Part 3: What I need to learn from paati
- Courage. In fact, blind, and as I often chided her, foolish courage. Paati was never one to fear anything in this world, and bordered reckless. I have never heard the phrase “I am afraid” from her – not when her husband turned blind (of course I wasn’t born then, but I am extrapolating), not when her husband became bedridden, not when her only child was diagnosed with cancer, not when her only child died, not when her husband died, not when her precious grand daughter flew the nest. Not five years back, when her heart gave out, and she was in ICU, surrounded my machines and tubes – it’s that courage that let her live five more years with 14% heart function. “What’s there to be afraid of?” was her constant repartee to my concerns of about what I thought was her reckless bravado.
- Joie de vivre: My paati had zest for life. She had to know what was going on about her…curious as a cat. Even things she couldn’t understand, she needed to know. In her later years, when technology took over the world, she was frustrated that she could not understand it, but she needed to know. The need to know, the zest for life, kept her age-related dementia under check. It wasn’t until she was 86 that she repeated or forgot stuff, until then, she had the brains of a twenty year old. She often chided me at my apparent lack of interest in my world – “பிஞ்சுல பழுத்தா வெம்பல்” – “ripening before time makes you rotten” – she’d say. Perhaps I could take a leaf out of her book and turn a little curious about the world around me, beyond books and brains.
- Patience. Infinite patience. Very rarely have I seen my grandmother angry, or say an uncharitable word to anyone; she was a little quick tempered in the final couple of years probably because of the frustration of a mismatched body and spirit. She nursed a bed-ridden mother-in-law for years, an incapacitated husband for decades, and her dying daughter for months. Not once have I heard her complain about them. Not once.
- Kindness: Despite her curiosity to know what happens around her, I have never heard my grandmother gossip. Never a harsh word about another person. She was the most non-judgemental person I have ever known.
- Taste: Paati had the most impeccable taste in clothing and jewellery. I disappointed her in this in not being interested in either. She and my mother, when I was a child, would spend hours shopping for sarees and jewellery – and what they bought home from the shop were classy to the core. OF course, both of them had the looks to carry them off as well. The world lost one beauty queen decades ago, and one more, last year.
Some day, I will be the grand daughter worthy of my paati.