Of all the treasures we can collect in our lifetimes, memories are the most precious. I am off to collect more of them, to hold close to my heart to be savoured at leisure. I will be laughing, playing and running with the little one – yes, running too. With due apologies to Mitch Albom,** ‘The running girl is inside every woman no matter how old she gets,’ — especially when her granddaughter is with her!
Of the several posts I have written about the little one, this one written a few years ago, is very close to my heart. So sharing it again 🙂
I know I promised to share the moments I savoured with my little granddaughter, but I am afraid I am unable to sort them out in any kind of order. So please bear with me as they jostle in my brain, each trying to get out in print faster than the other. Some simply refuse to come out through my fingertips. Hope you understand….
‘Are you going to stay here for a hundred years?’ I am asked the day after we reach London.
‘Do you want me to?’
The little head nods vigorously, the ponytails on her adorable head bobbing up and down as she nods.
One day her mother tells her sotto voce, ‘Paati’s birthday is the day after tomorrow,’ and the little one comes running to me.
‘Paati, I am going to make something for you for your birthday. You should not look at what I am doing. You will get it ONLY on your birthday, ok?’ I am banished from the living room as she busies herself with her crayons and other paraphernalia.
For the next couple of days she is excited about the gift she is making for me and asks me a million times if I have seen it. I reply truthfully that I haven’t. On the big day, the first thing she does after waking up is to run to the hiding place of the gift and presents it to me with a flourish. ‘Hapy BirThday Pati’, the painstakingly made card, with its glitter and stickers says. It is embellished with a lot of hearts, crosses and circles. She explains that the crosses are kisses and the circles are hugs, as she gives me real ones.
Then suddenly asks, ‘Paati, when will you become a hundred years old?’
I am reminded of the same time last year, when she had declared me to be ten years old. That number had been the highest in her little world back then. In one year, it has gone up to a hundred. My reply of course doesn’t interest her since the numbers between one and hundred don’t mean a thing to her – just the beginning and the end do.
I can’t but marvel at the simplicity of it all. How wonderful to have a limit to something! We could indeed learn a thing or two from kids, whose thought processes are simple and uncluttered.
In the farmhouse where we stayed during our holiday in Cornwall, there was an armchair by the fireplace in the study. On the first day there, she was so excited that she dragged me in and made me sit on it.
‘Paati, where are your glasses?’ she asked me. I had to dig them out of my handbag and wear them because, ‘all grandmas wear glasses and sit in that chair.’ Once the glasses and I were in place, she bade me speak ‘grandma.’ I wondered how I should do that, and she told me patiently that it is what all grandmas speak. The poor little thing didn’t know that this grandma knew no such thing and what was more, was as goofy as they come!
Stereotyping has not spared even grandmas! In the story books which she reads and in the shows she watches on TV, grandmas are indeed portrayed as being old sitting in a rocking chair, with white hair, and of course speaking ‘grandma!’
When it comes to games, she has her preferences. With her thatha, it is the rough and tumble ones which involve physical exercise. But with me, she just wants to play milder ones like hide and seek and other stay-put-in-a-place activities. This involved searching for her toys which were ‘hidden’ by her in the room or drawing pictures on demand, or finger-men walking on her back as she lay face down. The best thing about the hiding game was that she would give me ‘clues’ about where to find them, which were infinitely sweet and ‘awww-inspiring’.
‘There is something hiding behind that curtain,’ she would say. Or, ‘Maybe you should look under the table,’ she would offer, as she hovered anxiously around till I found them, not realising (or did she?) that she had told me the hiding places. But she wouldn’t want any clue when she did the seeking. I found it too endearing in a four-year-old, who saw herself as more capable in comparison to her old and doddering paati!
What else do I share with you all? Her unique language Marhini, which she makes up and speaks fluently and expects you to speak too? You make up some gobbledygook but she is sharp enough to detect any variant syllable, tone and inflection in the ‘language’ and informs you accusingly, ‘You are speaking some other language and I don’t understand it.’ She does it with such panache that you begin wondering if it indeed is a real language!
…or do I tell you about her imaginary friend Poppy, who ‘comes all the way from Africa in a car that can fly’, across the seas to her home in London. I never ceased to marvel at her wonderful imagination as she created various scenario around her. Poppy has a little brother who is called Zima and who sits on Poppy’s lap as she swings in the backyard. ‘Pati, push slowly. Zima is little and will get scared,’ she would instruct me. Or at another time: ‘Shhh….Zima is sleeping. Don’t make any noise,’ she would whisper.
Once when we were on our way to the castle at St.Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, she was suddenly disconsolate. ‘We have forgotten Poppy. She is alone in the house!’ she cried. Till her mother picked up her phone and ‘called’ Poppy and asked her to take a taxi and come right along to the castle parking lot.
This was the conversation she held with Poppy: ‘Are you already on the way? Great! ….oh, we are so sorry to have left you behind. Where are you now? We are in the number 3 lot. Can you see us? Oh, come on quick then!’
We opened the door and made space for her friend in the car and the smile finally came back to the little one’s face…
…and how she found ‘treasures’ in the castle there. She brandished the map that we picked up at the ticket counter and informed us that it said there were seven treasures hidden there and she had to find them all. Her father played along and left a coin ‘treasure’ in nooks and crannies as we pretended to search for them and helped her ‘find’ them. Boy, was she happy to find all the seven treasures!
Back in India, they stayed for less than a fortnight and given the heat here, it was just as well. But the time sped past too quickly and I was not able to enjoy her company fully since I was pretty unwell for some time. Don’t they say that too much of a good thing can be bad for you? Maybe that adage was at work.
From the time she got up everyday, it was a countdown to 6 PM, when her thatha took her to the playground and for the rides in the mall near our house. One day, she bought me a huge balloon as a get-well present! During the day, she would periodically rush to my side and give me a quick hug and kiss before running out.
Another day, when she went to the temple with her thatha and mother, she brought back the rose petals given there as a prasadam for her paati, holding them all the way in her little hand and thrusting them at me the moment I opened the door. The squished flowers smelt sweet and I put them inside my clothes cupboard, to sweeten the dresses with their fragrance and love. This is a fragrance that doesn’t fade with time but lingers on an on as I curl up with the memories and feeling her softness next to me….
** ‘The running boy is inside every man no matter how old he gets’ – Mitch Albom in The Five People you meet in Heaven.
(All pics Copyright Zephyr)