Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My third grandmother

"Those who asked for Thoppampatti, please get ready with your luggage. The next stop is Thoppampatti" shouted the conductor. Ramasamy woke with a start. 

This is my birthplace. The place I was brought up and the place we abandoned due to my work 8 years back. For those who don't know about Thoppampatti, it is a small village in Tirupur district. The nearest railway station is Tirupur district and the airport is Coimbatore. One can see it as a place full of agricultural greenish lands and the grazing cattle. Every piece of land here is covered with greenery.

The bus stopped and we got down. Me, my wife and my son. My son requested this bus journey. And surprisingly I was the only one who was standing in the bus stop. I remember those days when we used to go to our school in Dharapuram by bus as a gang of students always crowding the very same bus stop. This bus stop always served as a place for discussions of those jobless people. They used to come here after their lunch and talk till the sunset and the moon appeared. It is empty now.

I walked through the very same muddy road which was sandwiched between pieces of green lands. It was the only route to the village. My thoughts wavered. Why did I come here after 8 years? I was recalling my childhood and teenage days.

Those were the days of innocence and happiness. I was the only son of my parents who had a great respect among the people here. Every decision in the village was consulted with my father before being announced. My father was not a big landlord but an ordinary farmer who had only a few acres of land as I remember. Still everyone respected him because of his principles and actions. And as his son, I was also respected by the people. Boys and girls of my age considered me as their leader and we were happily spending our time. My mother was a house wife. She took care of cows and buffaloes in home. I remember the way she used to speak to them. She also taught me the language of the animals. I loved being with her and enjoyed talking to animals sounding their "moos" and "woos" well. My grandparents lived in my uncle's home a few meters away from ours. Other than three of us, the only six sensed being in that home was our servant-maid. 
Her name was..... 

Oh I don't remember her name. No, I don't know it neither does anybody. But I used to call her "aaya" which is the local term of "Grandmother". She also used to call me as "thambi" which meant "brother" but it was also used to call their lovable people especially their children. 

I don't remember as of when she joined as servant-maid in my home. She always told me that she had served my grand-father and had seen the growth of both my father and me. She never ceased to talk to me whenever she got the time. She had none at that time as far as I knew. Her only son died of a choleric attack during his childhood. However there were a few in the nearby villages who were her relatives. And yet no one called on her and they were horrendous people. She also never took care as to meet them. She found it completely happy and comfortable in our home. My father had built her a small room behind our home in which she lived. I used to be there always.

I still remember her daily chores. She used to get up at 4.30 in morning and sweep the entrance. She used to put a big 'kolam' in front of our home. Around 5.00, she used to enter our home from behind and prepare coffee and wake my mom and dad. I always sleep till 6, even today. She helped my mom in breakfast and lunch. Then around 6.00 she used to wake me by her village folk songs. Then she got busy helping me in getting ready to school. Though my father insisted her daily to take rest considering her age, she didn't stop helping us. She used to drop me to school and get to my father's field and work. Around 2 P.M. she had her lunch and talked with my mom till the sunset. From the sunset till I sleep, she spent her time with me.

She always narrated stories not about her but all about others. I could easily recall her stories for they are of common men and are neither historical nor fictitious. She always engaged herself in teaching me at least one 'Thirukkural' everyday. But I usually took more than a week to do one and she expected me to do one per day. Every story of her had morale and dramatic ending. She argued that a life without morals is a life without breath. She didn't know a thing about the science or the math. I taught her to read and write letters. I took a vow to make her efficient in both skills. But after all, she could only manage to put her signature. 

She didn't know to cook briyani. Neither kuruma nor other fancy dishes. Yet her ordinary dishes were exemplary. I have not found a sambar as tasty as hers. She used to sit and grind all the masalas herself chiding the chemicals in the masalas bought in the shop. She handpicked every fruit from the garden she maintained and cooked our daily food. She always managed to add a herb in our daily food either directly or indirectly stating that it always protected our health.

Once, I got chicken pox. A disease was then viewed from a religious point and was never given any medical treatment. The person would be made to lie on the spread of the neem leaves, a well-known disinfectant. A bunch of neem leaves would be used as a "visiri" (a fan). It was my aaya who was sitting beside me swinging those leaves to make me cool. As far as I remember, she neither ate nor slept those days. 

She usually smiled showing all her teeth. Her teeth were always red in colour because of her betel leaves and one of them was affected by tooth cavity; It was right bottom I think. She always had betel leaves in a box in her hand. I don't remember her without that box even a day. One can easily note her presence with the odour of the chewed betel leaves with lime. She always filled the surrounding air with her own folk songs which had a lot of value. She never walked but ran. She was so active and fast in all her actions. She had been so wise that she even helped my dad in taking decisions. She always wore a cotton saree (red or blue only) and never let her hair loose. She had a short-sight but her hearing power was strong. She had the hearing power as that of a dolphin. She never had made out of the village. This village was all she knew.

I left for Chennai for my under graduation studies. I missed her right from her presence 
to her talks. When I went to my village for the first time after joining college, I wanted to buy something for her. I went to my village and took her to town. I made her check her eye power and got her a spec. She smiled showing her decayed tooth. For the first time in my life, I was so happy. Years rolled over and I got placed in a company in Bangalore. My contact with her got reduced. Yet whenever I visited my village, I spent more time with her rather than my parents. I often surprised her with new things. She never understood the technology and refused to use electrical grinders or mixers over the mechanical ones. 

My marriage happened a few years later and she crossed her village for the first time to Coimbatore where it took place. I let her name my first and only child. She named him her grandfather name. My wife was a professor and she could not resign her job. I could not take care of my child the same way as I was taken care in my young days. So I called my parents and also her. But she refused. I was astonished and she told that she would always live in her father's and son’s land and never leave it. My father's friend occupied our house and we had then given him strict instructions to take very good care of her. He obliged. My father visited her frequently and I almost made it once a year. But later my father's health had made long travel difficult. But I decided that I should not leave her and visited two times a year midst my busy schedules. So visiting my village almost stopped for my parents except for regular phone calls....

"Thambi, neram ayirchu..." (Son, it’s almost time)

My train of thoughts stopped and I came back to the present. I saw my home after a long time. I am behind my home now in front of that single room. I stared at my aaya's lifeless body in front of me. 
None is so lucky to get a servant-maid like I got. She isn't an ordinary servant-maid but my third grandmother and the closest of all.

Last night I received a call that my beloved aaya died. 


  1. What a beautifully written piece about your maid/ your third grandma. It was like travelling with you to your past and living the life you lived under her tender care.
    Very well written.

    1. Thanks for that comment :) It is actually a story... But a story inspired by the envious feeling of mine seeing maids of these types in several homes. And that village was my friend's village name. And I am begging him to take me to that village....

  2. That's such a wonderful ode to your third grandmother! It's rare to find such devoted people in our lives! May her soul rest in peace!

    1. This is an inspired story with a tad of fiction here and there... Thanks for that comment :)


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