Thursday, August 2, 2007

"Second Mother"

Few years ago, my maternal grandmother, at my cousin's request, wrote a 17-page letter of her life. As soon as I heard about it, I asked him to make a copy for me to keep as a memento. Although her handwriting was a bit hard to read, I managed to decipher it.

When I first read the letter, I was puzzled why she stopped at age twelve. I later understood that it was around this time she got married.

There was one incident that made me chuckle.

Her second class (as it is called in India in lieu of "grade") teacher was my grandmother's favorite. She was quite close to her that she considered her as her "second mother". She called her teacher, "Amma", the same name that she also called her real mother.

One day, she arrived to her class but to find a different teacher. Puzzled, she asked what happened to her teacher. She was told that 'Amma' had passed away.

Upset, my grandmother came home, bawling like a banshee, lamenting, "Amma's dead! Amma's dead!"

One of her older brothers, whom she was close to and played together often, happened to be in the room. Overhearing her, he started wailing, "NOOOO!!!! Amma's dead!!!!"

At this point, their real mother came in from the kitchen, annoyed, demanding to know what the racket was all about.

Seeing the real Amma, her brother stared agaped and turned to look at my grandmother. Thinking he was being tricked, he angrily strode up to her, before she could say anything, and thrashed her real hard.

It was uncommon in those days, in India, in large families that older siblings "help" discipline the younger ones since the parents usually have their hands full.

In the letter, my grandmother said whenever she thought about this incident, she remembers the pain from the 'beatings', although she finds it a bit funny.