Every August…

Every August when sooty black clouds inhabit the sky and the air stands chilly and sullen, a faithful memory rewinds itself and I am reminded of my paternal grandmother. Her presence in my life was periodic and the memories therefore are largely seasonal.

It was not your traditional grandchild-grandmother relationship – I didn’t see her very often though she lived in the same town when I was younger. We didn’t speak the same language either – we could understand each other’s words but we stuck to our comfort zones – adamant and safe in our careful worlds while occasionally peering over the hedge to catch up on each other’s milestones. When she came over for a visit, I got the perfunctory hug, sometimes an odd gift.  When the other kids talked about their grandparents, I talked about her but I had no funny anecdotes, no evidences of affection and no memories to add because my grandmother was fairly complex yet placid and fairly obstinate yet silent.  The only thing that got her galvanized was when she walked to Pandharpur every August for her annual pilgrimage.

She had graduated from the school of hard knocks and walking everywhere was her preferred means of journeying.  This meant that she stubbornly refused to take the bus or the train to Pandharpur even though she was well in her seventies. She walked along with hundreds of other devotees, and every night she camped by the roadside in open fields and cooked her meals on a makeshift fire. This was the pinnacle of her yearly calendar – every ounce of energy she had, was carefully saved and preserved to make this offering and any pleas to partake this journey less ardously usually fell on deaf and mostly indifferent ears.

While my mother and grandmother were as different as chalk from cheese and had a polite if not formal relationship, my mother was the only person that my grandmother trusted when she needed to pack her essentials for the annual pilgrimage.  I would come back from school on a rainy day in August to find Grandma in the kitchen while my mother made lists of everything that was needed for the trip. While I sipped hot tea and told my mother about my day, my parents would pack up rations for Grandma and seal them dextrously to keep the moisture out. My mother and my grandmother would then walk down to the shops to buy Grandma her trademark nine-yard sarees for the pilgrimage and round off this excursion with a visit to the optician for an eye checkup though Grandma was openly critical of such frivolities.

When all was done and packed, Grandma would get restless at the thought of waiting till the next day to head off on her journey – once every year she became a sprightly young girl, her eyes twinkling, her face shining, her voice softer than it normally was.

I never missed her when she left for her journey. Sometimes my mother would say things like “Your grandma has must have reached Pandharpur” and at other times she would inform me that Grandma had been back for a week. The hedges would resurrect themselves –  our lives continuing firmly in their pattern.

Somewhere along the way these pilgrimages stopped. Grandma moved away during my High School years. We still got the occasional visit or a snippet of news about her but there was no yearly journey to bind us anymore.  When she passed away over a decade ago, I cried profusely for a woman with whom I had not exchanged more than a 100 words in a lifetime. I had no grandparents anymore – all my ties to a generation older than my parents had been firmly and politely severed for eternity.

Years later, a small silver perfume pewter found its way to my parents house – Grandma’s final gift for me, her last bequest. Much like my relationship with my grandmother, the gift was a one-off. An unpretentious, practical, old world piece, made beautiful only by the passage of time.

The pewter shares a spot with other knick-knacks I have gathered over the years –  every August when the wind howls and the rain strikes up a relentless chatter, I stand by my window and look at the rains and then the pewter. Grandma has long since left on a journey where we didn’t have to pack for her. There is no waiting involved for anyone, anymore. I do not have any memories of her that are significant enough to make me cry for once what was.

And yet, every August there comes a day when I tear up at the memory of a grandmother who has long since walked far, far away.  All that now remains now is the dull shine of  silver that bears witness to the fact that she was once around. That will have to do – for now and for ever.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Captain Nemo
    Aug 09, 2010 @ 17:33:17

    Heartbreaking in it’s simplicity and honesty.

    Reminds me of the lines from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds song –

    “Like the sun through the trees you came to love me
    Like a leaf on a breeze you blew away
    A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes
    As if to hide a lonely tear
    My lift will be Forever Autumn
    ’cause you’re not here”

    PS: August is the time when I make preparations for my mother’s death ceremony rituals (which falls somewhere between August and September according to the lunar month.) While I miss her every moment, this time of the year is particularly painful.

    Reply

    • scarlettletters
      Aug 11, 2010 @ 10:49:57

      Captain,
      I still remember the post you wrote after your mother passed away. Sometimes a loss is for a lifetime – and I say it again – I am sorry for your loss. It will never go away but I hope that with time, it gets better.

      Take care,
      Scarlett

      Reply

  2. Captain Nemo
    Aug 09, 2010 @ 17:37:08

    Typo in my comment – *My life will be Forever Autumn.

    Reply

  3. Ardra
    Aug 09, 2010 @ 23:38:21

    She continues to live through you…not just as genes…but as something that cannot be seen or touched and can only be felt…

    Reply

  4. Rajavel
    Aug 09, 2010 @ 23:51:59

    That was beautiful.

    Grand parents are important to have around at a certain phase of childhood.without it a significant life experience can be missed out. I still remember the way grand mother used to hug me when i land from city to the village every summer.

    Those were the days.

    Reply

  5. bilbo
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 02:04:01

    🙂

    Reply

  6. scarlettletters
    Aug 11, 2010 @ 10:50:33

    Ardra, Rajavel, Billy – thanks 🙂

    Reply

  7. enig
    Aug 21, 2010 @ 13:49:39

    lovely post, Scarlett..

    a teary-eyed,
    enig

    Reply

  8. scarlettletters
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 15:27:29

    Thanks Enig.

    Reply

  9. Aria
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 03:58:44

    I didn’t have a great relationship with my paternal grandmother either.. when she passed away I did feel pain but I was too young then ..now I wonder if I could’ve tried though she never seemed interested..
    was closer to maternal grandma, she passed away this year, in June.. last surviving grand-parent, she was in her 90s .. an end of a beautiful era.. these losses are inevitable but so are the lovely memories ..which would stay forever..

    Reply

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