>> Sunday, November 21, 2010
It's the story of two grannies in my maternal village.
I had seen them since time immemorial, saw them old and wrinkled, exactly the same for past - don't remember how many years. I visited my Nani (maternal grandmother) once in the gap of 3-4 years and found them the same; affectionate loving caring but invariably venomous about each other and backbiting.
They were not my real grannies, someone in my family tree, some great great grandfather must have owned mammoth portions of land and prodigious mansions. He must have divided his estate amongst his children who in turn would have done the same and down the ages after every division the present status of these families was reduced to bare minimum. They all fought for the meager resources, blamed their parents for siding with a particular sibling and unrighteous division of the property, but life went on…
My grandfather managed to stay away from this; he was the only child, a zamindar; he inherited extensive property, was well educated, he doubled and tripled his possessions and had his own solitary habitat at the edge of the village.
Whenever I went there all distant relatives and neighbors invited me. I mostly sojourned the village on some occasion with all my cousins and we made a tour of the village and of course never forgot to meet those two sweet grannies.
They were sisters in law, now widowed. Their husbands were brothers. In his life time, their father had split the property and his portion of the residency between his sons(their husband). In quick succession both men died, their children grew up, left for bigger cities in search of employment and the two ladies were left alone fighting with each other. Interestingly both grannies had sons (not sure how many...coz I had seen none) and no daughter.
X granny was elder than Y granny. It was impossible to make out who was older. I had heard stories of their beauty and charm in their prime but I couldn’t picture them young. I wondered how old they were and often questioned my Nani. Nani had no definite answer but she made some vague guesses .. Whatever - they looked antiquated but I was equally surprised by their energy as they worked very hard from dawn to dusk and their stamina in trying to put each other down in almost everything that they did. It seemed they had been alone since eternity with their entity solely confined to each other.
To begin with -the bone of contention was a huge hall in their dwelling. The entire house was divided with same number of rooms for each other but that huge hall was a common property and both grannies used it as storage. Both owned a partitioned small mango garden, little piece of farm and in off-season they made pickles, papad (that they sold in the village market) and also did some stitching and knitting. They were famous for their variety of pickles and both tried to prove - their pickle tasted better.. their mango was juicier .. their farm was ideal .. their roses were brighter .. their stitching and knitting was in fashion . their side of the turf was better kept and lustrous ...n so on n so forth...
When we visited them we gathered in the courtyard surrounding the colossal ruin of their house that was set in a dell - amidst some goats on the rooftop, hens squawking away and few frail dogs quietly watching. We sat on cushionless rough benches near the doorway loving their enchanting sweetness looking through their wispy white hair. Both of them served us a variety of delicacy, trying to exhibit their traditional culinary skills. I can’t forget the taste of their rice rotis, aaloo puris, fried eggplants in mustard gravy ..chilly pickles .. suji ka halwa ..ohh the list is perpetual ..
Later in the evening either of the two came by our place to smear - how the other granny was torturing her .. trying to capture her share of land .. spreading false stories about her…etc etc . They labeled each other a ‘witch’ and had remarkably sharp tongue when they talked about another.
Entire village was amused by their stories. Sometimes the grannies started quarreling from the wee hours of the morning. The reasons of these bickering used to be as small as- someone dumping her side of dirt in another’s domain or someone trying to put water in other’s pickle spread in the sun, someone trying to steal mangoes from the other’s garden, or someone letting loose her goats in the other’s fields and destroying her crops. Villagers enjoyed these barrages, they all gathered to watch them exchanging verbal abuses- which contained nasty language and an attempted character assassination, everything unimaginable in typical rustic flavor. Some village women sided by their favorite fighter to make the fight spicier ..
I visited my Nani few years ago and in the evening was awaiting their arrival but neither of them showed up. Finally I asked my Nani and she replied that Y (younger) granny died few months back during the winters. That year they had witnessed one of the chilliest winters and Y granny could not endure the gruesome weather. None of her children came to see her so the villagers collected money and cremated her. X granny was shaken after that. In Y granny’s last days, she was the one who relentlessly took care of her and since Y granny’s death she was bed ridden.
At once I stood up and ran to see X granny, she welcomed me with tears in her eyes. On that occasion also she only talked about Y granny but she called her “dulhan” ( that’s how elder sister in law addresses the younger one in my village). She narrated Y granny’s illness, her desire to meet her kids but none dropped by and now that X granny was herself bedridden her own children were not concerned ..
I left with a heavy heart and when I returned to the city .. after few days I heard from an acquaintance that X granny passed away.
Though both grannies appeared to despise each other probably they were each others pillars of strength in some strange way and after the death of one the other had nothing to live for..
pS- I had written this story almost 5 years ago and had posted it on a site where I am no longer active. Was browsing through – 'coz I had nothing better to do and thought it deserved a copy here on my blog ..