© Subhashini

Notes From Garden and Life 

  • subhashini

In Memory of my Grandmother, Suseela.

Today marks eleven years since our ajji/ pati passing away. Pati is my mother in law’s mom. She was Suseela to most relatives even those younger to her. My husband called her amma and to me and my son, she was pati. I lived with her for nearly 17 years, that I find it difficult to say, my husband’s grandmother. She is my own.

Pati was born in an era where educating a girl child, that too a widow was considered a sacrilege. She was 9 years old when she got married and was widowed by 18, with two daughters. My MIL was the eldest.

A year and a half after her husband passing (untimely death due to cholera) pati took a religious trip to Sagar leaving her daughters behind. The younger one fell sick and died. With no way to communicate those days, pati came home two days later to find that the daughter had died and also cremated. It was beyond grief for her. She was devastated.

Pati’s mother, Vishalaththe( should dedicate another post for her), decided that she should not suffer living under the umbrella of her siblings or relatives. She made her complete her education. Pati completed the minimum school requirement required those days and then took to teacher training. She became a Geography/Kannada teacher, worked in government schools in Karnataka until she retired. The place that was close to her heart, was a town on the outskirts of Bangalore, called Yelahanka. That is one of the things she has written in the sheet below.

She owned a big house in Thyagarthi, Sagar district, which she gave away to the local Rama temple when she realised she could no longer go back to living there. It was called the Shanbogh’s house, and was well known in the community. Pati was an independent woman, a respected teacher and a stoic person. The adversities she faced, made her philosophical. She saw everyone pass away before her. Her daughters, siblings, niece, nephews,cousins, sons and daughters she brought up as her own- she called it the curse of having a long life.

She was an ardent reader of Kannada newspaper Prajavani, collecting a lot of tidbits from it which she found was interesting. She would wear her mother’s glasses, which was short of one ear, to read the paper. She would consume all the news, from politics to sports. Nothing missed her eye.

6 months before she passed on, she had a mild stroke. Her speech was affected with tremor in her hands. She remembered us but forgot the names. The best part was she knew she had a stroke. The thing that she did not forget was Kannada. One fine day she asked for a pen and paper, (everything was in sign language) and started to write down the Kannada letters. Every day she persevered. Around the same time my father also passed away. It was my husband's cousin Usha who came to help us in that difficult time.

Pati’s remembered she had to sign a life certificate to receive her pension. She had forgotten how to sign. I would show her the cheque book, and other papers where her signature was there. She started practising and slowly got it back. She was afraid she’d forget it. She would keep signing every day to make sure it doesn't fade from memory. The month of November arrived, and on my request, the bank manager came home to meet her in person. She signed the certificate confidently. The manager was overwhelmed at her will power and was moved to tears. That the deed was done, the next day onwards, she refused food. Fifteen days later she was one with nature.

She flowed like a river and joined the sea. Days later when I gathered her belongings, it all fit inside a bag. That is all we will finally be, a bag of memories.

The picture of her meditating in the garden is something that speaks of who she was and is a favourite photo of mine. The other pictures containing the slate and eraser was her mode of communication in the last six months. Seen along are her mother’s glasses, tidbits from the Prajawani, the hymn book, and her diary where she recorded every event of her life.