When My Childhood Memories Of Grandparents Are The Stuff Of Happy Dreams

The moment they get down, the girl goes running towards the old man. He reciprocates her enthusiasm by lifting her up in the air. In no time she is atop her grandpa's shoulder.

Grandparents play a very important role in the the emotional development of their grandchild. They can be compared to those evergreen banyan trees whose widespread branches give shade to anyone under them. Likewise, grandparents act as a link between the past and the present. Their rich life experiences and the advice that comes through them, are much more worthy and enriching than a paid counselling session.

As a child, I shared a great rapport with my grandmothers. I was very close to both of them and have some fond memories of them. Amidst all of this, I still have a void, a regret of having missed knowing and spending quality time with my grandfathers.

Both my parents lost their respective fathers at a young age. My childhood was devoid of grandfathers and the love which they would have otherwise showered upon me. I know them both, more by leafing through the old photo albums and from my parents sharing the best memories of their respective fathers.

From how they describe them and the love that their eyes reflect while discussing them, I get a clear picture of how beautiful their bond had been.

And my grandmothers – my childhood story would remain incomplete without me describing my dear grannies. Such beauties they were. I would have loved to see them both all decked up. But alas, the previous societal norms were quite cruel upon a widow.

Siesta times with my paternal grandmother’s stories of bygone times

My paternal grandmother was loquacious. There was never an insipid moment with her around. She smelled of Afghan snow cream and Pond’s powder. She was a huge yet active lady who preferred her afternoon naps on the cool mosaic floor rather than a cushy mattress.

After lunch, we generally had a small chit-chat session with her. My mother would sit down with my half-asleep baby brother in her lap while Tathi ensconced herself on the cool floor. My favourite headrest was her flabby tummy. So as we sat for the session listening to the tales from her heyday, she would quite frequently revisit her initial days of marriage. The banter would gradually pave the way to the birth stories of my dad and his siblings and then to the Hero of her life, my Tatha.

She would beautifully describe him. I remember her every word. She would say, “Tatha was a handsome man. He had a personality to die for.” Then there would be a fleeting silence, she would move her hands around her legs and look at me with a thoughtful smile. The smile, which conveyed, she wanted me to stand over her calf and walk over them. She enjoyed the pressure that my light and nimble body offered.

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“Hmm,” I would gesture to her to continue while still tight roping over her calf muscles. And so, would she continue.

“He never lost his cool easily but when he did, we could immediately make that out. His eyes would flare up and his voice would turn hoarse. He became a different person altogether you see.

And then, no one dared to speak.” She would chuckle, while her already pink cheeks turned beetroot red with shyness. A moment later, she would continue, “He had his manner of entering the house with the office keys jingling jangling around his index finger and he would very fondly call my name out,’ Vijaya’.” Saying this she would once again stop for a length as though reliving those moments somewhere in her heart.

“Those were the days…hmm…” was the phrase that she used, which meant the end of the tete-a-tete, and we retired to our respective rooms for a cosy siesta.

The energy of my maternal grandmother

My maternal grandmother on the other hand was a lady who preferred living in the present. Perhaps, the loss of one of her teenage sons and my grandfather’s death made her that way.

She was a lady who loved learning new languages and was punctilious about maintaining a diary to jot down new words that she came across in Hindi. She taught Carnatic music during her leisure time to kids and was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva.

Whenever we visited her during vacations, she had a new set of stories, (moral, mythological) to narrate to us. I always thought she had a secret sack full of stories. She never spoke much about Nana with me. Nevertheless, she always had something unique and interesting to share. I enjoyed snuggling into her. She smelled either of vibhuti or freshly made sandalwood paste.

I know my Nanaji – my maternal grandfather through my mother’s stories

My mother has been the sole source for me to connect with my Nanaji. She still talks about him. Amma says Nana was a rich businessman with an equally rich heart. People could approach him without hesitation with their problems related to finances and jobs, and he was more than happy to help them. He was a religious man, who spent the initial early hours of the morning offering prayers to the Divine.

He doted on my mother. In those days, when my mother went to the typing institute to learn to type, he would make a surprise visit to the centre just to check on her and her progress. He was a very caring and protective father.
His presence gave her the strength to conquer the world.

Once, when my Amma was quite young, she was upset with the fact of not having enough bangles to attend a wedding. My Nana, as I’m being told, the following day took her to the goldsmith and placed the order for two pairs of new gold bangles. My mother to this day tells me, if Nanu would have been here today, he would have loaded me with love and goodies.

So, I have a mixed bag of sweet memories of my grandparents, of those that I have lived and still cherish and then of those that form a part of my memory bank owing to the way it was passed on by listening to the interesting anecdotes about them.

Imagining a life if my grandfather(s) lived – I can, can’t I?

Presently, as I sit before my laptop to re-write one of my fondest memories, I can just think about my grandmas and how eventful my childhood could have been with my grandpas around.

My fingers tenderly touch the keyboard. I close my eyes and let my imagination go wild.

After about a while, I see a thin girl in a pink cotton frock with pigtails. She is standing on the footboard of the passenger train. She is anxiously waiting for it to stop at its destination. Her parents are standing next to her with the items of luggage in place.

The train begins to decelerate as it chugs inside the platform of her native town. An adorable old man is waiting at the station. She beams with joy at the sight of him and is about to alight from the almost stalled train. That’s her grandpa, she can’t wait to give him a tight hug. Her mother cautiously pulls her inside keeping her warm smile intact.

The moment they get down, the girl goes running towards the old man. He reciprocates her enthusiasm by lifting her up in the air. In no time she is atop her grandpa’s shoulder. The new derived height gives her a better view of the place. The green paddy fields alongside the cheerfully swaying coconut and banana trees are a sight for sore eyes. She gives them an intent look, those trees have grown taller than how she remembers them from her last visit and so has she. A few familiar faces exchange pleasantries with her grandpa and are elated to meet her and her parents.

In a while, they reach the gate of her grandparents’ house. It’s a small comfy white bungalow with a private garden. The girl insists on getting down from her grandpa’s grip. Once placed down she trots about the lawn for some time before reaching the front door.  Her grandmother welcomes them all with enthusiasm.

The girl finds a snug place to sit between her grandparents. They both simultaneously plant a kiss on each of her cheeks. She takes her grandmother’s hand and grips it lightly. Initially, she plays with the bangle filled wrist and later moves them a tad back. A fresh oil bath has to an extent ironed out the creases of granny’s shrivelled skin. She looks at her grandmother, who smiles at her with her betel leaf stained crimson lips,  her beam gradually reaching her kohl rimmed eyes scrunching them further up. She is donning a magenta shaded silk saree with a golden border while her salt and pepper hair is neatly tied into a bun with a string of mogra curled up around it,the room suffused with its pleasant fragrance. Her forehead is flaunting a big, round, red bindi.

The elders begin their chat session and the little girl eventually, tardily slips into the land of dreams.

That little girl is ‘Me‘.


As I finish typing this write-up, believe me, it helped me breathe a childhood I had always wished for.

First published here.

Image source: a still from the Marathi film Bokya Saatbande

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About the Author

Vijeta Harishankar

Finance professional,an avid blogger. I write to keep the child in me happy and contented. Contributing author of the poetry anthology Nyctophilia.Children's book Airavata and The Femme of Animal Kingdom. read more...

36 Posts | 79,583 Views

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