Home Inspiring stories Inspiring Stories: Happy Memories of My Great Grandmother

Inspiring Stories: Happy Memories of My Great Grandmother

by Vidya Sury December 8, 2013 31 comments
Memories Vidya Sury

Memories, I sometimes think, are one of the most motivating features in my life.

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:

  • Self-sufficient
  • Caring, both with people and the environment
  • Generous
  • Creative
  • Independent
  • 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.

memories vidya sury


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Jyothi Nair December 8, 2013 at 8:13 am

Truly awed by your great grandmother. She was definitely a difficult act to follow. Loved going down the memory lane with you Vidya. <3
Jyothi Nair recently posted…Living in Pain

Gayu December 8, 2013 at 8:34 am

You are so lucky and blessed Vidya! Grandparents are a source of inspiration. My grandma is 88 and I try it hard at times to match her energy and enthusiasm 🙂
Beautiful post, made me nostalgic!
Gayu recently posted…Memories

Usha Menon December 8, 2013 at 11:24 am

Your Great grand mother was truly GREAT. She was an inspiration for the whole party.This is a very befitting tribute to her.
Usha Menon recently posted…Write Tribe # Memories

Bhagyashree December 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

Wow, amazing woman. I would have loved to see a pic of the dresser.

Geeta Nair December 8, 2013 at 11:54 am

Aah! your great grand mother reminds me of mine. I too have not met her but have heard a lot of stories about her from my mother, relatives and people in and around my native place. A great lady she was and she too died when she was ninety plus.Wonderful article Vidya and thanks for transporting me to a world of memories of my great grand mother.

vishalbheeroo December 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Your Great Great Grand ma is truly awesome and is a multi tasker. It reminds me of ma Nani:)

Shilpa Garg December 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm

OMG!! Your Great grandmother is truly an amazing woman. In that age and time, she was so self sufficient and far-sighted! Very impressive 🙂
Shilpa Garg recently posted…Memories of You

Sid December 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm

That’s another amazing piece from you Vidya. Loved it…and awestruck by Kalyani Paati 🙂 She really is an inspiration and we should all take a leaf off her book of life !

Suzy December 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I was privileged to have met my great grandmother. She was my paternal grandmother’s step mother, but she was very fond of my grandmother more so than her own children and she lived with us for a few years. My real great grandmother passed away young. But what an awesome lady your’s was.
Suzy recently posted…My Personal Journey with Memories

Obsessivemom December 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Loved the feel of your post. Can imagine that estate. What fun it would have been with no one moving away… Just build bother house on the estate when you need one.. Lovely concept. And your great grand mother would have been some woman to have kept the whole tribe together :-).

Corinne Rodrigues December 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Wow! They don’t make them like this these, do they? Now I know where a certain someone gets their inspiration to undertake painting the house on her own! 🙂
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kalpana solsi December 8, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Vidya , you do not have a photo of your Kalyani paati but she is always with you, in your heart. What an amazing lady!

Kathy December 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm

WOW she sounds amazing! I enjoyed hearing all about her and sure can understand why you were fascinated with tales about her. You brought her to life vividly with your words. I bet she never dreamed in her lifetime that she would be remembered and cherished long after she left this world. What an amazing legacy to cherish. ♥
Kathy recently posted…Memories

Sunita Prasad December 8, 2013 at 9:51 pm

A heartwarming post Vidya. Your great grandmother was really an amazing woman.

My Inner Chick December 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm

The apple falls closely to the tree, dear.
You were raised by strong, beautiful women &
have followed in their footsteps.
I knew there was a reason you were FABULOUS!
Love you more than fluffy leopard Christmas Ornaments.
Btw, Kalyani Paati is YOU, too!
….do you have a Christmas tree? If so, what sort of ornaments do you put on it?
My Inner Chick recently posted…1315 Days

Jairam Mohan December 9, 2013 at 5:07 am

Vidya, as you are well aware by now I absolutely love and adore all your walks down memory lane, and this was just such an extra special post as it took me way back to your GGM’s times 🙂 And she seemed more than quite a handful of talent, didn’t she. And am sure you must have swollen up with pride when your mother told you that you have some of her traits, which I am more than sure you do 😀
Jairam Mohan recently posted…The Confession – Chapter 2 – Food

Pixie December 9, 2013 at 6:18 am

oh wow!! Your great grandma sounds amazing!!
She could talk to animals?! I find that admirable and touching… not many can. And I’ve heard its only the very sensitive few who can!!

You are indeed truly blessed Vidya! 🙂

Carol Graham December 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I love these kind of stories. Family is of utmost importance to me and passing these stories down for the younger generations is so important. Thank you

Rekha December 9, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Wow! She indeed must be a super woman. The leaves basket and chutneys made me remember my own grandmother. I feel people of those times were much more blessed than us, or may be they knew how to utilize their time and use the resources to the best of their knowledge. We are a generation stuck between ideologies and technology. I too have heard a lot about my great grandmother from my grandmother. The best about her is, unlike the norm then, she didn’t get my grandmother married at a young age. She made her finish her education and got her married only when she was 28. Given a chance, I would want to be born in that era and live my life once again. 🙂
Rekha recently posted…I Love My Chappati

dreamzandclouds December 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm

A warm & lovely post. 🙂
You can check mine here – http://dreamzandclouds.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/memories/
P.S. This is my 1st visit to your space and I loved that “Did you smile today” button 😀
dreamzandclouds recently posted…Hidden Treasure

Sugandha December 9, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Vidya I really don’t remember much about my great grand mom, it was amazing to read your story. I am going to ask my mother more about mine.
Sugandha recently posted…My favorite food items.

Aditya Subramanian December 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Jack of all trades and a Master of all.. Beautiful 🙂
Aditya Subramanian recently posted…The Memory of Memories

Ruchira December 10, 2013 at 1:11 am

An inspiring read…jai ho to your great grand mom, vidya
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Shiva December 10, 2013 at 11:46 am

In the end we all are stories indeed ,..But yours is a bestseller!!!:)
Shiva recently posted…Beads of nature

preethi December 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm

simply loved reading about your great grandma. I too had the privilege of spending time with my great grandma. and i am in total awe of how disciplined her life was and how active and self sufficient she was till her last days. thanks for sharing :)brought back some wonderful memories.

the little princess December 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm

its amazing what a great imprint these ladies have left on ur mind….hats off to them!
the little princess recently posted…Memories…..

Richa Singh December 10, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I will tell you what. I have a similar story. My mother’s grandmother and even her great grandmother are huge legends in the house. They both widowed at 18 and went on to run the though completely on their own. Both were zamindars having seventeen villages under them. I love hearing about them I will one day write a book on their story. For sure.

Those times saw some real great people..

Vishnu December 11, 2013 at 9:05 am

Lovely story and description, Vidya. I remember my great-grandmother in her 90’s and had very fond memories of her even thought she never spoke and was mostly in prayer. She had a toothy (less) smile and always gave us treats. She was an extremely spiritual woman which is what most stood out for me about her. Your great grandmother seems like she was the jill of all trades:) and abilities.
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iihahs December 12, 2013 at 11:23 am

What an amazing woman she was!
I am always amazed at the knowledge of herbal medicines that grandmothers have. To this day, I regret not noting down the herbal medicines concoctions from my grandma.

Indeed , we are all stories.

Proactive Indian December 22, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Great post by Vidur’s great and grand mother about her great-grandmother, with references to her great grandmother and her great and grand mother! (My schoolmate once introduced me to his father, grandfather and great-grandfather in this manner.)
Proactive Indian recently posted…Asaram, Tejpal, Devyani and our attitude to the law

Down Memory Lane to A Villa In Coimbatore | Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles July 22, 2018 at 6:47 pm

[…] dispersing. Marriages, new jobs, job transfers—all the usual things. We lived in Mumbai. My Grandmother’s brothers lived in the family estate very close to our place with their rather large family, and of […]


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