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Remembering my Ammama (grandmother)

Grandparents are the soul of typical village joint family.

My ammama (grandmother) was a prototype of a typical village grandmother. She wakes up at dawn to the sounds of the ‘Suprabhatam’ Mantra from the nearby temple loudspeaker. After tea and bath, she sits in the balcony to read the day’s newspaper. Reading is her favourite pass time, even though she had studied only till 2nd STD. Her favourite page is the one with accidents and deaths; she goes through it thoroughly to see if there is anyone she knows.

After breakfast, she goes around our garden and fields talking to all the people she meets, the workers in our field, the passer-by, neighbours. That is how she collects the local news. After lunch she reads her favourite weekly ‘Manorama’ which we subscribe just for her. It has mostly novels, with plots quite similar to the television soaps.

By the time me and my brothers are back from school, her friends would have arrived for the evening chat. The regular ones are my cousin’s ammama (a robust old lady who always says that she don’t want much from life,her only wish was to live long enough to see all her grandchildren get married and have kids) and one or two of her old maids. Sometimes others join in too. They discuss the latest developments of the village, gossips about their daughter-in-laws and interesting events in the newspaper which according to them are accidents, deaths, funerals etc. They discuss them in detail and sympathise the mourning family.

Night time is story time. I fight with my brothers for a place in her lap. Her favourite stories were horror stories. About the ‘Yakshi’, the beautiful female vampire, who lives on the ‘Pala’ tree during the day and comes down only at midnight. She wears white sari, has long hair and smells of ‘Pala’ flowers. She seduces lone, young, night-travellers and what is left of them next day is their hair and nails found under the ‘Pala’ tree.

Then there is the male counterpart, the charming handsome ‘Gandharvan’ who makes young unmarried women fall in love with him, takes away their youthfulness and energy, and they would not be able to love a man again.
Her favourite story is about the ‘single breasted old lady’. She goes to the houses of young mothers when their husbands are off to work and offers to baby-sit their babies. When the mother is busy, she kills the babies by feeding the poisonous milk in her breast and disappears. Even though some of her stories gave me sleepless nights, I loved them.

She passed away 11 years back at the age of 88 years. And I miss her.

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