I am the first grandchild in both my paternal and maternal families and hence have been quite pampered, atleast until my sister was born, around 18 months later.
They say children don’t really have memories until they are around 2 years old, and I am also not very sure if this is a genuine memory or the following memory is something that is there because it was told to me by people. This memory is of the time when my sister was born. I had an aunt who used to stay in New Delhi at that point in time as her husband was in the armed services and lived in a defence colony. My paternal grandparents took me with them when they went to visit her. I was, as I mentioned, around 18 months old at that time. I was extremely close to my paternal grandmother so it should not have been an issue for me to be away from my parents for a couple of months. My grandparents took me with them so my mother who was recruperating the birth of my sister at her mum’s place need not have the hassle of looking after an active toddler too.
It’s important in this story to note that the then Indian Prime Minister had declared a state of emergancy in the country during that period. Since we were living in a defence area, that place was highly regulated and strict. I have memories of Indira Gandhi coming on television nightly, probably talking about the situation in the country. For some reason I was very scared of her and this was excabated by them telling me that if I did something naughty, she will come and take me away! Imagine how terrified I was then, an 18-month old toddler, away from my parents for the very first time in my life. And I was in a situation where I could not even get to my mum if I wanted to until and unless I was taken back to Bombay.
This aunt of mine did not have any children and perhaps the way things worked back then was like this. But if something like this happened today, all hell would have broken loose. I also think women at that time were more conditioned to just accept what their elders tell them. I don’t condemn anyone in a similar situation, but it has to be a very excruciating situation before I would allow something like that to happen with me and my children.
My relationship with my paternal grandmother was very special. In tamil families, the oldest grandchild is given the paternal parent’s name (depending on gender), the next oldest, the maternal grandparents name, if of the same gender and so on. So by this naming convention, my grandmother’s name was bestowed upon me. But so that the younger generation don’t call a child by the same name as that of an elder, this was usually the formal name with another name being used at home and in casual settings. In mine and my sister’s case, though our grandmother’s names are mentioned in our birth certificates, it also includes our other name, which then became our formal name.
So in the light of the above paragraph, like I said, I had a very special connection with my paternal grandmother. She lived with us till I was around 6-7 years old, then moved to be with my paternal uncle who moved to another state for work as he was still unmarried then. I still remember all the stories she used to tell us and the yummy dishes she made for us. And when they would visit us during holidays, or we visited them when they decided to make Bangalore their retirement home, I would snuggle with her at night, because I missed her so much!
She passed away suddenly when I was 16 and I think I cried almost a week thinking about her. In fact, I had made plans to go alone to Bangalore after my grade 12 exams to stay an extra month with her before the rest of the family came, but that plan just remained that.
I really enjoyed writing this post, so much that I will share more childhood memories in the coming months. I should do this before I forget them, after all, oral memories much be written down before they are forgotten.
In case you want to know more about my paternal grandmother, here’s another post I wrote a few years back.
What are your memories about your grandmother? Do you have a favourite one?