Wednesday, January 02, 2013

An Ode to that Wrinkled Face

This is not a story. A story should have a beginning and an end but this has only memories; distant and vague. The sad part is, not many are left.

She would always recite same stories; a story about some shepherd and his sheep or that about an obedient son. I would lie down in her lap and would fall asleep while listening to those. She covered me with her saree’s pallu, and I felt warm and secure. I have never slept so comfortably at any other place.

She was short and frail. Her hairs were silver and grey, and during winters she would comb them in the sun while I dozed off in her lap. Her skin was wrinkled and formed parallel folds. I played with the skin around her palm and face. It was so different from mine and I still remember its feel. Her cheeks were hollow and there were no teeth left. She had dentures and her face changed when she wore them.

I liked her hollow face.

She wore white cotton sarees and had two silver bangles. To amuse me, she would take them out and rotate on earth. I close my eyes now, and I can see them spinning, two bangles with blackened silver and linear grooves; I hear the metallic sound when they fall flat.

I locked her in bathroom one day. No one was at home and she kept on banging at the door. I cried and cried, and my neighbours broke the door to release her. The first thing she did was to console me. I still wonder why she never got angry at me.

She was my only friend. My father and mother went out for work and it was with her that I spent my entire day. We would start with Peek-a-Boo, then she would chase me while I ran and after that she would colour my picture book. She was my Aladdin’s lamp and no wish could remain unfulfilled. She got my favourite toys, helped me bunk school and avoid eating vegetable curry that my mother gave. She would quietly bring in chapatti and milk which used to be my favourite dish. She would fly with rage if anyone scolded me and would pack her bags to leave. My parents would invariably relent.

In the evening she took me out for a stroll. I held her finger and she would fend off elder kids who wanted to play with me. Some people would tease her that I was not looking great, but she would defend me with all her strength. How could her grandson not look good?

Her wooden rosary bead was her constant companion. She would keep on rotating it in her hand and murmur god’s name. She did that even while she slept. Every day she gave bath to Lord Krishna’s statue and performed her daily rituals. Then she would put a small chandan tilak on my forehead. After that she would put on her glasses, take out Gita and fix it on a stand. She chanted it in her soft voice, harmonically moving in the front and back. I sat on her lap as if it was a swing.  

She was particular about doing all her work herself. She would wash utensils, clean clothes and cook her food. She insisted on doing all this even when she was ill and this resulted in frequent fights with my dad. No one would interfere and in the end, both will not eat till the other had food. This banter is still fondly remembered at our home.

I do not know what kind of lady she was. It sounds weird that a grandson should know what kind of women her grandmother is. She is just a grandmother, period. Today when I think about her I do not remember her crying, I do not remember her laugh; I can only recall her serene face. I try to guess if I ask her a particular question how she would react to that. No answers come. I can only see a smile on her face.

I do not have her pictures with me. Her solo images exist, but we will discuss about that.

I was eight when she left. She started falling sick and was admitted to hospital at frequent intervals. When she was discharged, my parents behaved in a strange way. A bottle of Ganga jal was always kept beside her cot. My father would sit holding her hand, and at times his eyes were wet. I was not allowed to play with her but they would ask me to listen to her stories. She was often tired and would not recite them in her usual animated tone. I still remember the last story that she told.

My parents never told me that she was going to die. Somehow I gathered a vague feeling that she would not stay with us for long. She had been admitted to the hospital for quite a few days and I was alone at home with an aunt when a telephone call came. I overheard that she was no more.

I kept looking outside the window waiting for her arrival; my tears would not stop. A large crowd gathered at our home. She was brought back in an ambulance; and when they took her out I observed that they had put cotton in her nose. It appeared that she was in deep sleep. My father’s eyes were swollen. Incense sticks were lit around her dead body. Everybody cried and it was a sad scene. I had never seen so many tears. I was asked to kiss her for a last time. Her cheeks still had those folds.

I was quietly sent to some other place and I do not remember much about that day. Her last wish was to be taken to some particular ghat in Varanasi for cremation and my dad honoured that. I resented balding of my head.

A photographer was called and most of her pictures belong to that day. Other than that, her large picture, in which she is sitting on a chair in an attentive pose, is present at our home. Probably the one who clicked it had an idea that it could be garlanded one day. I cannot relate to that picture and she appears unnatural in that pose.

Her void still exists. Why did she leave me so soon?

I see my son playing with my mother and pray that he is more privileged than me.


kalyan inampudi said...

Wonderfully written with emotions ! loved it :)

Anup Manchalwar said...

Sir, does the last line need correction? -- I see my son playing with HIS mother and pray that he is more privileged than me.

Anup Manchalwar said...

Sir, does the last line need correction? -- I see my son playing with HIS mother and pray that he is more privileged than me.

Just Simple said...

@Kalyan: Thanks

@Anup: But the article was about my grandmother, did I fail to convey that :P

Rajeev Ranjan Jha said...

I have read almost all your posts and this one is the most masterly written.

Rajeev Ranjan Jha said...

I have read almost all your posts and this one is the most masterly written.

Nayana Devadas Shetty said...

This is so similar to the incident that took place with me when my grandpa expired!!! I was with my aunt at home and i overheard the conversation. I wasnt informed about his death either! all i go to know that he was dead when his body with the cotton on his nose appeared in front of me!! I truly Miss him!

Naveen Shivashankar said...

a good read! loved it

Itsmeonly said...

It almost brought tear to my eyes.
The best thing about your writing is it is "simple".

Itsmeonly said...

It almost brought tear in my eyes.
The best thing about your writing style is it is "simple".