“By the standards of the European industrial world we are poor peasants, but when I embrace my grandfather I experience a sense of richness as though I am a note in the heartbeats of the very universe.”
― Tayeb Salih,
The best place to be at, on any given holiday for her, had to be her “mama’r badi”(Uncle’s/Nan’s place). She remembers in the chilly winters of the 90’s, when she was still a tot, excited beyond bounds, because she was going on her month-long, yearly visit, to Salt lake, Sector 3, Kolkata, to see her most favorite people.They were her two uncles, who were in their early twenties, who loved their little niece to bits and would spoil her rotten. And then there was her royally beautiful Nani(maternal grand mom), who would always have a ready smile and hot ‘luchi-torkari‘ ready at her arsenal to please her grand-daughter coming in. She’d also have her very strict but very warm Nana (maternal grand dad) waiting for her, who’d scold her every time she didn’t finish her glass of milk but make sure the scratches on her knees were dressed and treated when she’d fall down while playing in the evenings. Oh how delighted they were to have the brat over for the holidays!
Back home, this very lucky kid had left behind another set of endearing grand parents, who for a fraction of the day were happy that the house was calm, that no dirty paws were staining their coffee table and no one was drawing over important documents now. But, they dearly missed the chatterbox for the rest of the month. They would call her often to know if she’s eating well ? having a good time? if she needed anything from here at all? They would always call because she was the center of their Universe. Dadu (paternal grandfather) missed taking her to painting classes and having pillow fights with her and Didun (paternal grandmother) missed how every morning she would wake up early and thrust herself onto her lap, as she chanted prayers for the day. She would listen to her every word quietly. Those were the only hours she would shut up.
Years have passed and she is now a grown woman. Wildly fond of both her grandmothers. She unfortunately did not have much time with her grand dads. They moved onto the better realm before she was ten. But she remembers them and she loves them. Her eyes moisten sometimes when she thinks how different life would be if they were around. Her Dadu had an amazing sense of humour that she could not enjoy as an adult. Her Nana’s discipline she could not imbibe enough. She missed her chance and there is nothing she can do now. She has collected all bits and pieces of their memories and stored them in a place, she visits quite often. They don’t always make her sad, she is grateful she spent time with them. She laughs when she remembers how Nana pretended to tie her up with a rope when she was being extremely naughty and how she would lie to her Dadu about an impending Literature test of a chapter just so Dadu would read the story out to her loud. She loved stories and she loved his voice.
Recently her Nani, got very ill. She was in the ICU for seven whole days. She is back now but not the same. She does not talk too much, refuses to go out a lot. Her smile though still enchanting is feeble. She remembers when four years back she moved to Kolkata, Salt Lake, just beside the magical ‘Mama’r badi’ as an adult lady now pursuing a career. Her Office just a few blocks away. Her Nani was more excited. She’d walk for 10 minutes, slow and steady, to bring to her grand-daughter a steel container full of fresh-cut mangoes and lychees for her to have. She’d bring some for her room-mate too(they were friends now). She knew after a long day’s work this would cheer her up. Oh how the little adult misses her gossip time with Nani now! She’s yearning for her to be the same old vibrant,generous,smart personality she was. She’s sad and feels she just might have lost another chance.
But no! Optimism is in her genes, she’s waiting for her to get better. Meanwhile she plans to visit and call her Didun more often, who is the strongest lady she knows. She’s a quick-wit Gemini, very well read and travelled and she has all the wisdom of the world to be given away. She always has a lot to tell and a lot to spill! She’s by far the most awesome partner to get chatty with. And yes her meat-loaf and puddings are to die for!
So, there it is, the story of a very fortunate girl who had time with all four of the grandest friends one could ever have. She still has plenty with two of them.She needs their recipes and secrets to life. There are lots she does not know. Their teenage stories and their childhood dreams, she intends to find them all. She remembers a few years back her adopted pet dog died and how she still feels a gaping hole in her heart sometimes. She imagines her beautiful grand moms might have many such voids in life.
She cannot do much about it. She does not have to! All she has to do is call or just drop by sometimes, that is all they need! Just one call away is a world of wisdom, knowledge, stories, gossip, news and scandals! Of profound love, of overwhelming affection, absolutely unconditional. She realizes the value of the wealth she has, the unimaginable extent of it.
She intends to waste no more time and pick the phone up!
‘Didun, kamon acho?’ loudly because she has problems hearing .
‘Bhalo bhai, tumi?’ said the most beautiful voice in the Universe.