My grandmother, or didubhai as the whole brood of grandkids used to call her .. what can I say about her, and what can I not? My childhood revolved around her and her days around mine.
My earliest memories are of her waiting patiently, unwearying in heat and storm, for me, at the bus stop where the bus would drop me off after school. In my younger days, we would walk back, hand in hand, me chattering incessantly about school and other sundry topics..
As I grew older, of course, so did my sense of self importance and indignation.. “Was I a kid that someone would pick me up from school?” I raved and ranted, in righteous anger. So, she would bribe me with “dosh paisar badam, aar dosh paisar hojmi”, every single day. Its hard to imagine how much largesse could be got in those times, with 10 paise. In the end, greed won…and so did she.
We were born in idyllic days, days spent in going to school in the mornings, afternoons spent listening to stories about didubahi’s childhood and her trips.. “oy beratey jaowar golpo ta ABAR bolo”. And then in the evenings, she would herd all the cousins down “keyatola lane” to take us to ILSS, where we would swim from 6 to 8, with didubhai running around the pool to make sure we 5 were all right..
The minimal studying I did, was all with her, in my baby years, with her teaching me English, and Bangla and spellings. With math she somehow managed the basics, after which ma, thankfully, took over... and then, when I would win the spelling tests in school, didubahi and I would fight as to who would get the credit for it..
Halcyon days, touched by love, and light and wonder, stories of “shikar, jongol”, interspersed with some mythology, from all over the world, and “the little mermaid” of Hans Christen Anderson. She was, in a lot of ways, responsible for my love of literature - like Scheherazade, she would leave the story just as it was getting interesting, and say “aar parchi na, bakita nijey poro”
She was a grandmom I could display to all with pride, and certain smugness. Who else had a dida, who would wear shorts and get into the massive breakers of “Purir shomudra”, or wear jeans and be on horseback during a trekking trip at the age of 70, cap tilted rakishly on her head. And who would, while deep in pujo of her beloved Gopal, who, by the way, traveled everywhere with us, in his little Air India bag, would say “chandan, amakeo jeno ektu diyo”- we called it “karonbari” after that. When I went to my Tirupati trip (for larks, not religious fanaticism) this April, all I could think of was her, and that I was in the land of her Gopal… maybe, I was doing it for her.. god knows.
As I grew older, we drifted apart. Caught up in a whirlwind of life, I usually had less time to spend with someone, for whom time had slowed down. Always impatient, always running.
Memories come crowding in, jostling, pushing, shoving to be let out, to be given centre stage. My mother tells me, “write a few words in her memory”.. and once I start writing, I cant seem to stop.. words become pages, and its still not enough.