Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An afternoon of warm memories

today was the fourth day of my vacation in mangalore, and thanks to my oversleeping, our plans of visiting a few not-so-nearby temples and arbitrary places of tourist interest had to be junked. So it was back to planning whatever was left of our day. Thankfully my aunt hadn't left for work yet, so she and my mom were chatting away while my dad was busy poring over his trusty tourist guide (that's a typical scene at any of my family vacations, btw). That's when my mom realised that her godmother, who she hasn't met since her wedding 25 years ago, is still alive and in mangalore. Apparently that clinched the schedule for my mom. In the course of the discussion, my mom also discovered that another of my grandmom's cousins, of the few surviving ones, is also in mangalore. So we decided to go visiting today.

First stop: my mom's godmother's home. There was no direct bus, so we had to take two. We took the stairs to her first floor apartment.

Entering her home was like taking a single step that landed me into another era. It was a step from the somewhat-stuffy perspex walled staircase to an airy but cosy home with polished wood furniture and lace curtained windows. And my great-godmother! Aunt Norrah was all silvery haired and quite fragile looking (as expected), but as we sat down to chat and her spinster sister Aunt Patty poured us apple juice, i realised that they were anything but senile. They had such keen memories and such sparkling wit, that even my parents failed to catch some of their finer witticisms. We exchanged pleasantries, and then moved on to more interesting things like what all her kids are upto, and how her son was miraculously cured of a life threatening condition and went on to live a few more years despite all doctors' hopelessness at his condition. Then there was her recovery from very severe arthritis, during which she was practically disabled for over a year. And thanks to which she now is fine with almost no health problems, at her ripe old age of 87.

She then moved on to things like her late husband's love of gardening and his incredible rose garden that had no less than 127 varieties of roses, the 4 generations of dogs that they bred, their pet cat that was one of her dog's best friend, and so many other interesting things about her life. Surprisingly, she remembered a lot about my parents last visit, 25 years ago. We located a couple of her sons who live not very far away from us in mumbai. There were also a few photos, from the one taken at her sister's wedding (she has 7 sisters, the youngest of whom is the one who lives with her), to her cat, to the different houses she's lived in - she's lived in 4 cities during her long life.

We clicked a few photos too, for memories sake, and exchanged phone numbers, advance christmas wishes, and prayers for each others' continuing good health and happiness.

We then went on to visit my grandmom's other cousin, this time in an old-age home not very far away. After a bus ride and a longish walk in the sun with a girl from a nearby convent who showed us the way, we reached the home. We waited in the parlour while my grandaunt Hilda, who's again all of 87 years, made her way there unaided from her first floor room.

As expected, she was all silver haired and fragile, a little thinner than aunt norrah, but sprightly and active nonetheless. Aunt Hilda is my grandmom Jessie's cousin, and so there were so many tales of their youth, my great-granddad's job in rangoon (yeah, that's what she called it) my granddad's voice (he was an amazing singer), her memories of my mom's brothers, sisters and cousins, and lots of other things. Apparently the last time she was in bombay was in 1968 - and she even remembered why she went there.

We asked her about how she spends her time, and she told us that she felt that home was the perfect place to spend the evening of her life, and how she enjoys the company and the prayer, and the fact that they're very well taken care of.

Enjoying though we were, we decided to cut short our visit as it was her lunchtime (although she insisted it was okay, and even inquired about our lunch arrangements). She mildly protested our request to click a couple of photos (i don't know why old people always claim they don't look good - to me, they're invariably more beautiful and pleasant than most), but then agreed. Once again, we said our goodbyes and stepped out, taking the place's address so that we could mail her some photos of the rest of the family, and a letter once in a while.

I stepped out of the old age home feeling like my day has already been made. It felt so lovely to be in such sweet company, and especially to see such old relatives in good health and at their charming best. They reminded me of my grandmom, and by extension, of my childhood and the amazing years spent in her care. I pray i never forget these days, and that god always keep them in his care - they have nurtured so many, and have seen generations grow to be amazing persons. God bless!


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