Pati, Nani, Dadi, Ajji, Ammamma, Grannie. Call her what you will! With due apologies to Shakespeare, `What`s in a name? A granny by any other would be as sweet!`.
My grandmother, `Pati` as we used to call her, was the guiding force in our family. A frail looking person but with a will of iron. My earliest memories of my grandmother are associated with smells. The smell of sandal wood after she used to prepare the `puja` for my grandfather. The lovely fragrance of `Afghan snow`, a cream used by her daily after a bath, and the scent of Jasmine flowers that she is to wind around her hair after combing it into a knot. My `Pati` was very fastidious about dressing, even at home. I used to love watching the way she used to gracefully drape the nine yards sari around herself, with a minimum of fuss or movement. Her saris were perfectly co-ordinated with her blouses. When others around her used to admonish her for wearing her beautiful silk saris at home, she used to squash their arguments by saying that she dresses to please herself and not others.
My `Pati` was very fond of jewellery. In fact, whenever she used to move around, we used to tease her by singing "With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes." Unlike her other contemporaries, who used to spend their time singing devotional songs and visiting temples, my `Pati` made no bones about the fact that she would rather go out with her children and grandchildren shopping than visit temples and sing songs. My grandfather used to constantly tease my granny about being materialistic to which she would indignantly answer that she had had six daughters married into good families and that she alone knew how she had scrimped and saved for all their marriages. And if today, she spent on herself, she deserves to do it. My grandfather, who was a lovely person but totally idealistic and a poet to boot had hardly been of any help to my granny. She had single handedly managed to raise eight children allowing my grandfather to continue writing his poetry in peace. When he became famous, he always acknowledged his debt to my granny in every public function.
My memories of my granny are that of an efficient, hardworking person. At a time when women were confined to homes, my `Pati` used to take charge of everything, right from getting her children educated to looking after the financial affairs of the family. She never allowed my grandfather to have an inkling of what she was going through as she wrestled with family and financial matters. She took pride in what he was writing and never once asked him to give up what everybody considered to be an unrealistic profession. She understood that writing was his passion and even though, at that time, it did not bring bread to the table, she had faith that he would succeed.
The one thing that I have learnt from my `Pati` is to be true to myself. She never pretended to be what she wasn`t. Her frankness always got her into trouble, but she always stood by what she felt was important to her.
My `Pati` used to look after herself very well. One of my memories about her is the huge glass of milk she used to drink before going to bed every day. She didn`t believe in fasting or punishing her body. Her motto "You need to look after yourself first. Then only, you can look after others."
This motto of hers has stood me in good stead. It is wisdom acquired through her years of experience. As women, we are caretakers, of the family, our society and the world at large. But in order to do that, we need to take care of ourselves first. This is what my wise `Pati` has taught me.
- Arundhati Jagadish