The village of Marakad was far away from any town or city, comprising a small community of farmers who grew rice. Life went by at a pace dictated by the planting season and the harvest season. The people of the village were a happy lot.
In this village there lived a granny – who was in her late nineties – its oldest living member.
She lived with her sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The village folk called her ‘The Toothless Granny’.
After her retirement from active life, she took on the role of investigator and village observer.
No incident, however small escaped her hawk-like eyes. She sat on the open verandah, anytime after 9 am in the morning, after a breakfast of rice porridge.
She sat with her legs stretched out and her back against the wall for support.
She had a small iron cup with a small pounding rod, in which she pounded cloves and cardamoms that she chewed throughout the day. The metal rod’s ‘ting ting’ sound alerted the village to her presence.
She stopped women, who were on their way to the market, asked about their shopping, gave liberal advice to squabbling neighbours, took away and hid the cricket ball that hit her once, when the boys played cricket, played with babies and sang songs to them in her cackling voice.
She ruled her family with a constant barrage of words, had a comment for anything and nothing, and from her vantage point, lived the lives and experiences of almost everybody in the village.
Her family put up with her various moods and chatter, the villagers tried to avoid her, but sometimes she sent word for them, and they came, if only out of respect for her age.
She took care of her health and appearance, and pulled up young ladies for their sloppy dressing. She was a matchmaker and a walking almanac of prospective brides and grooms within a 10 km radius of their village. Such a personality was she!
As with everything else, change came to the village. The village had suddenly become quiet. For the first few days, nobody realized it, then people started wondering. Then they heard that The Toothless Granny was unwell, and ailing with a bad chest congestion.
People dropped by at all hours to visit her and they could not bear to see her, so frail and quiet. They prayed for her recovery. Somehow the village had lost its charm, without their granny to chide them, scold them and watch them.
Somehow the key to the soul of the village’s happiness seem to lie with The Toothless Granny.
Ten long days went by, and then one morning the villagers heard the most joyous ‘ting’ of the granny pounding her mouth fresheners for the day.
People queued up to talk to her about the mundanities of their lives, their petty squabbles and everything else.
The village was alive once more.