October 15, 2016

Maa,for me

We called her Maa, because Mom-Dad called her Maa. My Dadima. Our talented grand mother, born in a rich brainy Diwan family but also married into a household of talents. Needless to say, she possessed a beautiful mind.

Maa was an avid reader. A voracious one I would say. Unlike others' grandmothers she did not read many religious magazines, only a couple of books here and there to my knowledge. Of course, her love for mythology is passed on to me but we never considered it to be religious. Her major interest always remained in Geography- beyond this planet even at the age of Eighty. Maa read about every thing from different countries/cultures in the world to the so called doubt of 'Life on Mars' or 'Potential colonies on Mars'! I remember, her mapping cities my dad used to fly to, on the globe. She would then,with a child like curiosity ,open the Atlas and read about the weather in that country. (I think, she would have been a globe trotter if she had a chance!) She also had interest in War-History (again, passed on to me with great intensity ), Cultural History, Current Affairs and what not. Her Gujarati was brilliant. Books I have at home, speak about her wide range of reading interest in the language. Thanks to Maa and her Book-collection she made with great help from my grandfather- I was already done with majority of old Gujarati literature by the time I entered my tenth board. (These were the books written in the era when such creations were pure in language and well crafted unlike today's novels which I found to be very shallow) I would climb that portable ladder and pick a book from the attic which served as a small library, read out the title and she would tell  me about it. No, it was not a collection of ten twenty books - it was/is a collection of may be over 200 books. This heritage is precious to me, more than that yellow metal.

Maa was an artist. Sewing machine was her friend and she pestered me to the core to learn how to run it- I did learn basic sewing and stitching from her without any interest but never realized that I would die to do the same after years when she wont be there to guide me. She could do machine embroidery, hand embroidery, crochet,cross stitch, pearl embroidery and what not. She was a DIY expert. Stitching tote bags from extra blouse pieces , Potli bags from silk scrap, making table clothes. She with my mom as a partner - sewed fancy frocks for me and my dolls! Her little two suitcases carried her collections of small art pieces she would preserve to create new ideas.

In those two suitcases there used to be a small A4 size thick folder, which was the most exciting thing for me. It had hundreds of cut outs of designs and patterns apart from some booklets on how to create various patterns of Rangoli. We bonded the best when it came to creating Rangolis during Diwali days. She would cut different designs from newspapers,magazines, even borders of sarees for the year and then we would do some research before Diwali to decide on which day which Rangoli we would create - combining different patterns. Of course I was her 'Active hands', as she could never sit on the floor for hours or even bend -hence a chair would be placed for her exactly beside that huge 'Gheru' patch on which she would reside to guide me. Her inability to bend or sit on the floor did not stop her. Maa taught me how to apply Gheru, draw using chalk sticks, how to draw a circle with the use of a string, how to make multicolored background or a unique shade of a color from the previous Rangoli. She would be so protective of my creations that she would not let kids of my society play around it. Even today, a Rangoli creation by me never gets finished without mentioning her.

Maa was a very specialized cook too. In a way, a foodie who never binged. She would take out recipes developed by her self, from the rusty looking handwritten note books on special days/seasons and teach my mom to cook all of them. Her great observing skills would detect the perfect red shade of the Atta on the tava and give my mom a signal to pour in the hot sugar syrup. For every sweet dish recipe she had her own skill set to rectify,if anything goes wrong. My mom still dishes out the meanest Mohanthal thanks to her recipe.

Apart from her such multi-talented personality, she had some other super human (as I call them) traits as well. She never generalized based on religions or faiths- I do not remember even one incident of her commenting or debating about such trivial subjects negatively. She never had time to do gossip or back biting, at least in my presence. To me, she was the most open minded person of our family - not even me, my brother or my parents can achieve that limit.We all have our own small biases.She was also the emotionally strongest person of our family, never found her tear eyed or found her cribbing about any personal issues- including health. (I think she still holds this title!) She did not believe in keeping a temple at home, which itself was and is a revolutionary idea. No, she was not an atheist, she worshiped Tulsi, Ghee laden brass lamps and occasionally followed Lakshmi Pujas and Satyanarayan Pujas at home. She had very deep faith in God but surprisingly never tried to rub off on any of us - including my mom. Those hundreds of fasts never happened at our place because we were given liberty to choose wisely as per our own faith. My mother was never asked to do any fasting or follow any food restrictions ever in the name of the tradition, by my grandparents. Such open mindless and the willingness to give liberties to all the family members of next generation (specially to my mom) to develop a home of their own, is found rarely even in today.

I believe, Maa was born in a wrong generation with such a unique set of a Heart (or Art?) and a Brain. Or may be she was born for us. For us kids, to get inspired to live in the world create a better world/ a home around us and to never stop learning as well as innovating.

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