When I was a little girl, I used to wait eagerly for summer vacations because we would be visiting our grandmother after a long time; a kutty break from just home and school. We would run behind hens or go on a cocoa seed collecting hunt with cousins, and the list of activities goes on and on. My home town is a semi-rural place; most people here are engaged in farming or other rural works like pottery or rubber nursery. Even though there is a paddy field near my home, I was restricted by my Appa because he was scared that I might get bitten by a snake or attacked by some insects. So I was always inside my home with my toys, books or computer.
My grandmother was an old woman; I always remember her as a sweet, strong and independent grey-haired woman. I do not have much memory of my grandfather. The first day at Grandma’s place would be fun. There were thirteen of us who came together for vacation. All of us lovingly called our grandmother “Annakunju“. The first sentence that would come from her mouth would be, “Chinnu, you have grown so thin. You should become more like Aleesha.” Aleesha is one of my favourite cousins; she was the only chubby one among us, and Annakunju was so proud of her.
In the backyard of her home, there were many trees of different species ranging from Cashewnuts, Gooseberries, Cocoa, Lychee etc.; we would wake up early in the morning to collect cashew nuts and cocoa seeds. It was a competition among us kids because she would reward the team who collected more. She would experiment with making Maggie and add more masalas to it from her side to enhance the taste. She would take us to the little pond near the mountain; we would swim and play there, splashing water at each other. I used to love hearing stories from her. She would talk about the time she was married at 15 and the struggles she had to go through being a young mother and her works at the farm and all about her Appachan and her in-laws.
As I grew older, the time I spend there also decreased. My family went to Saudi Arabia for three years, and I missed my Annakunju more than anything. I waited eagerly for vacations to come back to India, but we used to stay at her place for two or three days, and our cousins wouldn’t be there. When we came back to India on exit, I was happy that I could spend more time there, but my school days and my home works and assignments also increased. Yet, that lady visited all her kids in an ambassador car carrying a big lump of tapioca or jack fruit along with many varieties of banana which she grew herself in the backyard.
In the year 2020, she slipped and fell in the kitchen, the bone on her hip was injured, and she could not sit or stand. I still remember the last time I saw her. Like always, all of us came to her home, but this time I didn’t know that I was seeing her for the last time. She didn’t call our names, but she stared at all of us. I wish if I could hear her voice one more time, calling us out our names or complaining about how lean I looked even now. Aleesha, a medical student now, was lucky enough to take care of her on her last days. That day, Annakunju breathed her last as we stood there watching her soul leave her body and all of us standing around her chanting, “Essho mariyam ouseppe ee athmavin kootarikanne” (Jesus Mary Joseph be with the departed soul always and forever). I didn’t want to see her lying on that bed lifeless. I wanted to remember her running around with us, smiling and narrating stories with us, but I couldn’t look at her face, which was so pale and lifeless. She didn’t smile or opened her eyes again.
I don’t want to think that she died, but she is at a better place where she can take care of her cows and trees and everything else. If we are born to this world then one fine day we are to say goodbye, nobody can stop that but memories never say goodbye, do they?
Randomly missed my Annakunju and thought I should write about her.