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My 100 year old Ammamma (grandmother) might seem like a frail old lady of no consequence to people, but she is a strong woman with an interesting life.
There is so much more to an individual than what meets the eye. My nieces and nephews and my children perceive my maternal grandmother as a great-grandmother who is weak and wrinkled due to old age, but they have not seen everything she experienced in life. They have not heard all her stories which still inspire me today. They have not seen her in her worst days and how she emerged stronger. This is for them to know a bit more about her, and be proud of her legacy.
My grandmother, who my cousins and I fondly call “Ammamma”, reached a major milestone in her life that several of us may never reach. She became a centenarian last October. What a wonderful journey!
This was a story straight from an Indian movie, except that it was real. It all took place in a little town in Andhra Pradesh in the 1930s, when love marriages were not that prevalent. Smart and beautiful at 16, my grandmother attracted the attention of my grandfather, a young Zamindar’s son and a budding Telugu poet. They fell in love with each other. Soon, at age 18, my grandmother married him against the wishes of her to-be in-laws.
Born and brought up in a royal family, my grandfather was not adept in running a family household, as he had numerous people carry out the work for him. Even though financially they were doing well, there were times when my grandmother needed to take care of some of the family duties by herself. Lovingly, she supported her husband and he supported her where he could. It was a love story to cherish! His love for my grandmother was also evident in the numerous poems he had written on her.
The days and years passed quickly, and soon my grandparents were happily celebrating the graduations and weddings of their oldest children.
Things were moving along just fine for them, until the day when a few evil people cheated my grandparents off their land, which they had saved for the education and marriage expenses of the rest of their children. Both my grandparents were devastated due to this loss and soon after, my grandfather passed away due to his ill-health which had worsened further due to the financial loss.
Due to her determination and perseverance, my grandmother continued to provide a good education for all her eight children. All of her six daughters and two sons were equally educated, and were given the freedom to become whatever they want in life. Each one of her children, regardless of their gender was at least a graduate. Three of them had a master’s degree and one of them had earned a doctorate.
Thankfully gender inequality in education is not an enormous issue anymore, but it was an issue in those days and it is quite impressive that all her children are educated, and the credit goes to my grandmother. Not only did she educate all her children, she also ensured that each one of her children was independent before he or she was married.
My grandmother continued to support all her daughters and daughters in law with their pregnancies and deliveries. She showered all her affection equally on her twenty-one grandchildren, and mesmerized us with her numerous stories. Never idle, in her free time, she embroidered and painstakingly hand stitched some of our dresses which we wore and showed off during our summer vacations.
She was also an excellent cook. I still remember her simple yet flavorful dishes to this day. Without her, I don’t believe we would have had the summers we had growing up. It was all about playing with cousins, family bonding and eating delicious home cooked food. I would never trade the summers I spent with my grandmother or my cousins for anything else in this world. I would however love to turn back in time, and rest my head on her lap and hear her stories.
Life is certainly not a bed of roses and it did test my grandmother time and again. During the last few decades, my grandmother lost two of her daughters and her younger son due to ill-health. She nurtured them while they were sick and cared for her grandchildren when their parents could not. Nothing in this world is more heartbreaking than losing one’s child, and no parent can ever be prepared for it when it happens. After their demise, she pulled herself together for her family, and she continued to bring everyone together. She continued to support her children and grandchildren wherever possible. She continued to shower her love and affection on the rest of us.
Recently, my grandmother celebrated her 100th. All her children and grandchildren wished her from different parts of the world. Some of us were able to meet her personally and receive her blessings while some of us talked to her from wherever we were, knowing that she is surrounded by all her loved ones on her special day. My grandmother would not have preferred it any other way.
It was a pleasant surprise when my daughter told me, that this blog made her realize how strong her great-grandmother is and that she is extremely proud of her. I cannot ask for a better outcome than this. Can I?
Here is to my ammamma and all the wonderful and strong women. You are the backbone of your family and you make all of us proud in your own way!
Image source: a still from the movie Ek Hazarachi Note
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