Indian grandmothers: CONNECTIONS, CURIOSITY, BRAINPOWER! These qualities characterize practically every frail-looking grey-haired granny who hugs you after your parents have scolded for not doing your homework! Grandfathers might be rocking their lives away on the veranda, but when the household silver is stolen, it is granny who knows why the cook is stirring that baadam halwa with great gusto, or why the gardener is using a new smartphone, or even why the neighbor is smirking more than usual!
CONNECTIONS: I remember how my Nannamma helped us interpret that grin on our neighbor’s face! When the household help was accused of stealing a gold necklace, Nannamma’s ‘connections’ told her via the milkman that the neighbor had been spotted talking to her brother next to the well in the backyard. My Nannamma removed the wrongly accused girl from that household and persuaded my Thatha to send her to school along with several of my aunts and uncles! How is that for humanitarian detecting, I ask you!
CURIOSITY: The main street in our village in Andhra Pradesh looks peaceful and quiet. But our grannies know how deceptive that can be! There was the time my Ammamma finished bathing at the ‘women’s’ well. As she opened the back door to enter the home, she heard loud cries from my uncle’s bedroom. The door was closed, so of course she placed an eager ear to it. A very informative move, as it turned out. “If you lay one more finger on me, I swear …” a voice cried out. She backed away, a smile on her face. Spousal abuse? Yes. When she sat next to Thatha later that evening on the veranda, she told him: “We have brought a gem of a daughter-in-law into our home, husband! Your son came home late last night. And she let him have it! His cries for mercy were really refreshing!” My Thatha wisely kept quiet!
BRAINPOWER: This appears to be the hardest quality to attribute to our grannies, but why? Most people were deceived by my Nannamma’s height: she was a rotund four feet eight inches. But behind those tortoise-shell spectacles that she wore, albeit very unwillingly, there shone a fire that could scorch the guilt-laden beholder! One look from them, and we grandchildren were reduced to pulp. There was no fighting that keen mind. No prank that we played ever escaped that commanding figure swathed in nine yards of cotton or silk. “Queen Victoria!” some of us whispered at a safe distance. But, what a relief when she discovered what we had been up to! The reward for a confession was typically a slab of chocolate or an extra helping of paayasam – well worth a repeat of pranks? You bet!
You can read Kamakshi’s Murders Most Matronly here