Friday, February 11, 2011

I don't want you to age gracefully anymore. I want you to not age.

My grandmother's making faces. She's wearing her favoured tattered shawl -- grey with that ancient red Himachal border, looking at the TV, shelling her peas and making faces.

Shelling her peas... sounds off. Surely, she's chheeloing matar. Yes, much better -- that's what she's doing. Every now and then, she'll give me the small, sweet ones to pop in my mouth. Besides the shelling/ cheeloing, she's also looking at some crap movie on TV -- Barsaat Ki Ek Raat -- featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Rakhi, Ajmal Khan and tackily picturised songs.

She's still making faces. She's still chheeloing matar.





Annoying before-dinner rhythm we've got going. I'm eating the matar, popping them in my face, also chheloing the matar, tossing the chhilka aside on a steel tray.

Again- faces! Now she's making faces at me. No -- TO me. I don't understand the look and it's pissing me off. And what's this wink thing happening? I say, irritably: kya-a-a-a? i.e Why are you winking at me, Nanu?!

Nanu starts nudging me to look in the direction of Bawa, my grandfather. He's sitting next to her. She doesn't want to say look! look! out aloud because hen he will hear her and be conscious. But really, WHAT am I supposed to be looking at?!

I break the whisper-wink one sided conspiracy, and say in a perfectly loud tone: WHAT is it, Nanu?

Bawa, dekho, tv dekh rahein hain, she says softly, i.e look, Bawa's watching telly.

Yea, SO?!

So he's usually not interested in anything.


I look at my hunch-backed, wavy-haired, grey tracksuit- wearing grandfather sitting frozen and compact in a red plastic chair that's too small for him -- or is it that he's gotten too fat for it? Which is it? And is he watching or just looking? Looks like he's watching, alright. I excuse myself from the rhythmic peeling of peas and and go get my camera. It's a hobby, this constant chronicling of the long established body language of my favourite goldies. I need to remember their wrinkles. Photographs are the preservatives you can't dunk in jam.

This afternoon, he, my grandfather Bawa, couldn't remember who called five minutes ago. Nanu gave him hell for not trying hard enough. My mother, like all daughters in this family, took her father's side, saying, let him be etc. I was with my grandmother on this. Shout more, I wanted to tell her. Pressurise him into racking his brains. This not remembering nonsense is too easy. But he I'm not sure, gives a damn about the nagging of the domestic queen. And I'm sure he's not trying to depress anyone by being extra slow but it's no virtue and nothing he will get credit for, not from me.

Of late, at meal times, on the dining table, everyone else will be talking, and my grandfather, the old pilot, Bawa, in this classic way he has of resting his temples on the bent wrist of his not-eating-with hand, will just stay shut and chew and chew and chew. Which is fine, as far as digestion goes. But it worries me how much we're lowering the bar for him -- Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, really? My grandmother was watching it for him. He likes this shit, not her. She wants the 9 o clock news. Hence the faces. But she'll bear bad cinema if it means her husband and childhood sweetheart will look up and alert and interested and participatory. All the while, I'm imagining dramatic scenarios in my head, the inevitable ends, the future without them and and feeling angry that they're shamelessly deteriorating. Never mind the stupid fox and his unreachable grapes, it's the matar that's never sweet.
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Brown Girls said...

Oh Nimp, you broke my heart. I know exactly how it is. Grandparents should never age. Parents should never age.

We should all stay frozen in that yellowish photograph taken with a manual camera sometime in the early nineties where we look so dorky but ohmygod look, how young our mother's smile is and how dark our grandfather's hair.

Hugs, if you're accepting any :)

Nimpipi said...

Ae ji, BG: It's reassuring how you pop up now and then, beech beech mein and say these spot on things. Whiny tone - Can't deal with these denture people slowing down, ya. Halp!


Break heart is right, but yes we are accepting hugs. I'll have one more of those. Thank you + warm regards.

triloki nagpal said...

Nimpi you write beautifully, your style transports the reader to the scene.
We have to accept aging as a natural phenomenon and we have to move on...

The Unbearable Banishment said...

What?! No photo!? Oh, the nerve of you. I scrolled s-l-o-w-l-y hoping for a reveal and...*nothing!* A+ for your words. F- for being a big tease.

Nimpipi said...

Triloki: Thank you. I just want them to not die on me, I guess. Not for another, I don't know, 30 years.

UB: Look how you make me get my act together -- edited to add: one number photo for your kind perusal. They weren't great shots, but your wish is my command, sire.

The.Mystic said...

Well I am reading Ruskin Bond and now you, both of you write pretty similar.

Nimpipi said...

Mystic: Too loaded a compliment but thank you!

Perakath said...

I, too, used to think you wrack your brain... but apparently it's better to rack it.

Can't find a sufficiently good explanatory link for you now, but I remember having carried out the survey exercise some months ago and deciding that I had been misspelling it all my life.

Nimpipi said...

Pera, thanks! Edit's made. I see now, it's like Ritik, not Hritik, of, er, racking. Got it.

Anonymous said...

A lil' late on this...but this made me cry...I am watching my parents grow old day by day and then I realize am growing old too and aarggh! someone stop it!