My Grandfather's Armchair.
My Grandfather's Armchair.8 mins 3.1K 8 mins 3.1K
I have faint memories of what my grandfather was like. He died when I was 5 and even when he was alive, I had not spent much time with him. A few days back, out of the blue, I remembered one instance with my grandpa.
I was maybe 3 ½ years old and my grandparents used to live in my maternal uncle’s house where my mother used to take me. Many times we would stay there. One day after aaba (That is how we denote my mother’s father in our household) returned from work, he was resting on his armchair. It was about 3.30 in the afternoon, nap time for most Maharashtrian families…
I was awake and I don’t remember what my mom was doing then. Maybe she was just in and around the house. It was her maternal home and she was enjoying the care and comfort, I guess. My aaji (Marathi for grandmother) was a tenacious woman. A mother to eight children, seven of whom she had given birth to and, a stepdaughter from my grandfather’s first marriage.
I have heard so many stories of aaji all my life. About how she managed the house through all odds and how she made yearly arrangements for dried grains, lentils, and other household requirements in summer so that the family did not have to worry all year long.
What I really like though, are her cumbersome efforts to make homemade pickles and papad and other such side dishes that would accompany dal-rice in my mother’s household when they were young. That was being truly resourceful!
My mother always tells me how their family sustained through all the odds and I have understood that a lot of credit goes to aaji. She was meticulous. Very meticulous...as my maternal uncle puts it. My mother says that my aaji had a very nice habit of making balanced, simple meals for the family. She says that at times, feeding themselves twice a day used to be a luxury for them, yet, aaji did the best that she could. In many ways, I am like my aaji and yet in many ways, I ain’t.
For instance, I am very loving. I haven’t seen my aaji expressing love. I feel maybe it was the circumstances that had made her tough or maybe she was always so. I don’t know. What I experienced was that she was very strict. I have got a good scolding from her when I was young, especially about my eating habits. I was always a foodie and she used to scold me about overeating in my growing age when everyone eats … How can you not when your grand-mom makes such awesome food? The taste of certain foods that she made still lingers on my taste buds. She used to make unique combinations of foods that would go very well together, were simple to make, and were healthy as well. That is another thing I have imbibed from her I believe. To make good food even when there isn’t enough …
I think I need to thank aaji for having left an impression in the family that we all can look up to and which I have certainly grown to live with.
At one instance when I visited her place, she had made red lentil curry and served it with white rice and egg omelet. Oh my god! That was the yummiest lunch of my life. It was an unending succession of rice and curry and omelet and then, some more rice and curry and some more omelet!
I was 9 then and the memory is absolutely vivid in me even today.
Once when I was 13, aaji had come to stay with us during Diwali and she made fish curry. My mother always praises my aaji for the fish that she made. She says that Aaji’s fish curry is therapeutic! And I wonder what is she even talking? But I know what she means…
Basically, whenever my mom or anyone in her family would be recovering from some illness or fever and would be in the convalescence period… when one feels like eating something tasty but has to be careful about digestion issues, my aaji would make a tasty, light (less spicy) pomfret curry. My mother or anyone else would have it with rice … just the curry without the flesh… and that itself would be so tasty that it would make all their malaise vanish!
Mom also says that Aaji used to make awesome dried fish preparations. She says dried fish is something that lower socio-economic people (which my mom’s family was at the time) who live from bread to mouth thrive on. Mom says that in the days when they were growing up, dried fish was their treasure as aaba was the sole earner and their days were difficult more often, seldom comfortable. I think that is what has made my mother who she is today and she is very proud of it...
So, coming to the dried fish preparation… aaji used to add potatoes and coarsely cut onions to the dried fish and boil it with the dried masala powders and then, to add some tanginess, she would put kokum. The preparation would be served with steaming hot rice and at times aaji would make a green leafy vegetable as an accompaniment.
I don’t like the smell of dried fish. I can maybe have one particular variety, that too very rarely. Honestly, I prefer not to. But all these descriptions that my mom makes; do take me back to her childhood days and I like listening to their stories sometimes.
So, the time when Aaji had come over to stay with us in Diwali she had made pomfret curry, and I remember not being able to stop eating it. There came a point my Aaji scolded me and I was so angry with her. But I never gave in to her scolding. Had she explained things lovingly I would have… Maybe…I don’t know.
I have always felt that it’s not the amount of time that you spend with a person, but, the quality of it that really matters in any relationship or association. For instance, my aaji lived for many years after aaba’s demise. Yet, I feel more attached to aaba even today when I can practically remember only one evening that he had spent with me. The one that I was talking about when I was 31/2 years of age.
That afternoon after aaba came home, he rested in his armchair for about half an hour to forty-five minutes. Hmm --- I remember now, my mother had gone out with my maternal uncle that day to buy something and I was at home with aaji and aaba.
My aaji always used to be there for everything that aaba needed. So, when he had returned home that afternoon, she saw to it that he ate a little bit and then took rest as usual.
After aaba finished his short nap around 4.30 or so, he got up, freshened himself, and then took me out - around in the nearby locality. It was his way of expressing love for his granddaughter I believe.
I have a very faint memory about what all we did, but he took me to a local South Indian restaurant and parceled a masala dosa for me. Then, as we started coming back, he bought me an orange ice candy… You know… the cheap ones that you get … I guess at the time it must be some 3 or 5 rupees.
I was the happiest person in the world that evening!
Aaba had held my hand in his and as we walked back, I was enjoying the ice fruit as it is called sometimes. After we reached home, I relished the masala dosa. It had become a bit chewy, yet, it was very tasty.
Many a times even today, I prefer having it chewy as it brings back the joys of my childhood, my special moments with aaba.
Truly… nothing can ever compensate that in my life!
At times when I close my eyes, I remember my lean aaba sitting on the same armchair after a day’s hard work.
I don’t remember what he used to refer me to when I was a child, but the family called me Kanu (my pet name) and I am guessing he too did.
Today, I want to say something to him…
I never thanked you then as I don’t thank most people who I consider mine. That is who I am… And, maybe you are least expecting me to say all this… But today, I want to say thanks from the bottom of my heart!
Thanks for being an important stepping stone in my life and making it known to me as to what it means to express love through small gestures!
I know what it means to be happy with small things because of you! Thank you for that Ice candy! Thanks for that Masala Dosa!!!
I just want you to know that I will always love you aaba!
Take care of yourself and give my regards to aaji.
“Tumchya ani aajichya aatmyala shanti milo.” (May God grant peace to your and her soul.)
Tumchi chotishi naat ji ata mothi jhaliye…,
(Your little granddaughter who is an adult now)