Ice-cream and Pepsi were my grandma's favourites. But don't for a minute take her for a modern, hip old lady, spewing English and wearing a bun on top of her head.
No, she was as traditional and old-fashioned as could be. She was always in nine-yard sarees (which, even at the age of 87, she insisted on washing herself), knotted her grey hair at the back of her neck, and celebrated all the festivals and functions that came her way.
She was one of the most informed and intelligent persons I have ever come across. Her eyes drank in everything she saw, she could watch soap after soap on TV without confusing the characters in two different programmes.
She was also a voracious reader and knew most of the advances in the technical field that affected normal human life. When email became popular in India, I once caught her explaining to a distant cousin of hers how it actually worked!
In short, she was an amazing woman.
In her life she saw a lot -- some happiness and a very generous share of hardships. She bore six children and lost her husband at a very young age. Despite her meagre resources, she made sure each one of them had the best education.
During her last few years, she was constantly in and out of hospitals. She would invariably come out having made good friends with the doctor and all the nurses there, and they would ask about her when we ran into them long after she was discharged.
But she never let any of those hospital visits dampen her zest for life. She was there to cook an amazing meal for visitors, for long drives, for chocolate ice-cream and Pepsi.
She was constantly on the move, shuttling between her sons and daughters. And so she literally lived out of a suitcase.
One of the things I loved about her was how neatly organised her suitcase and little red handbag were. I loved going through her stuff simply because at the end of it my hands would smell of her perfume -- the wonderful smell of sacred ash.
She had a way of tracing relationships with almost anybody. If she was introduced to anyone from some village in Tamil Nadu, chances are she knew some relative of theirs! Everyone loved to chat with her because she asked the right questions and made them feel great.
It's been a year since she passed away and I thank god for the few moments I got to spend with her a month before she breathed her last, when I was in India. Despite her not being in the best of health, she chattered away and saw all my pictures with great interest and even inquired about every single one of my husband's relatives.
To this day I cannot get over her not being around. I wish I could find her glasses for her one last time, buy her one last cup of chocolate ice-cream, or just give her one last tight hug.
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