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…’