By Lissy Maruthanakuzhy
Panaji, July 20, 2019: I often go down the memory lane to my grandparents. I am among those fortunate to have enjoyed grandparents’ company.
Our relationship with them was different from what we have with our parents. It was an unforgettable, irreplaceable bond of love. It was also the most gratifying and treasured friendship that cut across the generation gap.
The grandparents lavish much love and care on their grandchildren.
While they kept us happy and joyful with stories, fun and games they also instilled in us values for life: importance of prayer, hard work, and respect for elders. They passed to us age-old wisdom, cultural values and traditions. My grandmother taught us to be prudent in life.
They did not preach the values to us, but lived them.
I have memories of waking up early morning hearing the grandparents reciting the rosary softly. I might have been five then. My parents joined for the first two decades and went to do their morning chores. After the prayers the grandparents would leave for Mass in the parish church.
It was on the strong faith of such simple Catholics that the Church in Kerala is built. For those elders God was their sole strength and protection as they struggled with material poverty.
My grandfather knew how to make us work. But he also worked with us. He was frail but had an iron-like will power. My father did not want us to work but focus on studies. My grandfather wanted us to do both.
During the harvesting of turmeric and ginger he would keep in store sweets to reward us. For every basket of cleaned turmeric, we would get a sweet. What we did was to collect those turmeric pieces without small roots to fill our baskets. We left aside those with roots for our parents to clean. He never chided us. That was my first lesson in hard work and promptness.
That was not all. He encouraged us to collect pieces of turmeric and ginger the workers left behind in the field inadvertently. For this the reward was pocket money. He also surprised us occasionally with treats.
When the school began the grandfather would want to see our textbooks. He would return all except the Malayalam textbooks. He was a voracious reader although he knew only Malayalam.
He spared girls from punishments, but my brothers received plenty when they acted naughty. However, we had a shield — our grandmother. She was fat enough to hide us behind her. When the grandfather chased us with a stick, we would suddenly become invisible. He would see only the smiling pretty grandmother. There ended our punishment.
Grandmothers don’t know how to punish. Mine only knew to love us. But she scolded her children. Once, my younger brother was sick. He was weak since birth. The sisters in the hospital told father to leave him with them, but he gently declined. Later he told us the reason. “I told the Sister ‘No’ because I know your grandmother is the best person who could care for him.” In fact, the grandmother took charge of him as he arrived home.
My sister, the eldest granddaughter, was much loved by all. When she had high fever one day, she told mother, “If only I could sleep on my grandmother’s bed I will be ok.” My grandmother at once carried the child to her bed. Next morning she was back to normal. Such was the healing power of my grandma’s love.
My grandfather would become active during Monsoon. He would make paper boats for us to play in the rain. Grandmother would scold him saying, “You are spoiling them.” As he gave her his naughty smile we shift our loyalty to him.
During the school days, Friday evenings were special. After our snacks in the evening, grandmother joined us for the “snake and ladder” game. She ensured that one of us won always.
I have hardly spent a week in a year with maternal grandparents during the 17 years of my early years. My paternal grandfather allowed this grudgingly. “When they are not here, our home is quiet,” he would tell grandmother as we got ready for vacation in my mother’s house.
“They have another grandfather,” grandmother would remind him.
Both would count the days for us to return. Oh, what joy it was to see their smiling faces when we returned.
It was the same even years later when I went home for my annual vacation from various parts of India.
That ended when they left us for their heavenly abode. But I would always vouch that my unforgettable friends were my paternal grandparents.