My grandma is older than India’s independence. She’s no taller than 4 feet 9 and I call her ‘Amma’. She was married at 16 to my grandfather, who she says looked like a Bollywood superstar. I have no memory of my grandfather but judging by her pride, I bet he was a catch!
Recently, I got a notification Amma was live on Facebook and I instinctively clicked to see her singing one of her favorite songs too close to the camera. The other day, I got a concerned call from her when someone commented on my display pic, “This is sick!”. She religiously explained to me how to make the perfect herbal tea to feel better. She also insisted I send her pictures of me drinking the tea for the next five days. She is addicted to online games and I often see her posting her results from quizzes like “Which Game of Thrones character are You?” or “How will you die?”. Now she’s on Twitter and her tweets crack me up every time.
Growing up, whenever I would come home after my day’s shopping, try on the clothes once again, and show them to my mom and her, she wouldn’t hold back and tell me the dress looked absolutely awful. Her complete lack of tact in ripping off the bandage amazed me every time and I would look at my mom who would say I looked beautiful anyway. That’s also the reason why I could not trust my mother with things like these!
Although deeply spiritual, Amma was never the religious type and when I would see my dad and mom going these extra miles organizing religious rites and rituals, I would see her sitting nonchalantly in a corner munching peanuts. There was a constant tiff in our house for the TV remote between my dad who wanted to watch news and godmen, and my grandma who wanted her daily dose of Ekta Kapoor soap operas. She told me one day, “Your dad is really superstitious and morbidly boring.” I mean between the two, definitely my grandma knew how to have more fun!
She was my best friend growing up and she still is. As a kid, I would look forward to accompanying her to local markets because I would get my pick at anything I wanted. Everyday before school, she would pack my lunch. She was also my go-to home tutor for Math, English, Hindi and Sanskrit. I remember asking her the same question every other day and her explaining it to me over and over again, with the same enthusiasm as the first time. She has not been cooking for years now as her health deteriorates, and I stopped eating ‘Malpuas’ the day she stepped out of kitchen.
We have our own secret handshake that ends up with me hugging and kissing her cheeks and her pretend annoyance with the whole goddamn thing. Once I was late for my flight and left the house in a hurry just kissing her goodbye only to learn later that she cried I forgot about our secret handshake. So, I made sure I did it right the next time and I saw her getting worked up and annoyed and absolutely thankful at the same time!
I have been seeing her less and less over the years and we’re not even in the same continent anymore. I try keeping up with her, but she can barely hear me over the phone. Whenever I video call her, she tells everyone I came home to visit her and my heart breaks a little. I know she won’t read or understand this anymore, even if I tell her myself, but I really do hope she knows that I carry a bit of her with me every day wherever I go!