My Maternal Grandmother Is My Superhero Despite All That She Suffered In Life!

I always believe it was my grandmother's upbringing that formed me to stand for the rights of the voiceless. She stood firm in her commitment, and so am I.

We have all heard stories from people who have inspired us to become what we are today. They may be superheroes, movie stars, influential people in society, achievers, sportspeople, humanitarians, and educationists.

These people are famous, educated, and visionaries. But at times, the infamous, illiterate, invisible, poor, and disadvantaged people become our role models. They may live in rural areas and can’t even fit into the category of so-called famous people or influencers.

My superhero, my maternal grandmother!

Who is my superhero? What has she done to me to become my inspiration? Why is it so important to recall the woman who lived 22 years ago? Why can’t I forget such a person in my life? These are the thoughts that filled my mind when I started to write about her.

In a nutshell, it is none other than my maternal grandmother. Theresa is her name. She took care of me for 13 years without expecting anything in return. She never blamed me for my mistakes, and she never judged me for being timid and conservative. She taught me all that I must learn for life.

She was born into a joint family of eight children, and her village was in a remote area. Being the second daughter of the family, she took care of her other eight cousins. It was common to have many children in those days.

I knew very little about her childhood, but I have heard that she was an iron woman who endured all the suffering and challenges but did not give up till the end.

She was given in marriage to a stranger, as usual in the villages. She left her mother’s house, adopting a different background of people and culture. She gave birth to four girls. She was moderately well-off at the beginning of her married life.

She suffered so much trauma in her life

She reared cows and sold milk in the village. On a fateful day, she lost her second daughter in an accident at the age of six. Seeing her child in a pool of blood, she went into depression. She bore the trauma all her life. She used to become very distressed whenever she saw blood. My grandfather became an alcoholic after this incident.

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She was subjected to domestic violence when my grandfather fractured her skull; she resisted him while taking care of her other girls. She did not have peace at home, even on feast days.

Life did not favor a happy and peaceful life, but she made life beautiful for all who surrounded her. She had to withstand the negative comments from the villagers for not having a male heir. She had to tolerate her alcoholic husband.

She did all the odd jobs to keep the family hunger-free. She used to wake up to go to the salt plant. When there was no job there, she collected firewood, worked as a construction worker, sold garments, and sold idlies (south Indian breakfast). She had to go from street to street to sell those idlies. She milked the cows, pastured them, and grew a kitchen garden.

Her perseverance in making me walk properly is immense. Though she never went to school, she educated all three of her girls. She spent sleepless nights trying to give her daughters a good future.

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, especially in the districts of Tuticorin and Kanyakumari, the bride’s family must pay a lump-sum dowry. My grandmother had told the family to marry off the first daughter. With the two other grown daughters and her paralytic husband, the family burden again fell on her shoulders.

She took care of my grandfather for seven years, single-handedly. She never complained about her misery, poverty, or struggles in life. I never saw her sitting relaxed. She was found to be doing daily chores and taking care of her husband and daughter. At times, the neighbours used to come to her for home remedies.

An mother figure and an inspiring woman for me

“We can be poor; we can undergo suffering. But never become dependent on or steal from others. The poor can lose anything in life but their self-respect,” she used to say.

I was the first grandchild of hers. I was a premature baby and was kept in an incubator. When my mother saw me in the childcare ward, she understood something was not well with the child. When I grew up, I was found to have a permanent locomotor disability and a squint eye.

In the beginning, I did not have a clear vision. It was my grandmother who used the home therapy to make my vision clear. At the age of five, my parents took my sister and me to a city for work. When I was returning from school, I met with an accident and broke my left leg.

My grandmother visited me, and when she saw me lying on the bed, she took me to her village to raise me. I was a princess in the poor woman’s hut. She fulfilled even the smallest of my desires.

From then on, she became a mother to me. The love and care she had for me is wonderful—stuck. She used to wake me up at four o’clock so that she could get me ready to go to mass every day and leave for work at the salt plant. Her feet used to be full of cracks; I never saw her dressed in good clothes. She never had any jewels on her body. Yet she was able to send my aunt to the teacher training school.

I always wished to see her in a colored saree, with bindi on her forehead and jasmine flowers in her thick and long hair. When I was about nine years old, I tried to stick a bindi on her forehead, but an elderly lady stopped me, saying that widows couldn’t wear them.

She affected me deeply in all that I am, all I do

Though I was timid and conservative, growing up under the care of that powerful lady, I developed confidence, which was to be shown in the future. She used to come late in the evening to the house, tired and frowning.

She never missed her responsibility to feed me. The little time I spent with her during the day was my life—I learned lessons. Whenever she fed me, she entertained me with many moral stories.

It was the story about a small plant called Reed that became my mantra for life. There used to be a coconut tree and this plant. The coconut tree is used to mock the plant as it has the nature of swaying with the wind.

On a stormy day, the tree could not resist the wind and immediately broke and fell to the ground, but the plant resisted by swaying as the wind flew.

The moral of the story is that no matter how strong we are, our roots must be stronger to resist the storm of life.

This was the topic of my first poem and first story.

She was very courageous. She lost her husband at the age of 42, a widow with three grown-up daughters. She had to beg for money to marry her daughters. Whatever she earned, she equally shared with her three daughters.

She is defined as “being born as a woman and working like a man.” She used to help everyone. Hardworking woman, never tired of fulfilling her responsibilities.

Once I asked her for a swing, she immediately took a rope and a saree and made a swing for me. She was a multi-talented woman. She used to advise on home remedies for the problems of her neighbors.

She was cursed for not having a male heir. She treated her three sons-in-law as her own. I learned from her the concept of equality. She was blessed with nine grandchildren, and I was the first one.

The power of resistance, self-respect, simplicity, and a never-give-up attitude are a few of her qualities. She was diagnosed with stomach cancer at the age of 57. She underwent an operation.

After three years, her situation got worse. Even on her deathbed, she used to nurse her seventh grandson.

When we wanted her to go for another operation, she refused, as she had to depend on her daughters. The effects of cancer killed her slowly.

“Always be good” was her last word to me. She divided her little savings among her grandchildren without having a home for herself. She breathed her last on January 12, 2001, on the wedding anniversary of her first daughter.

Her body was taken to her husband’s ancestral home before being laid to rest. It has been almost 22 years since she left us, but the memory of her remains with me.

Whenever I am faced with challenges, I just remember her not-giving-up attitude. Being confident and independent, committed, and brave are her outstanding qualities.

I always believe it was her upbringing that formed me to stand for the rights of the voiceless. She stood firm in her commitment, and so am I.

This simple and single mother is the sole reason for me to celebrate my womanhood and cherish my individuality, agency, and identity.

Image source: by FatCamera from Getty Images Signature Free for Canva Pro

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