Remembering Mai Mai (My Mother’s Mother)
My grandmother visited me yesterday. Having passed away nine years ago she chose to pay me a visit in my dreams. Her visits, being few and far in between are always pleasant. Even though I knew her to a far lesser degree compared to my siblings, there was something about her that always caught my attention and has ever since stayed with me.
Being my mother’s mother, she paid us a visit daily till we shifted base from Bombay to Goa in the mid 90’s. Balancing herself as she carried her pot-belly on her frail legs, through the lanes and bylanes and up the four floors of my building, she made sure she got us our favourite sugar pills, which we used to call white chocolates.
Having been educated only till the fourth in Konkani medium, she didn’t let her lack of education come in her way; because she, at a very young age had learnt that conviction is something that can take you places and is something that our books or educational system can never teach. The hardships she faced while she was young reinforced that belief in her. Always wanting to be well informed and not dependent on others, she would make the most of what she had, which wasn’t much. Using the state owned Doordarshan to her advantage she would switch on her black and white television at 8 pm sharp to tune in to the news. For the next ten minutes, she would be glued to the happenings on the screen absorbing every single detail and trying her best to comprehend what the anchor read by translating the Hindi into the best of English she knew. After ten minutes, when the news segment made way for the segment in English, she would sit through the English news as well. She did this for two reasons, to confirm what she had understood was right and to make sure she was abreast on all the happenings as some topics covered in the news in Hindi were not covered in the news in English and vice versa.
Never giving the world even a small chance of mocking her, she put in her best efforts in learning to read and write in English. She made it a point to sign in English as she operated her bank account to withdraw the monthly pension she was eligible for. Though the income was meagre, using adept financial planning, she would spend wisely; never purchasing more than was needed and never paying more for something not worth. Dividing the income into parts and with immense discipline, she would always end up saving a few pennies every month.
Her day, just like her expenses were well planned. When she woke up in the morning she would say her prayers and prepare the breakfast. Either having chapattis, musk toasts or khari biscuits with tea she would get ready to face what the day had to offer. Taking a stock of the things at home and depending on what she had planned on cooking, she would head to the market to purchase the ingredients. Not having a mobile to store a to-do list or able to write herself, she would tie knots in her handkerchief to remind her of the number of things needed to be done. As she accomplished one task after another, she would untie the knots. Nothing gave her more pleasure than a knot-free handkerchief. Similarly, nothing irritated her more than one with.
In her free time, between her afternoon nap and reading the Holy Bible in the late hours of the evening, she enjoyed engaging with people, listening to music, watching a good serial on television or playing a game of carom – where she was an expert. Her ability to turn any game on its head, find gaps and pocket coins surrounded by the opponents’ coins and provide a cover for the queen came naturally to her. When she took strike, the coins would slide on the board as if it were made of silk and not wood. It didn’t make any difference if she played with black or white. All she needed was one chance at possessing the striker and with her it would remain till the end; A case of Game, Set, Match.
Having lived in an era where mobile phones or social networking websites didn’t exist, she knew the only way of interaction was by taking genuine interest in people and caring for them. Every day, as she came across people, she would stop by and enquire about their well-being. If need be, she would go out of her way to help them, inspite of her age and ailments. Being an active member in church and in her prayer group activities, she was adored and loved by all. No wonder, as she was being laid to rest there was a flock of people to bid her goodbye.
I miss my mai mai. Her resolute faith in God, determination to battle the odds and living life with dignity is an inspiration for me and the ones who knew her. Love you mai mai. May your soul rest in peace and your blessings be upon us always.
Nelton D’Souza is the author of the best selling book State of the Heart. You can know more about him and his book at http://bit.ly/AboutNelton