Letters from My Grandmother – A Memory Marked in My Heart!
Letters – have you ever written one? Do you remember sitting on your couch, holding a pen in your one hand and a piece of paper in the other, all set to pen down your emotions to someone you really loved? I do. I remember writing and receiving letters from my grandmother and they are my best childhood memory.
In the age of digital media where one is just a Whats App message away, I am sure some have almost forgotten that letters use to be the most powerful and beloved mode of communication at one point of time. And, I am not talking about centuries ago, it was only a handful of decades ago. Although landline phones had been introduced to humankind somewhere around 1880 and they also reached India by 1882 having a total number of 93 subscribers, they became a common commodity in India around the 1980s (at least for the middle class). And, in the 90s they reached the heart of a common household.
We had our first landline in 1996. Before the 90s, not many middle-class homes had their own landline phones. The middle-class neighbourhoods used to have one or two phones in the community and people used to share their numbers with neighbours so that their loved ones could reach them in the hour of need. Those were the good old days, when people lived as a community and cared for each other but soon the technology made way to our lives and we lost touch with anything real in a way.
I remember we had recently moved to a new house, from a joint family set-up to a nuclear one and I was suddenly alone. My parents were working and I missed my grandmother dearly. I wanted to be with her, to listen to her stories, to have her caring hands stroking my hair and to just have her around. The little things that she did that annoyed me earlier were suddenly a fond memory and I wanted all that back.
But, our letters gave us the connection that had been broken by her moving with my uncle. I remember when my father first announced that a letter had been received from my Dadi and she had dedicated one full side of that little blue space to me. She wanted to know how I was doing, how my studies were going, if I was having that tasteless milk every day on time and if I had made any new friends or not? I was more of an introvert who liked the comfort of my home more than the games that kids my age played outside. Those blue coloured letters were my connection with my grandmother, whom I believed I loved more than my mother (childish but it felt more real than the light of the sun to me).
Although I was too young to know much about the art of writing but I certainly knew how to write. I was maybe seven years old or younger when the first letter arrived. A new wave of hope just thrilled me. Writing letters was the most convenient and perhaps the only way possible to stay in touch with my grandmother. In my letters, I would repeatedly tell my Dadi how much I missed her and how I was counting days to my next school holidays so that we could spend time together. I would complain against my mother in some and would talk about the new dress that she bought me in others. Each letter would have a mention of my mother but not in a positive light. I had difficulty connecting with my mother because I believed she neither understood me nor was much interested in knowing me. For me, my grandmother was everything and nothing else mattered.
My parents were the most loving parents one can ever have (don’t get me wrong) but the charm of having a Dadi is something else. It just melts your heart when she tells your mom to take care of you, to cook for you, to give you milk (I wish my grandmother didn’t force my mother to give me milk twice a day) but suddenly, I even missed not having the milk.
Speaking to her every day was only a dream and I could meet her only during the holidays. Be it summer holidays or the winter break, I used to count days that I will get to spend with her during holidays. My memories with her include having mangoes together, watching mythological shows together, picking jasmine flowers at four in the morning and then doing the Pooja with those flowers, her telling me stories of Raja Harishchandra and Lord Rama, and I singing to her while giving her a foot massage. The most gloomy day of the season used to be the day when my father would come to take me back to Delhi. On the way back, I used to start thinking about what I would say to her in my next letter.
Time passed but our letters continued, every other week I would either write to her or will receive one from her. It was also the time when the 90s music was getting momentum. In 1992, I was 8 years old and I wrote a letter to my grandmother, she was in Jaipur those days. In that letter, I wrote the lyrics of a new movie song to her and the reply that came after two weeks was beyond my imagination.
In that letter, my Dadi reprimanded me, only a couple of lines were written to me and that full-page had been written to my father where my Dadi scolded him for letting me get so influenced by the modern music. She was appalled that I was writing a song’s lyrics as my expression of love to her (it sounds funny now but at that time it was hard for me to understand why she was so upset). I was told to concentrate on my studies and my mother had been instructed to pay more attention to what I see on TV and how I perceive the same.
My family had no issues with me watching TV, but it had to be interpreted correctly and thus, had to be explained correctly by my parents. She loved me I knew and such was the extent of her love that my 40- something-year-old father had been given good 2 cents by my Dadi about upbringing a kid.
Our letters never stopped, we kept writing to each other. I would talk about school, new projects, a handful of school friends and about my mother and she would write back to encourage me to study more diligently and to communicate more with my mother. It was those letters that kept me going in the hours when I used to be alone at home. Just a bit of praise or disapproval from her would put me back in my tracks. I would do everything assessing how my Dadi would respond to that action and would refrain from anything that I feared would annoy her.
And then the landline phone entered our home in 1996. It probably was the most ecstatic moment of my life. My Dadi already had one and having a phone at home meant I could hear her voice anytime. I could complain about my parents (how stupid) and I could share my emotions (my all over the place emotions) with her. The letters stopped after that. The telephone had taken over writing but those calls had to be succinct as the bills were high. It was not enough for me to hear her voice for merely 2 minutes in a couple of days but it was still worth it. Our letters kept us aligned in the years when I was growing up and the telephone brought us even closer but given a choice, I would still take writing to her over calling.
With age, I understood my mother better and our relationship was more than ideal. She loved me more than anything in the world and I loved her more than life. But, somewhere the right lessons being taught by my Dadi played a great role in fixing my blurred relationship with my mother who was a beautiful and caring human being but it took me 15 years of my life to understand the same.
My Dadi is not with us anymore but I still have a couple of her letters with me. I can feel her warmth and love in the words she wrote and how she always gave significant moral lessons in her letters written to me.
Do you remember a letter that showed you the right path in life? A letter written by anyone that gave you the right amount of motivation when you most needed it? If yes, then trust me, you are one of the blessed ones. Go to that person and thank them for being them. Tell them you love them and that you are forever indebted to them.
Till our next read, stay tuned, stay happy and keep spreading love.