Granny Tales 101: Chapter 7

A hectic week has ensured I don’t write frequently. This month is bound to be that way since we are conducting art workshops in Chennai.

Since that is the primary thing on my mind at the moment, today’s story is about Dadi and my studio. My studio came into existence only since May this year. It was all my dad’s plan. He wanted to make a space for it and gallery too. And once Papa has made up his mind, there is no looking back. Nothing can change his decision. In hindsight though, most of these decisions have been for the better making me eat a humble pie.

Dadi was excited and skeptical about the coming up of the studio. She didn’t know how it was going to be. But she didn’t argue much. Her inquisitive mind, though, always sought answers to all her doubts from me or my sister or her sister. She was always the kind to give her blessings for anything her granddaughters wanted to do. We were her everything and she was ours. She had utmost faith in our abilities. It was unwavering.

Finally, when the studio was completed she was too old to climb two floors and see it. Dad had already thought up ways of taking her upstairs. He has brainstormed on how elevators can be constructed and so on. But nothing seemed to be working out. In the end, there was a solution that he found. A seat that could go up a railing and transport her to the second floor easily. At the time, it was a project in the pipeline, set to be unfurled later this year. Sadly, circumstances changed and that didn’t happen at all.

On the bright side though, I had the good fortune of showing Dadi all the photographs of the studio and the gallery while sitting next to her on her bed, during lunch one day. Her eyes widened as I zoomed into various aspects of the interiors and explained every minute detail. She was so happy. It was unimaginable to see a dilapidated terrace space transform itself into a beautiful art workspace.

I was glad she saw it. Never mind if it wasn’t all the way up, she still saw my workspace and that makes me happy. It has her blessings, always.

Tomorrow, as we embark on our first journey with my gallery, inviting people and conducting workshops and exhibitions, I know that she’s watching from up there. Her joy would know no bounds. She’s blessing us and while we wish she could have been here with us, we do know that there is someone who needs to make things go smoothly from up there and that someone is my Dadi.

That isn’t merely for my studio, but in life. I believe that she has gone up there to make things fall into place for us by watching out for us. She’s always there and we know it. Love you, dadi!

Granny Tales 101: Chapter 6

It’s been a long busy day but I can’t deny that Dadi quietly returned to my thoughts in the brief pauses I took.

So today’s story is about dadi and my love for elephants. From my childhood, I’ve been a fan of elephants. I suppose I find them to be very cute, plump and sensitive animals. My house is filled with all things elephant – from fluff toys to earrings and even clothes. My liking for it is so great that they’ve become a regular feature in my doodles.

Here’s where dadi comes in. She observed that, as a little girl, I had taken to drawing and perhaps, had a flair for it. She pampered me with crayons and sketch pens, colour pencils and differently-shaped erasers, adding all the excitement possible in a 5-year-old’s life. But it didn’t stop there. She would spend time with me drawing. She’d teach me simple ways to draw many things. One such thing she taught me to draw were elephants.

In school, I had learnt how to draw a side profile of an elephant but dadi took it up a notch and increased the cuteness quotient multifold by teaching me how to draw the backside of an elephant. It was so easy and quick to make that I instantly fell in love with the cute, plump animal with a big backside and a tiny tail. It had a little trunk popping out into the air and large ears nearly attached to a round head. I drew it regularly thereafter – in practice drawings, competitions and even now, in my sketches.

What I am grateful for is that my grandmother has been such an integral part of my life that even the smallest things have a part of her hidden in it. I’m happy that a few weeks before her passing, I showed her all my elephant illustrations and told her how she was the mastermind behind all of them. I remember her eyes squinting at the zoomed in picture on my phone and then looking up at me, beaming, and saying, “Really?” And I proudly said, ‘Yes, Dadi.” It made her smile (her adorable toothless smile) and that made my day.

My sister and I are very attached to our grannies. And we figured that we are what we are because of them.

It’s important that we spend time with grandparents despite busy schedules for they did the same with us despite theirs. We were always a priority and in our case, they will always be ours. I guess, more than anything, it’s important that we show the person we love that they’re a priority and not take them for granted. Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee, so the best time is now.

Granny Tales 101: Chapter 5

This one took a while to come. Apologies for the delay. But I promise to be more prompt than I have been.

Today I talk about dadi and my piano lessons. Writing about this was unplanned but it seems like the best thing to relive at the moment.

My tryst with the piano began way back in second grade. My mother had seen a small newspaper listing for classes nearby and thought it was something interesting for my sister and I to learn. Our class was in a crammed home where the piano took up all the space in the room. But as kids we didn’t seem to bother. We were captivated by the instrument and the beautiful music one could make from it. And so, my sister and I took an instant liking to it and learnt fast. What began as a short summer camp eventually blossomed into a full-fledged class that saw both of us appear for Grade examinations by the Trinity College, London for nearly 6 consecutive years.

Continue reading

Granny Tales 101: Chapter 4

So the reason I said I knew what was coming up in this chapter was because I knew there was going to be an article of mine coming out in the newspaper soon. It was a piece I wrote on Tamil poetry for The Times of India, Chennai. I mention this because a lot of my interest in writing developed because of dadi. 

Dadi was an English teacher and she would sit for hours teaching me poems, grammar and narrating granny tales when I was in school. Before exams, she would sit with me and listen as I read out lessons loudly and interjected only if she wanted to add a point. Even at 90, she knew what gerunds and clauses were better than anyone else. I owe a lot of my knowledge in the language to her. She loved reading my English answer papers to see if the teaching sessions paid off. But my humble sweetheart that she was, she never took credit for it, simply praised me for being talented. 

She was so fond of my writing that when I became a journalist she was always in awe of my work and the research that went into it. Her eyesight was dwindling, so I’d often read my articles out loud for her to hear. At the end of it, she’d ask me where I had got the idea, how I found my sources and how I managed to piece it together. In her eyes, her baby granddaughter had become a big girl, doing ‘difficult things in a professional way’. 

The days my articles were in the newspaper, she would quickly run to ensure that it was not mixed up with other papers. Whether everyone had a chance to read the piece or not, I could rest assured rely on Dadi to keep a copy with her in a white cover near her bedside that nobody except me was allowed to touch. She was very particular that my articles had to be kept in an organised manner. 

From the time the first article appeared, she would tell me, ‘Kanna, each article has to be cut neatly and kept in a file. Don’t lose it. It’s your hardwork.’ The day I started filing my stuff, she was thrilled. Occasionally, she would lament how she wished she could herself cut and file it for me but her eyes weren’t cooperating. 

It didn’t matter if she couldn’t do it. She had already done so much for me. What mattered was her love, her attachment to me. Her bond was so strong that everything just epitomised her care. Every instance she got, she showed it. And dadi taught me everything by example. She taught me that, in life, family is most important and you should never wait too long to show the ones you love that you care. Show them how much you mean to them, hug them tight and always make them smile. But most importantly, keep them close and never leave them for they’ll always be the ones who will stand by you, come rain or shine. 

Granny Tales: Chapter 3

Sundays with Dadi were a bliss. She didn’t just love food, she loved making it. Food was on her mind all the time. In fact, most of our family friends remember how she’d welcome them when they came home, “Coffee kudikaringla?” [Will you have some coffee?]. Soon after, she’d busy herself making a hot cup of filter coffee, that remains unmatched in taste till this date.

Sundays, in particular, were different because it meant eating Dadi’s special Bisibella bath with a dollop of ghee, garnished with fried groundnuts and crispy appalam to go with it. The waft of piping hot flavours in the rice would fill the house and soon see each of us tip-toe into the kitchen to see if lunch was ready. The menu for lunch was almost always the same every Sunday, with Vaanghi Bath [brinjal rice] being its only serious competitor. Once in a while, variety rice like lemon rice, puliogare [tamarind rice], coconut rice and tomato rice would make an appearance.

Dadi was always the head cook for these lunches.Β Her mind would start working from the previous night. Everything would be mentally organised – from ingredients to quantities. And while everyone relished her food, she’d have a standard line after preparing each meal – “Innike seriyaave varle!” [Today, the taste isn’t upto the mark]. Eventually, this line became an inside joke as all of us waited for her to say it. We’d tell her that if she doesn’t say it, then something was definitely wrong with the food. This conversation would leave us all giggling.

Fortunately, these happy memories linger on and sometimes give you the strength to cope. They’re a reminder that the end isn’t the only thing to remember. What is important, is the journey. The moments, the times spent together, the love, the laughter – they can never be erased and one can only be grateful that it all happened instead of cry that it’s over.

I think I have an inkling on what’s coming in chapter 4. Stay tuned, guys!

Granny Tales 101: Chapter 2

Home isn’t home without dadi around. Everything reminds me of her. We all have our own ways of coping. In my case, I’m coping on varying scales with different things, so I finally channelised my energy into writing when it came to dadi dearest. 

After her passing, I wrote a very short poem which aptly described what I was feeling. So I’m sharing that poem with you here. 

Why did you just disappear?

When you know you’re 

Our dadi dear,

But you’re so strong, 

We have nothing to fear,

You’re always with us 

Even if you’re not here.
A big hello to my rockstar up there who is watching over me, being my guardian angel like she always was. 

Granny Tales 101: Chapter 1

I thought a lot about what could go up as the first anecdote. The problem is, you can never pick just one incident that is close to your heart. So I’m just going ahead with the first one that popped up when I began writing this.

When I was a little child, I was always excited about excursions. My school used to plan day-long picnics to amusement parks in the city. I wasn’t, and I’m still not, a huge fan of these parks because I get dizzy on rides. The only thing I enjoyed about the outing was munching on snacks and being with my small group of friends, who fortunately never made fun of my fears and still chose me as their ‘excursion partner’. Continue reading