A Piece of Childhood
cherished memories of my great-grandmother
While reading Em Hoccane’s lovely piece about siblings, I couldn’t help remembering my own childhood and the fascinating stories my mom regaled me with stories about her childhood and her eight siblings.
I particularly enjoyed anecdotes about her grandmother — my great grandmother.
That One Sibling Who Never Misses to Take Your Class Even If you Miss The School
Kalyani paati, (paati = grandmother) my great grandmother and my maternal grandmother’s mother was an amazing woman who ruled her roost and brood with the proverbial iron hand in velvet glove and a soft heart. She was a tiny package of a woman but a dynamo, and a darling loved by all, in spite of her outwardly stern demeanor. She seemed to know everything about everything, had a solution to every problem and was an expert at — well — everything.
I am a little sad I did not know her, except through stories from my mom who kept me enthralled and desperate for more. I have not even seen a photo of her because we didn’t have any. Those were the days — late 1800s and early 1900s when the only photos taken were by appointment with massive equipment. If there were photos, her sons would probably have them.
But back to Kalyani paati. She was the original DIY specialist and Ms.Fix-it. If a tap leaked, she could fix it. If an area needed flooring, she took care of it. If she fancied a porch in a part of our bungalow, she built it. Shelves? Yes. She could put them up.
But her biggest asset was her expertise with gardening and cooking. Blessed with a green thumb, she had an extensive variety of crops, both edible and decorative in her garden. She loved spicy chutneys and made several types with produce from her garden.
The family home was a large estate, self-sufficient, with little houses all over it, besides the main mansion. As the family grew, each little house was added along the way when someone got married so that they could have their own space. Kalyani paati herself had three sons and a daughter. The daughter was my maternal grandmother who naturally was doted upon by her brothers.
Kalyani paati lovingly maintained her home — every wooden fitting would shine and the brass fixtures would gleam. While she did not have a formal education, she had the rich knowledge gained (from her own parents perhaps?), the people she interacted with and of course, her own experiences.
Mom told me that Kalyani paati had a horse, a donkey, and a snake. She worshiped the snake and seemed to be able to communicate with her animals.
The kids — there were enough to form a cricket team, what with uncles, aunts and cousins and their progeny— hung around worrying Kalyani paati as they grew up — and would desperately wait for her to harvest something from the garden and cook it into delicacies such as steamed or stir-fried veg and stuff.
Everyone wanted to taste whatever she made. She would pick leaves and weave baskets in which to distribute her excess produce. She carved toys from wood and covered them with tiny beads — she had great eyesight until she breathed her last sometime in her nineties. I am proud to say I inherited some of her beautiful bead work. She did intricate embroidery. She was an awe-inspiring person and is remembered very fondly by everyone whose life she touched.
Just thinking about whatever I’ve heard about her and our childhood home lifts my mood and energizes me.
I like to think I also inherited some of her talents — of having the aptitude to learn quickly, enjoying DIY, recycling things. And yes, I do manage all the minor plumbing and carpentry work at home. I remember when my son was little he would tell everyone that his mom could fix everything. Due credit also to my mom and my uncles (her brothers) who taught me everything is possible, or to put it another way, nothing is impossible.
Basking in nostalgia and wonderful memories,
I sign off here.
Do you have a warm memory of your childhood to share? I would love to hear it!