It is the end of the year, which made me look back and ponder. 2016 has been a rollercoaster of a year for me. One of the most memorable and equally depressing years where I experienced a lot of highs and an equal number of lows. A year when my first grandchild was born and also the year when my dad died. I have been one of the lucky ones as I haven’t had to experience the loss of a loved one till now. The last time I did lose someone close was when my grandparents died a few years ago.
I only really got to know them when I was ten years old and when we settled in India. My grandmother used to come and visit us late in the afternoons. When we got back from school, she would be there waiting for us. We would sit on the kitchen bench and watch my mum make us our evening tea and snacks. They would talk about all that had happened after the last time they spoke to each other.
The most fascinating thing for me was my grandmother’s hand and the stretchy skin. I would sit there pinching it and watch it slowly return to it’s original form. Nowadays I look at my hands and think of her. When I go home these days, I sit on the bench and catch up with all the news while my mother finishes her work and it is one of my favourite places to be.
My granddad was a more reserved character. He oversaw the building of the Oil Mill while we were still in Malaysia and got it up and running, so all my dad had to do was to go to India and take over. The two things I remember about him was his crispy bright white Jubba and mundu (the traditional Kerala wear), which always looked ironed, with not a wrinkle in sight and meticulous. He used to wash and iron it all himself, till the very last. The second thing I remember is his ‘charukasera’ (similar to a deck chair), which was his favourite place at his home. He was not an idle person, but that was where you would find him when we visited him, especially towards the end.
We should have called them ‘ammoomma’ and ‘appooppan’, which was the correct way to address your maternal grandparents, but my mother for some reason wouldn’t let us call her mother that. So we ended up calling them ‘veettil amma and achan’ and soon this stuck and everybody started calling them that. ‘Veettil’ means house.
My uncle renovated the house after their death, but the part of the house they lived in remains the same and you could still feel their presence when you enter the room. Veettil achan lying on the charukasera and reading his paper and veettil amma waiting for us in her bedroom.