Free Bird

I was very fond of my grandmother. She too loved me a lot (don’t all grandmothers!). A little tribute…

I owe inspiration for this post to Saronai.

I started this blog on the 19th of February… It happened to be the day our late grandmother (father’s mother) was born… Like all little children, I loved our grandmother. We called her Delhi pati (as opposed to my mother’s mother, whom we call Madras pati, whom, I may add, I love equally).

Pati came to live with us when we moved to Delhi, and I had the privilege of sharing a room with her. Pati had a very amazing life story. Due to the nature of our grandfather’s work, she spent a lot of time in Burma (now Myanmar). She lived through some of the most important phases of our history…

Married off at the age of 16, Pati didn’t study much… She could read and write fluently in Tamil but not much in English or Hindi… She had a special interest in politics and could recognise fragments of words from the English newspaper we subscribed to. She would point to it and ask us to explain what it was about. She would tell us stories about the War, about our Independence, about Nehru and Jinnah. I neither had an interest, nor did I understand any of it… I always thought she was being nostalgic about the past and wanted to let it out. I wish I had paid more attention, and asked more about our history. I’m sure it would have been more interesting to hear it from her perspective.

At night she used to narrate stories – some mythological, some folk and perhaps even some that she made up – to put me to sleep. She would begin the story, and before it would have reached even the middle, I would have been fast asleep… As a result, I don’t remember any of those stories…

My mother told me about Pati’s children. Her first-born died within a year, in a train. Fearing public outcry, they hid the death of the baby girl throughout the journey. Thereafter she gave birth to six children. I was told that she would have given birth to twins too… Once a thief broke into their house and threatened to kill her with a knife… Out of shock, she miscarried.

I have seen all, but one of my father’s siblings… One of my father’s brothers disappeared at a young age… He was thirty… He had gone for a picnic with his friends to a lake. She had packed a huge bag of home-made potato chips for them… But he never returned. Nor was his body ever found. Till her last breath, Pati hoped her son was safe somewhere and would return one day…

She had once suffered very serious burns and her skin had been damaged badly. She told us that the burnt area had to be grafted  with skin taken from her thighs. It would burn badly when they did that. They had no anaesthetics.

My memory of Pati is hazy now. It’s both surprising, and sad. I had always thought I would have very vivid memories of her. There is one thing that I remember very well… She always had a smile on her face. In everything that she told us, there was never any sign of bitterness or hatred… She was like a child. Her innocence still intact. Despite all that she had been through, she seemed very happy and content.

But she would often say, ‘In my next life, I will study… I will not get married… I want to be a free bird…’

By Kasturika

I tell stories - of people, places, and ideas - through words and visuals.
Designer by profession, Writer by passion, and Storyteller by accident (or is that a cosmic conspiracy?)
Digital Nomad, Slightly Eccentric

13 replies on “Free Bird”

Beautiful. The last line gave me goosebumps.

Kasturika, this post about your Pati has given me a much needed reminder that I’ve been wanting to write about my grandmother — Dadiji. I should do it soon before my memories turn dim, too.

But all that you do remember of her shows what an appreciator of people you are. “had the privilege of sharing a room with her.” Not many will say this. You’re a good person. And I am sure Pati is nodding her head somewhere up there.


[…] Musings of an Eccentric Mind:  While she states I inspired the post in the link provided, it really isn’t why I linked to that post, specifically.  The story about her pati, even if not described by me, is my favourite.  Her website as a whole is colourful and I love the doses of her culture throughout!  Inspiring! […]


What a rich history you come from. So much beauty mixed with sorrow. I’m glad your Pati always donned a smile. Makes me realize how lucky I am and how I, too, should smile everyday. I’m glad she is now a “free bird.” {{{hugs}}} kozo


🙂 I’m extremely proud of my family history. My pati was one who I spent a lot of time with, as a child. And most of the views I have on life, are influenced by her life story.

Here’s to a smile a day 🙂 {{{hugs}}}


We admired her innocent ways and her instant laughter ! She bore no hatred to anyone .She should have been born as a princess and her children were her jewels. She loved you and Karthik a lot


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