Monday, November 06, 2006

Visiting Granny

(Woman's Era, March (Second) 2000)

Visiting Granny

“Hey Mom, let’s go to Ammamma’s place for the weekend!” say my kids. (Ammamma is Telugu for maternal grandmother.)
“OK,” I say, and set certain things I motion, like giving the maid the weekend off. Hubby dear is out of town, hence this sudden trip.

“Are we going this year?” two wide-eyed little girls hopefully ask.
“Yes!” my mother says, her eyes smiling more than her mouth.
“Ooh!” we hug our precious knowledge to ourselves and rush off to finish two months’ holiday homework in five days flat. My mother gets busy, making cakes, laddoos and sev for the journey.

Saturday morning finds me hailing and autorickshaw, with my daughter and son bouncing up and down beside me. I carry just an overnight bag---which has hardly any clothes in it – more of the kids’ stuff like colouring books and their favourite Teddy and Bunny.

The morning of our journey dawns after days of agonized waiting. The car to the station is loaded down with suitcases, trunk and bedding, not to mention a basket of eats and the ubiquitous surahi.
“Write as soon as you reach there.” My father says through the barred window of the train carriage.
“Yes. Please take care of yourself. The mess food.........”
“Don’t worry about that,” he says and goes off to buy us some comics. Meanwhile, my sister and I have explored every nook and cranny of our compartment, blackening our hands thoroughly.

The autorickshaw rattles and bumps along the 7 kilometres to my mother’s house. The petrol fumes make my eyes water.

The train huffs and puffs along on the 2080 km route, the steam engine spewing sooty smoke back towards us. Our faces, pressed against the bars of the window are streaked with black. My mother’s eyes are watering. No, those are tears.
“You are thinking of Ammamma,” we whisper.
“Yes. It is all right,” she reassures us

My son fidgets “Are we nearly there, mom?” he asks petulantly, "I’m hungry.”
“Just wait,” I soothe, “only a few minutes more.”

My sister and I make up games to play, apart from the usual word building and name games. We have to pass two nights and a day in the train. We count the number of tunnels we go through, and the rivers we cross. We crane our necks to catch a glimpse of a tiger (wild hope!) in the jungle on either side of the track and are rewarded by the sight of a shy deer, sometimes.
“Hey, curve, curve, curve!” my sister sings out. We never get tired of catching sight of the engine and all the bogies ahead of ours, from our window as the train rounds a curve.

“Hey, that signboard wasn’t there before,” says my daughter, “Do we turn here?”
It turns out that we do. We are nearly there.
“For heaven’s sake Mom, don’t tell Ammamma about the card we made for her----we’ll give it to her ourselves.” That is my self possessed seven-year-old daughter.
“Oh, no,” I protest. “When did I ever---“
“You might,” she says darkly.

“Please Mummy, don’t cry when you see Ammamma. Please!” That is me, as we near our destination, afraid to see an adult cry.
“No, no,” my mother hastens to explain. “I cry out of joy. But I’ll try not to, hmmm?”
The train chugs to a stop at “our” station. My mother scans the faceless multitude for a glimpse of a dear face----yes, there is her brother, scrutinizing the alighting passengers equally anxiously. Then the recognition, the joyful meeting, the ‘how-big-you-have-grown’ to us. We are hopping with excitement. The rickshaws outside the station are examined by us kids and the most luridly coloured one and the one with the most bells are accorded the honour of taking us home.

The auto skitters drunkenly to a halt outside the apartment block my parents live in. My children rush into the gate as I pay the driver. I sling the bag over my shoulder and stroll towards the flat. The children are ringing the doorbell---leaning on it actually.

The rickshaws jingle up to the gate of the sprawling house with the red roof of earthen tiles. There sitting on the verandah, are my grandparents. We leap off and run pell-mell through the gate. My mother, smiling through her tears, follows. My grandmother holds out her arms to us. Her smile holds such warmth, such affection, and her voice smiles a welcome too.

My father opens the door to us and my mother is standing just behind him, her arms held out to my children. Her smile holds such warm affection, such joy at seeing us, and I hear a smiling welcome in her voice.
No, nothing has changed.


Blogger Shankari said...


9:00 AM   
Blogger Sachin said...

Very beautiful....guess the relationship between grandparents and thir grandchildren would never change.....

10:19 PM   

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