Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My favourite life coach


Nope, that's not a picture of some 40's Indian movie star. That's my maternal Grandmother, known to her husband as Meena, not by the way, her real name, and the rest of us as Granny. Pictures of her show what my grandfather saw when he first laid eyes on her and fell in love. She was and is still today an extremely beautiful woman with the porcelain skin, full lips and dark curly hair though it is now all grey. An octogenarian, she became Granny at nearly the same age I am now, something that I would find hugely distressing and wonder that she did not. Though these days she may look more like the typical picture of the lovable granny type with her short, glasses wearing self, her tongue and wit have not lost their sting and her love and dhal and rice are still the best things to come home to.

My Granny has always been the mainstay of our family, despite my Pappy being the one with the larger than life personality, she is the engine room that kept it all ticking over. All the women in my family have worked and Granny is no exception in that she ran a house with 8 kids, two in-laws and the family shop while Pappy was working for Shell all over the world. In a time where we have courses to teach us how to be emotionally intelligent, manage effectively, blah, blah, blah,blah it is amazing that this woman who barely went to primary school, is in fact, a management specialist, financial wizard, project coordinator and chef even though she would deny that she's done anything out of the ordinary.

At 17, as arranged by her parents she married Pappy and went off to a very different life having grown up with a water pipe in her yard and her father's shop, she moved to the "country" to live at her in-laws with no running water or electricity. Carrying water from the river, cooking on a chulha (woodstove), washing everyone's clothes, working in the garden and having children became the routine. It must have been quite a hard life, great-granny was not known for being the easiest person to get along with, and lonely too, Pappy got his job at Shell and was working 16 hour double shifts.

On his very limited salary she managed to feed, clothe and save enough for them to buy their first property. In our family, her ability to hang on to a penny is legend, with dishes like back & neck chicken pelau, leftovers that became layovers and other gems. We still tease her about that stuff but ironically, it is those very traits that with the spiraling inflation rate, we are now all falling back on. An early proponent of reduce, reuse and recycle, except in her case it was, don't throw that out we might need it; Granny used plastic butter containers for storage, cut up towels for dishcloths, used sheets until they were soft and worn, comfortable and comforting, long before it became fashion again. All those years of hardship left her with an unerring eye for saving a dollar and making do without showing discomfort. The concept of disposable income is alien to her, as are credit cards and vacation loans. If you want something, suck it up and save for it is her take and you know what, she has a point.

When my Grandad was alive they travelled extensively, made a nice home for themselves, helped out their kids, ran their shop, estate and sundry other ventures, all on the strength of what they earned and what they saved. Valuable lesson right there. One that I'm quickly coming to appreciate more and more each day... but I still wouldn't want to be called Granny at 40+!

4 comments:

lyricsman said...

Brung tears to my eyes...you put me in reminisce mode. doesnt everyone have a superhero for a grandparent?

Wuzdescene said...

this is an absolutely beautiful piece .... made me think of MY maternal grandparents .... who passed away in 2005 and 2006 ....

Shivonne Du Barry said...

Lovely. Reminds of the women of my childhood. I've internalised their lessons without even being aware of it.

Coffeewallah said...

Thanks all. Sometimes you have to say thank you in a different way.