Grandmother rushes in at midnight to the river front to stand and watch a bridegroom’s passing procession. The lights and the crackers and the trumpeters and four bearers carrying his palanquin. A stream of lights passing by the river front could be sighted from our rooftop as well. But their reflections on the black water, and the grim blue-grey sky would be experienced firsthand only if woken by the firecrackers, you grab your slippers and walk briskly and reach the river front about time. And grandmother would clearly be the one woke and running. Along with a bevy of grandchildren.
At half past two on school day afternoons, grandmother would sit in the courtyard in the shade of the gigantic red hibiscus and from a plate of jaded silver, feed lunch to the same bevy of grandchildren. Grandchildren of all shapes and sizes, even the ones who are barely weaned from their mother’s milk would sit, cross-legged, quietly, even though in their hearts fluttered a dozen alibis for skipping siesta. Grandmother would make spherical morsels and keep them on the rather bigly plate. Each morsel would have mashed rice and dals and curries and veggies and with a touch of pickle on top for easing the swallowing. Each morsel would have a name on it, one for the father, one for the mother, one for each brother or sister, one for a fairy, one for the moon and so on, till the plate was wiped clean. Each belly fed to full after grandmother’s hand went about clockwise in circles, several times.
Then in siesta time, came the stories. Of moon-faced monsters and old demonesses that lived on champak trees, having kidnapped the souls of young and pretty princesses. Grandmother’s eyes snapped asleep sometime in the middle of those fairy tales, her voice whirred and the grandchildren knew, this was their cue to get up, one by one though, and quietly tiptoe to the playground outside.
Grandmother was also the takecarer of the oft recurring midnight hunger pangs of the grandchildren. She was the one who rolled in somewhat-semi-sweet-semi-creamy milk-powder out of the can, in left over rotis. Rolls that fed hungry children who shared their grandmother’s ancient antique empress size bed, rolling from its edge to edge, several feet, drenched in Disney world dreams, and slept behind clay walls, under thatched roofs.
Grandmother, when septuagenarian or octogenarian, when semi paralyzed with senility, slow fried egg plants, walked to the living room and sat on the sofa, half-watching TV, half daydreaming, waiting for one side to cook, fry, char, until she walked into the kitchen and flipped them over.
Grandmother, this, grandmother that.