Its been 15 days and the grief has not sunk in. My life goes on as normal. There was a slight twinge of ‘Oh my God!’ and then it was all okay.
My anna called up in the evening and said ‘Paati passed away, RM.’ There was a catch in his voice but he seemed okay. I asked to speak to Amma. Amma, the ever practical woman, said Appa and I am trying to get to Calcutta as soon as we can. She seemed okay.
Its taken me 15 days to write this. I wonder why. I feel strangely disconnected. Perhaps its the physical distance. Perhaps the time difference, Or perhaps the fact that I never did grow up with Paati.
She was always a permanent fixture in my life. Every summer holiday, trip planned to Calcutta to her place. My mamas all lived in Calcutta so it was a lively bunch of cousins there. Nine of us with only 7 years between the oldest to youngest. We were all close. All of us always were up to something.
Its funny I remember Paati getting up super early in the morning, having a bath and wearing a nine yard saree. Then at about 11 AM after her prayers were done, she would change into a 6 yard. The 9 yard would be hand washed and hung to dry. I would wonder in my mind why on earth would one want to change garments everyday twice and why hand wash?
If there is ONE thing I admire Paati for, well apart from her superlative cooking, its her discipline. I have NOT met any other human who could be so disciplined. Her day was so clockwork-ish and she did the same routine day in and day out, no matter what. If I wish to inherit one trait from her, it would be her discipline. My Appa always said if Paati ever did her MBA, she would become the CEO of a company.
Her food. Stories have been written about her divine rasam and lip smacking potato roast. But my favourite dish, she made for me has been her mulagushiam which she made when I had just delivered R and she had come to help me. Lightly spiced, beautifully tadka marofied and amazing taste. As I type this, I can feel the taste with a dollop of ghee on it! And her khichuri bhaat. Funny she was in Calcutta for longer than she was in Kerala, but her Bengali was pretty okay. She didnt cook many Bengali dishes, staying true to her Tambram heritage, but her Khichuri bhaat was one of the yummiest. The perfect blend of rice, lentils, veggies and ghee. Sigh!
Her coffee. Weird how you remember stuff like this. She would make coffee in a proper filter and then mix the decoction with milk and create a perfect tasting coffee.
She would always keep kalkand and kismis for prasadam for nevidhiyam for umachi everyday, the quantity depending on how many people were there at home. I remember the kilo of thaiyir chadam which would be made mid-afternoon for all the nine of us cousins and we were all given one vaaya each with either pickle or sambhar and had to gobble it before she finished the round of giving to each of us 🙂
Her pakodams were legendary. Her cheedai and murruku were amazing.
She and I have had an interesting relationship. I am her only daughter’s only daughter and she was beyond happiness when I gave birth to R. That we were four generations of females thrilled her. I have fought with her numerous times on many things and argued with her about equality and her patriachial outlook. She took my arguements in good spirit, though she never changed her views and I didnt let her influence mine. She embraced my husband and his family with open arms, so much so that I believed she loved him a bit extra special more than me.
I last saw her at a zoom call last year which we did on her last birthday, where all her kids, grandkids and great grandkids came together to wish her!
She passed away at the age of 92. She saw all her grandchildren marry. She saw all her great-grandchildren. She was able to take care of herself right till the end. She didnt want to go to a hospital and she didnt. She passed away at my youngest uncle’s place.
I hope she has gone up to her Gods and now is teaching everyone up there how to be perfectly disciplined and do things the right way. I am sure she would have set a routine for everyone around her and perhaps, even taken over the kitchen and must be enjoying herself.
To a better place, Paati, because you do know you are extra special and amazing!