Kalyani paati, a tiny package of a woman, was 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. She was the original DIY specialist and Ms.Fix It. If a tap leaked, she could fix it. If an area needed flooring, she did it. If she fancied a sit out in one 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 crop, both edible and decorative in her garden. She loved spicy chutneys and could make several types, with produce from her garden.
The property we lived in was a self-sufficient estate on a huge plot of land with little residential constructions all over the place separated by these lush gardens. Each little house was added along the way as the family grew – members got married and need their space. Kalyani paati had three sons and a daughter and the daughter was my maternal grandmother. Doted upon by her brothers naturally.
My mother would say that all the wood fittings would shine and the brass fixtures would gleam with the loving maintenance of Kalyani paati. In corners of the garden, composting was done to make fertilizer for the plants. So Kalyani paati was not educated – but overflowing with knowledge gained (from her own parents perhaps?) and the people she interacted with. Mom told me there was a horse, a donkey and a snake that Kalyani paati tended. She worshiped the snake and seemed to be able to communicate with her animals. Talk about a woman aware of all the senses!
The kids (there were enough to form a cricket team, what with uncles, aunts and cousins and their progeny – in fact, they did play cricket!) 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 had nimble fingers that could pick up leaves and weave baskets 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 somewhere in her nineties. I am proud to say I have some of her beautiful bead work. She did intricate embroidery. She was an awe-inspiring and awesome 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.