When did you patiently converse for long duration with your grandparents, grand uncles and aunts or your relatives who are in their Eighties and Nineties?
We should be seriously thinking of preserving the oral traditions. Oral history is a more reliable and unbiased source than the books to know the finer details of the family traditions, social life and customs of yesteryears. (We know for sure how most of our history books are written. They boldly and shamelessly label themselves as rightist, leftist or centrist and give a coloured picture! That too, by using public funds!)
In short, start conversing with our grandparents, grand uncles and grand aunts. Record what they say about their childhood. (Before their memories get faded further and they leave this beautiful world)
|In conversation with my Grandma's Sister|
|My Grand Uncle has so much to say about the colonial India|
Here below, read a memoir based on a not-so-typical conversation of a grandson to his grandma:
“When will grandpa come for lunch?” I, the grandson asked an innocent question to grandma.
“Who knows for sure when he would come! Do you think your grandpa converses and shares with his wife, like other husbands?”
Indeed, a difficult question to be answered by a 12 year old.
‘Don’t you know how much I suffer? No other woman would have tolerated a husband like this. Life goes on because of Ammachi’s patience and tolerance beyond limits of the earth.’
‘Grandma, why do you say that? Grandpa is really a very loving person!’ I used to retort.
‘Mon, what do you know about your Grandpa? He is such an actor! He calls for sympathy from all his children and siblings. He likes to portray me as a horrible lady before everyone. Who brought up all his children and took care of their needs? Who saved money and took charge of the children’s education and maintenance of the house? He never appreciates my wise and frugal home management. My brothers support my family because of their love, affection and sympathy for their sister, who is unfortunately destined to live with an indolent man.’
‘But Ammachi, I see Grandpa bringing lots of goodies home. He buys the biggest fish in the market and brings unniyappam and bonda (sweets from the tea shop) for us. He gets us oranges and black grapes when he goes to Kottayam (nearest town).’
‘Do you think that these are great things? Does he ever buy groceries promptly without me yelling at him and after several reminders?
‘And the big fish that you talk about! Don’t you know what time he brings that fish full of flakes and bones? At 11 O’clock, at night. And this poor Ammachi has to spend the whole night to clean it up!’
‘Only Grandpa does that for you, no? I have seen him cleaning and cutting the fish so meticulously?’
‘Not always, my dear. Even then, who cooks it? He wants both fish curry and fish fry for his dinner, the very night itself. And you said about him bringing oranges and grapes from Kottayam. That is another joke which I will tell you later. Let me check if the rice is ready or not’.
She looked at the sun’s rays on the veranda and said it is 12 noon now. And rushed to the kitchen.
On the way she murmured, ‘He will come hungry, now. Let me prepare his favourite chutney with the raw mangoes he brought yesterday’
Grandma's grievances against her husband were never ending. As her children refused to hear the oft repeated grumblings and complaints, she found a new breed of patient listeners, in her grand children. She felt really relieved after sharing the stories of her difficult life with your husband. She didn’t mind the age of the grand children who listened. She believed that anybody above 8 years can very well appreciate her genuine grievances and the efficiency and that they can be clearly convinced about her husband’s irresponsible behaviour in the family.
Grandma continued medicines for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes, for more than four decades. She identified each tablet by their colours and never missed even a single dose of medicine in her life. As in case of her favourite brands of soap, talcum powder, body oil, hair oil and face cream, she stocked medicines for the next two months, in her custody.
She used to remind her husband to buy her medicine, then her children and in the later years, also her daughters-in-law. Stocks are ordered to be delivered at different timing so that one person will not get a chance to know that another one has already supplied the same set of medicines. That was her way of ensuring uninterrupted supply of medicines. Same was the case of Asanaviluadi oil (for hair), Dhanyantwaram kuzhambu (body oil), Cuticura talcum powder, Nivea face cream and Pears transparent soap. I wonder if this practice was a result of her apprehension after reading about the Great Bengal Famine of 1943.
I truly wondered how scrupulous she was in selecting the right brand of rice for meals. She used to ask grandpa to bring rice samples home, before buying a sack of rice. She would look at and feel each grain on her palm and then would give a nod if that brand had to be brought. Sometimes she would cook it, to see if it takes a long time to get cooked. (This meant consumption of more firewood). I remember occasions where grandpa violated her directions, resulting in my grandma sending back the entire sack of rice to the grocery shop.
How did she transform Grandpa into a quiet cat at home? A man who served the Indian Army, who had a large network of friends and clients while practicing as a freelance law assistant, preferred a low profile at home. Grandma was a towering personality and had made lasting impressions with her unique attitudes and perceptions about life.