaving us in shock. The only grandparent I had left, my Ammamma, passed away more than 12 days ago on 27th October 2010.

Neither of the grandparents I had, could ever be termed as affectionate, though I do remember Ajja being loving towards Darsh. But it was certainly not what you see in happy movies - grandparents giving hugs and kisses and sweetmeats to the children around. I am not saying this with any regret, because I know what they were, were because of the way they spent their lives - life certainly never was easy on them. And I have a tremendous respect for who they were for basically how my parents are and how in turn they have influenced me and Darsh.

Ajja was a hotelier, though not as grand as the word sounds. He had successful hotels and total failures, the fail part more often than the success part. He would open a hotel in one part of Andhra Pradesh and continue there as long as it was a success. If things were good, he'd sell that one in profit and move on to another place. Same thing with losses, if the hotel turned out to be a loss, there'd be no choice, he'd have to move on. So my dad and his 4 siblings lived all over Andhra. Ajja was mostly a workaholic because he had to feed his family and it didn't help matters when he lost his wife. Dad did get his education, but he had to work all mornings (grinding idli/dosa batter and chutneys) and once he came back from school as a waiter. I remember him telling me that they couldn't even afford oil lamps at home and that he studied under street lamps. When things were good, he got money to watch cinemas, but until he was about 16 or 18 (I think), he didn't even have footwear. But being the son of a Udupi hotel owner, he atleast had enough to eat. My mom didn't.

BharaNi nakashatra-davaru onda dharaNi aaLthaare athwa beraNi thaTthaare.

Meaning "The people born under the BharaNi star either rule the earth or make cow-dung patties" (implying either they'll be either very rich or very poor). My mom always uses this quote about Ammamma adding that she saw both. Ammamma was born to a very rich and very orthodox family. She was married off at a very young age and mom tells me that she was sent to her in-laws in a Chinnada pallakki (gold carriage). Her in-laws were very well-off too, but her husband was a different case. My maternal grandfather was a total gambler - the only 2 accomplishments I can list of his are gambling and making babies. He drank away all of the riches and died leaving Ammamma with 5 children (she also had a couple of miscarriages) and thankfully, a house to live in. She had some cows, so she sold the milk and earned some money. But it wasn't enough when it came to feeding her children. I think she even cooked and helped out in houses, but she hardly had anything to eat. She sent away my mom to her mother's place for some years and later to her elder daughter's place (my doDDamma was married and with her family then) for some more years. Staying with her grandparents and then her elder sister, mom was a bit better off, but it didn't mean that she wallowed in luxury, the opposite in fact. Things were difficult there too and to this day mom says that she'd have preferred to live with her family than anywhere else (which is why she never entertained the idea of sending me or Darsh away anytime). Even later, when she came back home, things weren't better. Ammamma would make sure all the kids got food, but for herself, she'd walk miles to the Udupi maTa (where they serve food for the poor) to get a belly-full food once a day, bearing all insults and evil eyes around.

Things didn't get any better for a few more years until my parents found jobs - my dad did his bachelors in Science and got a job, while my mom applied right after her 2nd PUC and got one (she completed her bachelors in arts degree later through correspondence). My mom was able to request her boss into considering her brother for a job and from then on, there was a lot of improvement in that house. Ajja didn't give up on his ventures until my parents got married and even after coming to stay with his eldest son, he still wanted to be independent and had a shop running for quite sometime (oh yeah that reminds me, he'd get me candies from his shop - so there was bit of sweetmeats :-D). From then on Ajja was quite happy living with us. Being a hotelier, he would interfere in the kitchen and cause some amount of irritation to mom, so there were the usual bickering now and then (but I think my mom learnt a lot about cooking either from him or due to the competition :-D and to this day according to me, she is one of the best cooks around). But things were getting better by the day - all his children were pretty much settled and his death, when he passed away was very much unexpected. He was one of the healthiest people around and had gone on one of his trips to Mysore - when he saw the Nanjangud temple after many years and we don't know what happened, his heart simply gave out that night. He was at my cousin's place and by the time we drove there (I still remember dad driving like a maniac that night), he had had a 2nd massive heart attack and was gone.

Today I still picture Ajja sometimes - he'll always be this old man in a white panche to me, very fond of his nashya dabba (snuff powder box) and talking a lot and making yummy khaara mixtures and gulab jaamun at home (for the mixture he'd make 5 to 6 different things and we'd keep running to the kitchen to sneak stuff, obviously getting scoldings in return :-D). I remember him at every happy occasion at home, when my dad bought a house, when I got a job, when I got married and later when I had Snugli. Every time I wish he was there to see and enjoy the occasion with us.

Meanwhile, on the other side, Ammamma was doing well - taking care of the birth of grandchildren and basically taking care of the grandchildren themselves. She has taken care of some of us when we were ill, when our parents couldn't attend to us and so on and so forth. As we grew up, she grew into this old lady who lived with one of her sons but travelled to our place often (once a year atleast for 3 months) and we grand kids would love to tease her. But recently as she grew to her 80s, she had become quite weak and travelling had become difficult for her. She was not really in a good shape when she came to Snugli's namakarNa, but I was glad that she was able to make it.

Last year, she fell ill pretty badly and I was very worried about her. So in our India trip, I made it a point to make a quick trip to Udupi to see her (which now I am very glad I did) - it was literally a flying visit. She had some memory problems then - she's ask the same questions again and again, forget that she had just eaten etc, but she was looking well. But after we came back here, things got a lot worse. Her health deteriorated and she even had a fall which resulted in a brain stroke. After that she didn't recognize anyone. My cousin who grew up under her care got married there just about a month back and she didn't recognize her own children and grandchildren. She didn't talk much, had incontinence and later even got bed-sores which resulted in her getting admitted to a hospital. Mom was inconsolable, but Ammamma couldn't even talk about what she was going through and how she was suffering. It was a miserable time for everyone. Just about 20 days back, she had even stopped eating and was being given liquids through a food pipe. We actually had started praying for her suffering to end..

Yet when I heard the news of her passing away, it still somehow came as a shock. One part of me was glad - she didn't have to suffer any longer, while the other was very sad - I lost the only grandparent I had, my future child if any, will never even have the opportunity of interacting with her like Snugli did. I have a photo of hers with Snugli on a wall and I find myself going to it and wishing she is in a good place. Ammamma also had a heart attack and she was almost 90. The most clear memory I have of her is of her sitting on her cot at nights, eating adike (arekanuts) which she was very fond of and powdering karpura (camphor) to put in the eyes and cool them. I remember her voice and some of the things we'd make fun of. Some part of me still cannot believe she's not around anymore, but I'm glad we had her until now.

One of the reasons why I admire my parents so much is because they are products of their past (I wasn't always in awe of them, when I was in my teen years I thought the whole world was conspiring against me, but I digress :-D). They didn't have everything on their side, everything going for them, yet they made something of themselves. Theirs is one of the personal success stories that I've seen and though neither I nor Darsh have had difficult circumstances while growing up, we were taught to appreciate where they came from. I see people day to day blaming everything from their parents, to their past, to their circumstances, i.e everything except themselves for what they are today and I get really irritated at them. Yes your past matters to some extent, but you can always overcome it. If you insist on not doing anything and keep finding someone or the other to place the blame on, your situation is not going to get any better. My parents never gave up and neither did my grandparents.

I can only hope that I have inherited a little bit of the persistence, the strength and the resolve to go on, no matter how bad the circumstances, how dire the consequences and how hard the times are. I can only hope that I can bring up my child(ren) how my parents have brought us up and teach them to appreciate the sacrifices and the hard work of their grandparents. I can only hope that my grandparents are in a happy place and will be watching over us for time to come. I can only hope..


veenu retorted...

This post is a great tribute to your grandparents. Let your Ajja and Ammamma RIP


Sweet Nothings retorted...

May they rest in peace! A beautiful tribute indeed.Sounded very honest and straight to the heart.