Grandmama’s tales

It’s not her death anniversary or any milestone for that matter, but my grandma, my mother’s mom, Ammama, has been intruding on my thoughts so often lately. I was not particularly close to her, nor was she having any special characteristics. Ammama was illiterate despite belonging to the most literate state. It was fate, she would say. She was enrolled in school that she attended a whole of 3 days and then she dropped out. Ammama must have decided to not go and that was it, as I know that my great grandfather was a shining advocate for education ensuring all his children are literate despite the poverty and inaccessibility of the region. But, Ammama never studied as it was a long walk to the school of over an hour over meandering paths amidst coconut and tamarind trees, lush green fields, and steep inclines. She gave up after three days. There was a bit of vanity too. You see she was fair. She once said in jest she was worried of getting dark and looking plain. So, she never went to school and also, never learnt to cook.

She was a working woman who contributed to the measly family income. Being the eldest, my mother was engaged in house work and looking after the younger ones since she was 6. The elder siblings looked after the younger ones as Ammama went to work. Ammama was part of the largely unskilled, unorganised coir industry. For half a day, she would beat the outer green coconut shell till it turned to husk (it is called cocopeat today), then use the husk to make ropes the rest of the day. Since, she suffered from severe asthma, her duty was to turn the wheel which was used to twine the husk into rope. She would make a make-shift swing for the youngest child. The others were at home under the care of my mother. In all this, school was not to be missed, at any cost was the strict instruction of my grandfather whom we called Achacha. The free education policy in Kerala also helped to ensure that everyone got decent education.

Even then Ammama used to keep out of the kitchen, something that I have inherited in my genes. She was the market goer and the vegetable cutter. During our yearly vacations, I used to accompany her on market trips. She was now too old to carry the vatti or basket which she would carry on her head. So, I used to trail around with a shiny city plastic bag. I was introduced to all and sundry as the grand daughter from Bombay. After the shopping, my reward was a 10 paise mango or njarakka or nellikka which was dipped in salt water. The taste was heavenly taking the fatigue out and getting me ready for the one hour long return journey.

There were no autos then. Ladies riding bicycles were non-existent. Walking was the only way to go anywhere unless we could hire a taxi which was for emergencies only. All that activity helped her to maintain her good looks till she got affected with dementia. Her hair was black while mine has become white already. Even in her seventies, she would be a powerhouse of activity ensuring the house is in order, the clothes are clean and area surrounding the house is maintained, pots filled with water and a big urli in the muttam or courtyard to wash our hands and feet.

She never let her illness as an excuse to shirk work. She took it all in her stride. She did not understand the meaning of terms we use like ‘Positive thoughts’ or ‘Monday Blues’ or ‘Rest day’. She just lived her life on her own terms till she could no longer remember what her normal life was like.

She was just an illiterate, ordinary woman who had 8 children and a loving husband. We have been given all advantages of our age – literacy, secure job, fewer children, food on our tables. Maybe, we should see life through her eyes, through vintage spectacles. I am sure it will be more rosy.

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. That was a beautiful tale reminiscing about your Ammamma. She sounds like she was a force to be reckoned with. Sometimes, it is amazing the things they battled back then and all the stuff we take for granted these days

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LAta .. behind all the 8 kids and a loveing husband.. is a mentally strong and mature woman, At a time when women seldom stepped out, she worked!! She managed the house hold . Now thats indeed commendable. Infact kudos to your mom too to manage the younger ones.

    LAta do write more often, love these Personal anecdotes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lata Sunil says:

      That is so true about Ammama. She was a no nonsense practical lady.
      Yeah.. I want to write more too. In fact, I am missing it so much. Your words encourage me.

      Like

  3. Shilpa Garg says:

    That made for a very interesting read. Your grand-mom sounds like a wonderful person and she is similar to my nani in many ways too. My grand-mom never went to school, never cooked but she knew how to get the work done from everyone. Her large house with so many people ran smoothly with clockwork precision.So good to know about the life and times of your grandmom, Lata!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lata Sunil says:

      Your grand mom does sound similar to mine.. They were the real matriarchs of the family

      Like

  4. Shalzmojo says:

    Your grandmother sounds amazing Lata – the image of little you trotting besides her with a bag to carry the shopping is quite cute.
    Its indeed incredible how fit and active our grandparents generation was; in comparison our parents seem to be riddled with old age issues quite soonest!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lata Sunil says:

      That is so true. My grandmother was surely healthier than my mom. i have no intention of following my mom’s health trajectory.

      Like

  5. This is a lovely, nostalgic, thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing your grandma with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lata Sunil says:

      Thank you Damyanti. She was a vibrant lady.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing about your Grandmother. It was such a lovely, insightful read filled with nuggets of wisdom. I loved the fact that she did not go to school or learn to cook, but still worked. Wish you would have shared her pic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lata Sunil says:

      Mayuri, strangely, by the time we had instant pict capabilities, she was well past her prime. The pictures I have are the old reel ones and they are in albums back home.

      Like

  7. Reading about your grandmother was interesting. It also gave me a peek into a world quite different from mine but similar in many respects. I smiled at the line of genetics responsible for your characteristic of not liking Kitchen work and I wondered whose genes do I carry in me in the same respect. For me, it was my father’s mother. She lived in my ancestral village, promptly did all the housework along with taking care of feeding and milking the cattle but she disliked cooking. I dislike doing other housework as well but that is due to the fact of having watched my mother always busy with the housework, never sitting idle even for a second (not even in her 60s now), and her dedication to perfection, all these 3 factors have left me exhausted for life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lata Sunil says:

      Haha.. the last line ‘exhausted for life’. Sometimes it happens that we are not same as our parents. But eerily, as we grow older, we sound and behave more like our parents. Wait a few decades 🙂

      Like

  8. lydiaschoch says:

    Your grandmother sounds like she was an incredible person. Thank you for telling us about her.

    Like

    1. Lata Sunil says:

      Thank you Lydia. Happy welcome to the blog 🙂

      Like

  9. BellyBytes says:

    What a lovely story that was. My grandma too was a worker all her life – at home though. She did go to school but I never really saw her reading a book….Grandmas are special and I am so happy to see your first post of the year about a special person in your life. Hope you are more regular this year….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lata Sunil says:

      Thanks Sunita. Well, my grandmother was way too practical. She would tell us stories she had heard earlier. I hope to be more regular this year. And I am liking it so far.

      Like

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