Pama And Her Grandparents

January 3, 2011


Pama was very very bubbly and just would not sit at one place neither stop giggling all the time. She used to live a few farms away from our house, used to come to our place for any or no reason and fill the house with her raindrops-like laughter. You could hear her approaching from a kilometer away. She was interested in everything and no subject was taboo for her. As such, our whole house used to welcome her wholeheartedly and our friendship was always on even terms although she was quite older than me and always clad in full nine yard Sarees whereas I had no idea about why clothes are worn.

If you went to her house, the scene used to be a contrast. Everybody used to keep mum most of the times or speak only in hushed tones. Giggle and laughter was out of question. Her grandfather was in late seventies and a bit off-center. He used to beg for charcoals from us. Ones he had one, he used to find a wall or any flat surface and start writing that ‘My wife is not faithful. I am bonded in my house. Please Help Me.’ Whenever you went to their house the first question somebody would ask was ‘Who gave him the charcoal today?’ My friends and I were sane and nobody helped him with writing material. But he would find somebody, a passerby to lend him something to write. As days passed he went out of control, used to slip out of the house and find public places to write his graffiti. He learnt to draw pictures with his messages. But he was alright with us kids, always smiled happily at anybody, watched us play and ate food in any house that came in his way, that is, until Pama’s father sent somebody and he was dragged home.

Her grandmother, why, the entire house, would therefore always be on edge. My grandma Tai had told me that her grandfather did not like moving to our town, that is why he had chosen this method of harassing the relatives. But there must have been something else too, otherwise why Pama was a pampered girl in our house?

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It was a summer morning.

I was loitering around rooms when I heard Pama’s pretty noises.

‘Are you through with your morning chores?’

‘Not yet,’ I said.

She caught me by shoulders. Giggling, she told my grandma that she is taking me to the well for a good bath. I tried to escape, but was not successful. Laughing, we went to the well. She undressed me totally, said, ‘Oh, big man now’ and started to lift the water by pail.

‘You too,’ I said and she hurled a handful of water. I shivered. The water was quite cold but pleasing.

No sooner than she lifted a pail, she was emptying it on me, saying in loud laughter wash this now, wash that. In between, when she was busy lifting, I was smudging my body with mud. After a few buckets she noticed this, stood there with fists on her waist and gave me a stare of mock anger. I chuckled and she said that the bath is over, emptying the last bucket.

Once we were in the house, she dried me and said ‘You know something, we have fresh guavas on my tree. Let us go get them’

She took permission from Tai and off we went.

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Their house was quiet as usual. Her parents were not visible. I climbed up their guava tree and picked one. Her grandmother gave us a studied look, told her not to share the fruit and finish the Guava quickly.

‘It is vacation time, Grandma.’ She said, but obeyed her.

‘Have your bath now,’ Grandma said, ‘You have to go search your grandfather. He has disappeared again.’

‘You have not taken bath yet?’ I was amused. ‘Now my turn, to pail water. shall we go to the well?’

‘Shut up brute.’ She said, collected her clothes from the house and came out with untied hair. Her Grandma followed, against Pama’s tantrums made her tie a bun, and went back in. Their bamboo lattice bath was slightly away from the house. It had a big earthen water storage pot.

She gave me the clothes, asked me to stand guard and went in. Only minutes passed when she called me, asked me to come inside and pass a bucket of water from the pot. She had lathered her entire body and was standing there, in expectation, with closed eyes. I emptied a few buckets onto her and both laughed nervously but uncontrollably.

The noise was too much I think, because her grandmother came running from the house straight to the bath room, pushed me out and asked Pama to lock the door from inside. Then she took a good look at me and suddenly held my arm, grabbed a batten lying nearby and started beating me, shouting hoarsely ‘Stupid fellow, Stupid fellow’. Pama was crying loudly in the bath but did not come out. My pleas to stop beating went unheard.

Then something unexpected happened. Pama’s Grandfather appeared on the scene. As soon as he saw what was taking place, he came straight to his wife, took the batten from her hand and freed me. Then he lifted the batten like a sword and uttered just two words, ‘Should I?’

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I came back home dazed. I did not know what wrong I had committed. Tai asked me what was the matter, but I did not divulge. Pama was not allowed to wander around much after that day, particularly to our house. Pama’s parents did not know about this incidence as she told me.

Since our’s was a small town, I could not avoid visiting Pama’s home. I used to insist that I would go only if somebody elderly accompanied me. Her parents greeted me normally. But her grandma would always look at me with this chili gaze, even when I had elderly escorts and I would return exactly the same. Later, I would actually practice that stare before visiting their house. We exchanged no words.

Pama’s Grandfather was extra courteous to me that day onwards and I was only too happy to collect and lend him charcoals and colored chalk.

Both of these Grandparents died unceremoniously a few months after. No one grieved about their loss. Pity Pama’s giggles died permanently and she was not the same ever after.

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4 Responses to “Pama And Her Grandparents”


  1. What an anecdote! Brilliantly written as always, the little humor elements in between and near the end of the post have added life to the portrayal of a person ‘full of life’ 🙂

    Like your other posts, this one too depicted a different shade to the color known to us as ‘human behavior’, the vagaries of life, how people of different age groups perceive the same situation differently, and how that perception shapes our own understanding in the growing-up stages, thus completing the circle!

  2. PeACEMAKER Says:

    Thank you very much Nikhil. I was missing your comments dearly.

  3. Hema P. Says:

    You weave slices of the past into your stories such effortlessly!

    I’ve always found the sensibilities in villages to be harsher than those we find in cities — maybe because they don’t necessarily sugarcoat them? I guess you need a different set of survival skills to live in villages when compared to cities…

  4. PeACEMAKER Says:

    Thank you very much. What you feel is correct. Every movement of yours used to be watched by somebody or other. In that sense, it is true that you needed a refined sense of survival, particularly if you were a girl/lady.
    I am writing about 50’s or so. At that time, it is possible that even cities used to be sensible and with character.
    Thanks again.


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