Tuesday, July 17, 2007


My grandmother passed away yesterday. She was 90 and in a hospital and was sinking for the last couple of days. The day before she passed away, I got the phone number of the hospital so that I could talk to her, especially because it was her birthday. Sadly, she passed away before I could call her in the morning. She probably wouldn't have heard me, and she definitely could not speak in the last few days, but talking to her would have belonged to that class of symbolic things that we humans do, even if we know that they don't really register in real life. I just wanted to say take care, happy birthday, and that I am doing fine here, ten thousand miles away. It was sad that she passed away on her birthday.

We didn't have a very big apartment earlier, so she shared a room with me for 23 years, and was often gracious enough to let me have my privacy by sitting outside in the living room. She could often be difficult, but grandparents seem to be that special breed of people who almost always seem to be special for us in some way, all the ups and downs in our relationship notwithstanding. I fought with her many times, and was also mean to not a few times. Now, in some moments, I think I could take all that back, but then I realise that it is probably these imperfections that make those memories more valuable to us. She watched over the house and over me and my sister whenever my parents were out. A couple of times, she gave some kids who were troubdling me to tears, a sound lesson in good behaviour that they wouldn't forget. She could ramble on and on about things that would bore us to death, but the significant point is that strangely, for some reason we always listened to those ramblings.

My grandmother was very intelligent and sharp. Until a year or two ago, while I struggled to perform multiplications and subtractions in my head, she could rattle off answers like a maths prodigy. Multiplication tables were second nature to her...all her life, all the way upto 30. I don't know if she was happy with her life. I would like to think she was, although being a girl in a small town in 1930s or 40s Maharashtra, she could not make the most of her talents and intelligence. Her father was a lawyer who believed in good education for his daughter. She got married early (but at 18, relatively late by the day's standards). Both my grandmother's and grandfather's family were not very well-off, and they had to strive and struggle to make do, especially in the early days. My grandfather was a highly respected doctor in the small town of Ratnagiri, and a very kind, intelligent and liberal person. But he was among the youngest living in a big joint family of probably twenty people. Since my grandmother was a new and young daughter-in-law, she was often made to "know her place" in the hierarchy of the household, especially among the older women. I am not implying that she was ill-treated, but 30s or 40s Ratnagiri was not very progressive, and even though our household must surely have counted as one of the most liberal households in the town, some things were taken for granted.

In the 80s, my grandfather had his foot amputated because of an infection, and the two of them moved to Pune into our house. My grandfather passed away only two years after this; unfortunately I was a kid and my memories of him are vague, if endearing (everyday before I went to school, he used to tie my shoelaces, telling me some story). My grandmother was very active till the early 90s, when she suffered two epileptic fits and became confined to the house. For many years after that, she bore the unfortunate experience of having a perfectly sound and sharp mind in an unsound body. No wonder that in the last few years, she genuinely wished for death. Since I don't believe in afterlife and so on, to say that she is at peace now would be meaningless, but we are surely at peace, even if a sad and pensive one, seeing that she did not have to suffer too much.

All my life till I myself pass on, all my memories of "home" will be connected, in one way or another, to memories of my grandmother.



Blogger Patrix said...

Sad to hear that. Deepest condolences.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Vivek Gupta said...

My condolences.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...


5:11 PM  
Anonymous Ash said...

Sorry to hear about this, Ashutosh. Grandparents certainly hold a special place in our hearts.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

They do...thanks for the sentiments Ash

2:47 PM  
Blogger Sumedha said...

You have our sympathy.
Hirak & Sumedha

10:46 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...


8:31 AM  
Anonymous SN said...

Hi Ahsutosh,
I stopped by after a long time. Am very sorry to hear about your loss. My deepest condolences. Take care.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...


11:12 AM  

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