Sunday, February 25, 2007

It's old and faded now...

Although we always felt a little sad for her by that point in our visit when Dorakanti grandmother would lament that though she had yearned for daughters all her life, all she had been given were six sons and that was why she loved her granddaughters so much; my sister and I would remain stiff and unbending. We had heard that Dorakanti grandmother had been mean to our mother when she was a new daughter-in-law and that made her eternally unpleasant in our eyes. We wouldn’t even be there unless our father hadn’t unwrapped himself from around our little fingers, which is where he spent most of our childhood years, unfurled his parental authority and insisted that we spend some time with his mother.

We were stiff as scarecrows inside Dorakanti grandmother’s embrace, stiff and unfriendly to the children from next door summoned to play with us, and our interactions with the special snacks made for us were cursory. We paid attention when it was story time, but even then silently, and only because it was dark and no one could see our eyes stirring to the story, the punctuating “umms” that were our duty as audience, needlessly parsimonious and slow.

Dorakanti grandmother’s stories were strange in that they never began with a “once upon a time.” They all began, “in a place,” “in a village,” “in a town.” It was as if these stories where the prince fell in love with the princess after chancing upon just one filament of her preternaturally long and fragrant hair, or where the young prince battled tigers to impress his mother--as if these stupid, unnatural things had happened just a few weeks before we came to visit.

And at the end of the story when the prince married the princess or the young prince was crowned, there would be a big celebration and grandmother would launch her punch line. “That was when they presented me with this sari,” she would say, holding her sari out for us to touch, hoping we would scoot closer to her. “It’s old and faded now, but it was rich and shiny when they gave it to me.” And we’d reach for her sari politely enough, even knowing that our fingers would be snatched up and kissed, but we’d remain curled up around ourselves, my sister‘s hand in mine.

Although willing myself to fall asleep, knowing dad would take us home the next day, I would remain conscious on the periphery of my sleep, of grandmother stroking our limbs and making sure to straighten them before she left the room. Stretching each leg in the half darkness to its furthest length so that while we slept we‘d grow tall--unlike her and unlike our father.



Bengali Chick said...

I like these stories. Now I am off to get a defintion for "Dorakanti."

Anonymous said...

So cute :-) You tried so hard to dislike grandma but a little bit of fondness has seeped thru. I have a grandma like that. Has caused a lot of misery to too many people in life. I want to shake her sometimes but she's a frail little stick holding thing and looks almost like the gradma that owns Tweety and it just makes me laugh a little. I can't imagine her being evil to anyone but she was once upon a time when she was young and fiesty.