Today is the day I was born… Today is also the day my Grandmother passed away. I am told she died the exact same time I was born. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade back then.
No, this fact that the dates coincide, does not bother me at all. Because there is no relevance to things like the time when a person is born or the time when a person dies. For me astrology or post death rituals for the eternal peace of the soul are all just derivatives of some human imagination centuries ago.
Rituals in my opinion are never for the dead but for the living. And I have always believed that only the living matter and not the dead. What matters are the memories of the dead. And I have so many good memories of her. All that matters in this world is what we do with those memories between the two end points of our lives; Birth and Death.
I am lucky to be the eldest grandkid as I was showered with so much love and affection by my Grandmother and also had the most time spend with her. For over 5 years I was the only Grandson and if you know what that means; it is a big thing. Being the only one and not having to share your Grandparents love with anyone for a whole 5 years. And I miss her like I miss many people who have touched my life.
The one memory of her that comes first to my mind is that of me entering my maternal house as a kid on any given vacation and I see my Grandfather in the living room and the book cases filled with classics. Soon as we enter I see my Grandmother making her way from the far corner of the house crossing what we call a nadumuttam (courtyard within a house). One of the tiles in the walkway was always loose and as she steps on it and walked, it gave a click sound that made the pigeons set on the room fly away. The living room is cemented in red cement and there are some chipped out pieces on the ground. Even a patch that has been filled with cement that is not painted red.
The living room has two or more Book case that has classic stacked in them, Tagore, Dickens, Jim Corbett, Tolstoy and many more… I as always would remain shy and then my Grandmother will call me to come near her and I will hang around the living room, as kids do and look around even if it is the umpteenth time I am there.
I will watch my mom becoming a child in front of her, there will be many people in the house as I remember. Some would be people helping there and sometimes it would be my mom’s sisters and my uncles all of whom are younger to my mom.
And after a few failed attempts to get me to walk with her my grandmother will walk back into the kitchen in the back of the house along with my mom. When I see that they have all gone, I will slowly take my small steps and walk across the courtyard into the dining room and then into the kitchen. Making two steps on the loose tiles just for fun and hear that sound.
In the Kitchen there is fresh coffee brew smell that awaits all of us, and yes snacks to go with it. The unniappam (a small round snack made from rice, jaggery, banana, roasted coconut pieces, roasted sesame seeds, ghee and cardamom powder fried in oil) or ela-Ada (a traditional Kerala delicacy, consisting of rice parcels encased in a dough made of rice flour, with sweet fillings, steamed in banana leaf and served as an evening snack) together or one by one slowly make their way from the kitchen on to the dining table. Coffee will be served in big brass or steel vessel from which you will pour into our steel glasses. I don’t remember having milk and I think it was always coffee with milk and sugar.
Before I finish I will start looking around and as soon as I see some of my vacation friends waiting outside, it is time to run out. Half done with food, I will be running out. And then over the course of the vacation I will make frequent rounds of the kitchen on and off.
My Grandmother will be present in every single room of that house. Today when I look back I think there was more than one of her there. I can see her in all the rooms of that big house all at once doing a multitude of things. In the living room, in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the long corridors that lead to many rooms, next to the well where pigeons held their morning chorus… yes… she was there everywhere…
One thing that I am reminded on all my Birthdays, is that if nothing make sure you leave good memories in the world just like my Grandmother. It is not just the person, but the environment they create around them for others.
Life is short, and even shorter for some, but memories last a lot more…. Instead of my birthday, today I celebrate her life.