A hundred years


I am filling up an online form. When I am filling in the date, I accidentally type the year 1919 instead of 2019.

One typo error and my mind travels back in time to a hundred years ago. I wonder what the world would have been like at that time. Then I think about my family. My grandmom would have been a little girl of about nine. Slightly older than one of her great- grandsons is now.

My grandmom had eleven siblings. She was the ninth child. When my siblings and I were kids, we would badger our grandmom to tell us stories about her childhood. She would talk about her marriage to my granddad and the grand celebrations in their village to mark the occasion.

When my grandma was in pigtails and ribbons, the world was at war. Between the two wars, she grew into a beautiful young woman, got married and had her children.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

We always lived in a joint family, and I can still remember how active my grandmom always was – right from sunrise to sundown. The kitchen was her realm, and her energy flowed from there in the form of love, cooking and chiding.

Every morning, for as long as she was active, my grandmom would finish her morning chores and rush to the temple to pray. On her way back, she would stop to buy vegetables and fruits. If she was planning on buying a lot, she would ask one of us, her grandchildren, to be on the lookout from the top of the hill where we lived. When we would see her at the bottom of the hill, we would skip down to help her carry the heavy bags home.

The moment we got home, she would give us candies that she had bought for us – in small brown paper pouches – lemon, orange and raspberry flavoured.

Time flew past, and we grew, went to high school and college. Each time we came home for vacation, we realized that our busy grandmom had aged just a little more than the last time we had seen her. When she was in her mid-seventies, she retired from her domestic world, handing over the reins to the next generation.

She spent her time reading books, or meditating or praying. She would watch some television on and off. But her eyes would light up the moment any of us went and sat next to her, to talk to her. She would ask us questions about our lives and hold our hands in her small wrinkled palms, demonstrating her love, without saying much.

My dad would come home every evening from work, have his shower and dinner, and sit down with his mom, asking about her health, her cough and about her day. He would lovingly bring her dinner, a glass of water, and her medicines, every night.

Our grandma always had a ready stock of mint lozenges that she ate to soothe her throat. She stored these in a small pouch. One of the highlights of the day was when she would call us and give us these lozenges to eat. She would break them up and give us just a small bit. We cherished both the lozenges and the love behind them.

It is 2019. A hundred years have flown by, since a small girl grew up in a time before ours, and became our grandmom. And now, our parents are at that age, vulnerable and frail.

Where did time fly? When did we become this responsible?

It is literally as if someone changed 1919 to 2019 with the mere flick of a button – a hundred years, four generations, lovely memories and the relentless onslaught of time.

Walls


It only seems like yesterday that my son used his crayons to doodle on the walls of our home. Small squiggles, mountains with the a smiling sun peeping in between and random shapes; the wall was a work of art and love. Then again, my daughter discovered the beauty of her palm prints on the wall one afternoon, many years ago, when I was catching some shut eye. I woke up to pretty palm prints in red decorating our living room wall – the result of a tube of red lipstick that had fallen from the dresser.

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

I conducted many experiments with the best cleaning agents for various types of stains and squiggles.  By the time I discovered the perfect cleaning fluid to clean the walls of these works of art, the children had moved to the next stage of using the walls of our home. They pinned pictures of their favourite characters, their drawings and school timetables on the walls.  Our walls also hosted dartboards, and served as bouncing boards for tennis balls and table tennis balls.

From posters to sketches to games, the walls have borne them all. I use the wall to pin my to do lists and frame pretty pictures.

More than all these, the walls have bounced and echoed the sounds of giggles and laughter, served as shields to children playing hide and seek, absorbed memories of our lives, giving us that much needed security and time-away from the pressures of everyday life.

In a few years, when my children leave home for University, these walls will stand quiet, till the children come back for their term breaks. Then, once again happy sounds will bounce of these walls.

And then again, there will come a time, when I will use these same walls for support when I amble slowly across the house, lovingly tracing my hand on these walls and remembering a time when tiny hands doodled and expressed their creativity.

The Toothless Granny – A Short Story


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.

The 50p Cashbox – A Short Story


The vegetable market was alive and kicking at 5 am in the morning, as trucks rolled in from different parts of the state, loaded with fresh produce – crunchy capsicums, lush tomatoes, slender drumsticks, healthy pumpkins – all kinds of veggies that shopkeepers stocked up. Vegetables that would find their way into people’s stomachs, only for the cycle to repeat itself the next day.

As the various shopkeepers opened their shops for the day, the truck drivers stood around sipping their morning cups of tea from one of the many tea stalls that dotted the market.

The market was a big labyrinth of alleys. At the end of the third alley was Raj’s Vegetable Mart. The owner, Raj, was already at the shop, overseeing the unloading of fresh stock, as his bare feet crunched across fallen cabbage leaves and gunny bags.

He looked well groomed and fresh. His shop was much sought after by customers, as he stocked some special vegetables that one couldn’t find elsewhere.

He was a shrewd businessman, his hawk-like eyes observing all the customers in his shop, like a CCTV.

The locals and regulars usually arrived between 9 a.m. and 12 noon. The market took on a whole new ‘avatar’ at this time, as women haggled with the shopkeepers.

The haggling gave both parties immense joy. Everyone went home happy.

At Raj’s shop however, haggling was not encouraged. He simply stated the prices and charged for every small thing. He did not give plastic bags with his vegetables, and charged 50p if anyone wanted one. No freebies to anyone. Despite all this he was successful, and people flocked to his shop for the variety, quality and reliability he offered.

He had two cash boxes in his shop. 50p from each customer went into one of these boxes.  Sometimes he haggled with his customers, when they asked for 5p or 10p back in change; change that was rightfully theirs. Most customers walked away without their change, as the amount was very small. All these went into the 50p Cashbox.

There was usually a lull in the afternoons. Business picked up again in the evening, till about 8.30 p.m.

Most shops closed only by 10 pm. But even here, Raj was different. He wound down by 8.30 p.m., emptied his two cash boxes and left the market.

He spoke very little, except when he had customers, so he was not missed much, when all the other shopkeepers gathered for a drink.

While they chit chatted and made merry after a long day, Raj walked a distance of 3 km, with a bag of fresh vegetables from his shop and the collection from the 50p cash box, to a Senior Citizens’ Home, where he cooked a sumptuous meal for the five residents, bought things they wanted with cash from the 50p box, read out articles from the newspaper to them, and gave them their medicines, before he headed home.

The next day, the alarm woke him at      4 a.m.  He showered, dressed and went to the market to open shop.