Especially those that revolve around my Grandmother and my Mother. They are angels watching over me. I feel a warm glow of pride when I think of them and feel grateful for all that they’ve instilled in me.
Today, I want to talk about my Great Grandmother, though. A remarkable woman, if ever there was one, from what I’ve heard about her. I could never tire of hearing about her and listening to the stories my Mom relived with me. It always seemed like a magical time in her life.
Memories of my Great Grandmother
My great grandmother and my Grandmother (Mother’s Mother) were both amazing women who ruled their roost and brood with the proverbial iron hand in velvet glove and a soft heart. While I was privileged to know and grow up with my Grandmother, my Great Grandmother was gone long before I was born. I only know her via anecdotes and stories about her through my Grandmother and my mother. I loved hearing these, especially from my Mom because she had a way of telling it that kept me enthralled and desperate for more.
Kalyani Paati, was a tiny package of a woman, 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.
She was the original DIY specialist and Ms.Fix It. If a tap leaked, she could fix it. If an area needed flooring, she got right down to it. If she fancied a sit-out in one part of our bungalow, she built it. Shelves? Yes, no problem. She could put them up.
But her biggest asset was her expertise with herbal medicine, gardening and creative cooking. Not surprising really! 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. There was even a grape garden that flourished unexpectedly!
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. The interesting thing was – each little house was added along the way as the family grew. When someone got married and needed their space, a little house was built! And to add her special touch, Kalyani Paati would pretty it up with a little garden around it.
Kalyani Paati had three sons and a daughter and the daughter was my lovely maternal Grandmother. Doted upon by her brothers naturally. Oh, she was my Hero!
My Mother said that all the wood fittings would shine and the brass fixtures would gleam with the loving maintenance of Kalyani Paati. The red oxide floors were lovingly polished to a smooth glow. At doorways, there were crochet decorations all knitted by her and colored rangoli painted on the floor.
She also cared for the environment. In corners of the garden, composting was done to make fertilizer for the plants. By the way, Kalyani Paati was not educated – but she had a wealth of knowledge gained from her experience (and 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 other yummy eats. Everyone wanted to taste whatever she cooked.
She had nimble fingers. She was generous and believed in giving. And she did not fret over containers. She would simply go into the garden and gather a few leaves, weave baskets and distribute her excess produce and other stuff.
Until I was about 24, I had a dresser made by her, which I used to keep my clothes. She had a tree chopped down and used the wood to build this dresser. Then she shopped for a Belgian Mirror to fix at the top. I still have the mirror!
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.
I am sad I don’t have a photo of her – I doubt if there’s one. If there is, then it is probably lost in my Mother’s uncles’ families. We’re talking about the 1940s here. I loved it when my Mom said I showed streaks of her. My Mom certainly did, with her “nothing is impossible” attitude and her generosity. My Great Grandmother was:
- Caring, both with people and the environment
- Resourceful and innovative
- A fantastic cook
- A great gardener
- A skilled Craftswoman
- A DIY queen.
Just thinking about whatever I’ve heard about her and our childhood home lifts my mood and energizes me. Oh yes, I’ve seen the estate where she lived – my Grandmother’s brothers continued to live there. The library alone was as large as the British Library, sternly managed by one of them. Those memories are another post, for another day!
There’s nothing more enjoyable than listening to stories about a wonderful elder in the family. My Mom was so good at telling them. I am glad my son also enjoys listening to these. Creates a whole new world.
I am blessed.