Skip to main content


He was like any other grandson who took his grandparents for granted and assumed that they would live forever. And when all that was left of them were photographs, fading memories and death anniversaries, he realized what he had lost.

He never knew his father’s father, who died long before his parents probably even met. His widowed grandmother then focused all of her energies on her doting grandchildren. It never struck him as remarkable, how hard life was in those days, when his grandmother had 5 children in 7 years and travelled from Lahore to South India in train over a span of four days. Those were the days when trains didn’t have air conditioning, sleepers, cushions and pantry cars and when one prepared food for a long journey. 

She regaled him with all those tales of struggle but he only half listened, impatient as usual to finish his food and trudge back into his cocoon. She would tell him stories of how in those days women woke up at an unearthly hour to cook for the entire household. That’s where she honed her culinary skills because that was what she did for half of her waking hours. His earliest memories of festivals were the food items that she so assiduously prepared. From Pongal to Krishnashtami to Ganesh Chaturthi and finally to Diwali, every dish was prepared at home, the aromas wafting through the house. During summer, dry mangoes would be cut and mango pickle would be manufactured out of them. Little did he realize that those recipes were probably more than a century old.

The television set was a constant source of dissonance and tension. She would subject him to endless regional soap operas that ran on forever and ever. He would subject her to MTV, Eminem and Friends. She would pretend to read her book but after all these years, he suspects she stole a glance or two. Though unlettered, her granddaughter would explain to her the plots of those equally tiresome english sitcoms that dotted the cable television landscape. As he grew older, a compromise was reached when it came to television viewing. In his eyes, she would never grow old, she would live forever, prepare the most traditional dishes and light up every festival with her delicacies.

First her knees gave in, but her will didn’t. She trudged on, kept up her routine, until one day, her kidneys gave in. She spent the last year of her life away from the kitchen that was her second home all her life. For all of the people she enamored with her supreme culinary skills, she spent her final days forced to ingest bland and salt less food before she finally succumbed to her illness.

Sometimes, he wishes he could listen to her fascinating stories all over again and realize how easy his life is in comparison. Sometimes, he wishes he could taste all of those delicacies again. The television set now sits, gathering dust, just as many memories of her too are gathering dust somewhere in the recesses of his mind.

His home was also home to his mother’s parents who moved in when age got the better of their independence. Their story was no less inspirational. He was told of how his grandfather, a station master, his wife, 7 children, and a few relatives were housed in a one bedroom dwelling. And how everyone wondered how a family with 6 daughters would make it through. But they did, somehow. All the stories he heard about his grandfather - who rode his moped at the age of 70 and accompanied the police on their night beat. Who was just about a school graduate and gave his wife the responsibility of running an entire household with a stationmaster’s salary. Who finally owned a house after he retired and his children started working and once staged a protest outside a post office because someone inside called him an old man. And gathered some 50 people to lay on the road when a minister’s motorcade was passing by in a bid to water supplied to his neighborhood. 

All these stories he wished he could hear from his grandfather. When he finally came of age and realized just how extraordinary a life he had led, Alzheimer’s struck. The memories became hazy. Some days were a living hell as the disease slowly and steadily ravaged his body and mind alike. His grandmother, who too had lived a lived a life of struggle in her younger days and raised a large family with only her presence of mind to fall back upon, and whose heart would soon give up on her, watched as her husband of more than 60 years became unrecognizable day by day. 

He realized that when a life gets closer to the end, everyone needs somebody. 

In a span of 4 years, his grandparents had all passed on. A home that once brimmed with an assortment of cooking aromas felt bland. A home where grandparents once told stories to their grandchildren now became a home too big for its remaining inhabitants. Theirs was no ordinary life, their struggles no ordinary struggles either. All this he realized only when they were gone and he found himself wishing he had listened to them a little more attentively when they were alive. Every grandparent, he realized, is a treasure house of stories, recipes and the source of unabashed pampering.

Then one day, his parents became grandparents. And he saw himself in two rambunctious kids who listened in rapt attention to the stories their grandparents had to say. And reveled in the aromas that wafted through the house. 

And when all that was left of his grandparents were fading memories, photographs and death anniversaries, he realized what he had found. 


Popular posts from this blog

When an Iyer met an Iyengar

If you see my parents, they look like the quintessential arranged marriage couple. After nearly 35 years together, they still take care not to touch each other while posing for a photograph and my mother’s smile dangles precariously between a smile and a grimace. But this image discolours the truth a tad.
Some 40 years back, they met at work, fell in love and got married. The talking point of the union being mom’s status as an iyengar and dad’s as an iyer. Simply put, the iyers and the iyengars are two castes of the Brahmin community, each, when given the chance, profess superiority to each other on all counts. If you listen closely, an Iyengar talking about an Iyer will say ‘Iyer a?’ in a condescending tone. And vice versa.
Mom tells me that when she told her dad about the marriage, he vowed to stand by her at any cost. Dad never told me what happened, but allow me to hazard a guess. His mother (my grandmother), threatened to go on a fast unto death. My dad threatened to go on a parall…

Unfair and unlovely

If time is money, the demonetization drive has ensured that many Indians are already very rich because they have suddenly been taught the virtue of patience.
A crossing near my house got to be very busy and a new signal was installed to help regulate the flow. Every single day, I see people break the signal from all sides without paying heed to their safety or anyone else’s. The people who break the signals glare at you for following the rules. You feel guilty for being patient.
The signal is red and people behind you are honking as if there was a reward for it. People shout the choicest of epithets at you for not moving and standing your ground. Either that or I need to go for an eye check up and see if I am colour blind. In another part of the world, orange maybe the new black but as far as I know, red is not the new green.
Stand in a queue at the railway station, in the petrol bunk, airport check-in counter ,or to pay a bill, and there will always be that one asshole who tries to…

Rasam rice

On some days, Bangalore weather becomes nostalgic. And for some time, everyone is permitted to live in the past. On one such June day, the sun wistfully playing hide and seek and the clouds emitting just enough raindrops for an instagram photo, the weather flirting with winter, the craving for rasam becomes telling.
Rasam. Rasam rice. Whichever, doesn’t matter.
First, use your fingers to make space in the middle of a heap of rice. Don’t protest when the dollop of ghee gleefully sinks into the rice. The rasam should scald, otherwise the ride isn’t worth it. The flesh on your fingers crawl when you dip them into the rasam, but trust me, keep with it. No good thing has been known to ever come easy. The impatient wait for a few seconds and an insignificant morsel is savoured. Gooseflesh ensues.
Slowly but steadily, bigger portions are savoured. to enhance the experience and attain nirvana, combine it with crisp papad and sandige.  Personal favourites include molagu rasam, thakkali rasam, jee…