We started our trip to a special place. The car turns on the junction. My father parks the car in the designated space. My family walks towards our maternal grandparents’ house and rings the bell. A sweet-smiling Lady opens the door and welcomes us all. She asks how we are, my studies, day to day activities, etc. She always gives advice, talks about different happenings along with it says it in as a light-hearted way as possible. I like her sense of humour. I have never seen her getting angry with anyone. Even if she wants to act rude, she tries maximum not to hurt anyone. Even amidst the fights that happen between her and my grandfather, she keeps her anger low. It's just a friendly verbal fight. She is my grandmother, whom we call “Ammumma”. Going to Ernakulam for us in the family was going to our grandparents’ house.
Grandmother always served us very yummy local dishes; even though we were full after breakfast, we ate from home. Idly with Potato curry is our family favourite. Even for lunch, she will make a lot of side dishes to eat along with rice. In the evening, she fed us a lot of fried snacks alongside tea. She was the sweetest and most cheerful. Even the dishes my mom prepares for us was learnt from her.
My grandparents had only three grandchildren, of which two are my brother and me. They were really interested in our academics, schooling, etc. and cared for us a lot. She made a point each time to ask about my marks and studies in general. I still remember her classic phrase, “You should score full in maths” since it was an objective and straightforward subject. Sadly, I never scored 100% in maths to date. She would advise us a lot about the importance of academics and point out other kids and relatives to show us an example.
Once in a while, she used to call us and ask us to watch Quiz, Travel or Spiritual programmes on the TV. She will call and tell, “Turn on Mathrubhumi Yatra, Keep Asianet, etc.” Grandma liked to watch both Hindi and Malayalam Serials and reality shows. Every time we stayed at their house, we used to complain about how she used to watch them a lot, and we didn’t even get a chance to hold the remote.
Starting from my school days, my grandmother used to call us once every week. Before talking to us, she would get all the details from my mother, and she used to speak as if she knew everything behind our back. My grandmother and my mother were best friends. They could speak over the phone for hours for anything and everything. When I joined engineering, my grandmother used to ask me about college and also talk about batchmates in the locality who happened to be their relatives or family friends. She always asked me about MUNs, events I participated in, activities I did, places I visited etc.
Even when I joined for International Studies Post-Graduation, she was interested in knowing what it was, its career options, placement opportunities and a lot more. She also enquired a lot about my college life, teachers etc. She was so lively when it came to knowing all these. Every time I visited them after my admission, they always asked, “When are you going to Bangalore?”.
Whenever grandparents used to come to our house, my brother and I would eagerly wait for that day and me. We would keep our cupboards organised and room tidy to show them. They would catch the city bus to Aluva and take an auto to our house. Even after the metro became a reality thus enabling them to commute in the same; they would give a long lecture on why they still prefer to come by bus. Usually, my uncle and aunt (mother’s sister and brother) also used to accompany them. Those days when the entire family stayed together even for a day was one of the best days in our home.
Amidst the pandemic, both grandparents visited us at our home once, but we ensured every time that we visited them when we were en-route. They didn’t go out much, fearing the deadly situation and also due to their age and health concerns. The last time they visited us was in March 2021, when we brought them by car. We showed them our big new LED TV. That night we ordered my grandfather’s favourite Masala Dosa and veg dishes everyone liked. It was election season, and even politics was a topic of conversation. Sometimes they would ask my views while they exchanged theirs.
My grandmother was a jolly and lively person among family members, while I was exactly the opposite to that. She loved talking to people, interacting with relatives and examining family relations. She knew almost everyone in the locality and their details like an encyclopaedia. She maintained her phone diary, which has the contact details of all the family members. She primarily used the land phone, and thus this came in handy. I'm sure all the relatives and family members wouldn’t even have a single negative thing to talk about her. Every family meetup, she always talks to people with a warm greeting and a mix of serious and humorous talk.
For the past weeks, she was admitted in the hospital as she was unwell. We never expected her to get so much sick. She successfully recovered and came back to the room but unfortunately, went back to the ICU. My mother was full time with her in the hospital for a week. We all believed she would come back home and we could stay with her. I had even gone to Bangalore, leaving behind all the mess because everyone believed everything was on the right track.
Two days after I left, my mother called to inform me to return as soon as possible because she was in ICU in a critical state. Despite all my commitments, I booked my train ticket, hurriedly packed my bag, my emergency travel kit and everything. I got onto Kochuveli express, my return train. I slept for four hours as the train would arrive sooner. On the train just minutes before I had to get down, I got the message that our dearest grandmother had left for heavenly abode. I felt a shock at that moment, but maybe I had a small hope that this news may be false, but that wasn’t it. The train slowly reached the Ernakulam station, and my father had come to pick me up. The person who got on the train and got out of the train was very much different.
From the news I heard, everything happened so suddenly, and all our expectations and hope left. I didn’t get much information as I was away. I expected myself to come, stay for some time and return back. But that wasn’t the case. My brother was with my grandfather, my father had just returned from the workplace, while I just reached minutes back. Everything happened in less than a span of twenty-four hours.
I reached the house, only to see that her body was brought home, kept for visitors to see and pay homage. I saw my mother and all family members heartbroken and in shock. That day was coincidentally my mother’s birthday, but it was miserable that it became her worst birthday ever, indeed an unforgettable one. My mother and aunt certainly had lost their best friend. I felt terrible for my grandfather, who has to spend time alone. My uncle will surely miss his dearest mother, who scolds him every time. My cousin in Australia, who hasn’t met her physically for the past three years, will surely miss her a lot. At the same time, my brother and I lost our dearest grandmother, who calls us each time over the phone and the one who serves us our favourite dishes. All her sisters will miss their eldest sister, who looked after them like their own mother. All the friends and relatives lost the person who greets and welcomes everyone with a smiling face. That day before the funeral, many people had come home and had a lot to say only about her good deeds and character.
That day was the first time I ever saw my family in that much grief and distress. I have never had an experience being in a house of a person who has died. The funeral was also fixed for that day. This was totally a new experience for me. That day I could see women in the family crying loudly while men in the family were trying not to cry even if they were equally sad. The most hurtful scene was seeing other people crying, which made me down.
Irrespective of the lack of her physical presence, everyone will never forget the love and care she had for all of us. Each and everyone will miss her and remember her good deeds, positive character, and conversation style. No one will ever forget her smiling face and the things she said to all. The last time I heard her voice was over the phone; she was with my mother in the hospital. I never expected that to be the last time I listened to her voice. She had a sharp mind and voice then. She never showed any sign of sickness.
I was so disappointed that I couldn’t see her or even hear her voice, I was late. I wish I had arrived earlier. I wish I hadn’t gone to Bangalore in the first place. I wish I had been there with my family all the time during those tough days. I wish my grandparents visited our home more often and we stayed at their homes more during our vacations. I wish I wouldn’t have had to live a day like this. I wish I hadn’t written this article. I wish… I wish…
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Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions