You are never too old for a vacation at your grandma's. The Kolkata diaries

Dinner with my beautiful grandma

June 2017, Kolkata

It's a bit past midnight and I am at my grandmother's house in Kolkata. I thought I will come over and spend some time with her as she was by herself this week after her attendant went on leave. 

1980, Calcutta

My grandparents had moved into Kolkata at about the same time that my parents and tiny me had moved into Kolkata. My brother was not born then. I was my maternal grandparent's first grandchild and was pampered by everyone.

My grandfather had just retired from his job in Delhi. They had moved to Kolkata and were staying on rent in a house which was close to where my mama, and their son, used to work and which was in the deep suburbs. 

On weekends my parents would sometimes drop me there to spend my holidays with my grandparents. I was about 8 years old then. The house where I am tonight, and which my grandfather had built, is located beside the house where they stayed on rent. I have seen this house come up brick by brick and remember being fascinated when the workers would dig up the soil to lay the foundation and find snails there. My grandpa would tell me stories when I would come over and my grandma would cook me lovely dishes of which luchi and chholar dal and triangular parathas with a bowl of ketchup were my favourites.

I would come to the new house when it was built on vacations and on weekends and happened to be here the day my father passed away. My mother moved in here with my brother and me after that day and we stayed here for a year. Then, encouraged by my grandfather, who apparently wanted us to not grow up feeling obligated to anyone, my mother bought a small apartment close by to which the three of us moved to. My grandparents would come over every evening to look after us when we were back from school and waiting for my mother to come back from work. 

My uncle got married and as did my aunts and more grandchildren followed and we had more cousins though most of them are a lot younger than me.

On festive days we would assemble at my grandparent's house though, for some reason, I never spent another night there. Our own house was close by and I preferred to return to my own room at night I guess. 

When I moved out to Mumbai and would come to Kolkata on breaks, I would make it a point to visit them but I would stay either at home or, if my mother was not in town, then at hotels or with my friends, as those would be more central places to stay in and more comfortable too to be honest.

When my wife would come to town with me then she would come over to visit my grandparents too. 

With time, the house became emptier as it happens in every family thanks to marriage and migration.

My grandfather. The mug is from his 90th birthday when I happened to be in town
They have put a printout of the blog post I had written on him after he passed away
beside his picture

Then one day my grandfather passed away and since then my granny has been living largely alone in the large house except for the times when my mother and aunt come to visit her from out of town and when my aunt who lives in Kolkata comes to visit her. I've managed to make quite a few short trips to the city in the last couple of years and try to spend as much time with didu, as I call her, as I can as that is the purpose of my trips. 

Back to the present

This time I felt that I should spend a few days with her. The idea of her being alone at night made me feel bad though she even called me up to tell me, 'don't worry about me. I am brave. I have two gurus looking after me. One my own (Ram Thakur) and one you people follow, I don't know his name.""

She was referring to president of the Buddhist organisation that we are a member of.

I was really keen to go and visit her. Yesterday , K and I checked our frequent flyer points and miraculously we found enough points to cover a round trip for me to Kolkata and that too at such short notice. It's amazing things work out when you are are really keen for them to do.

Feeling snug in my grandpa's room

And that is the story of how I landed up to tonight at my grandmom's place, three decades after I last spent a night here.

I am keying in this post in my grandfather's room. The room where I had once spent hours listening to stories from him. He had opened my eyes to the world and had inculcated the habit of reading in me. His book shelves, which were once filled with books that belonged to my aunt, which he would urge me to read and would read from to are largely empty. Of the few book I spotted there today, one was my own and that felt wonderful.

My sleeping arrangements have been made in the room where my granny watches TV through the day. She said I can watch it if I feel bored. Though to be honest, my grandpa's room feels comforting, warm and snug and I thought that I will sit on his bed and write before I call it a day.

I am sure dadu would be happy to see my book at his book shelf

Sometimes I feel that we are really spoilt in Bandra where I live and where everything is a phone call away. It is quite of a struggle for my grandmom to get things done and to get provisions here in the suburbs of Kolkata. She is is still living, for example, on the vegetables and fish that her attendant shopped for a week back before she went on leave. 

Things are easier nowadays if one uses apps though. I use Ola and Uber now here which makes transport not not s bother anymore but for my granny or my mom or my aunt who can't use these apps, travel from here and is a struggle. 

The 'Natraj eraser' biryani from the Aminia at Malancha

Today I used Swiggy to order in my dinner and was amazed at how fast the 'Natraj eraser' (since the meat tasted like rubber) biryani from Aminia reached. With her attendant not around I didn't want didu to bother about my food. I coaxed her to take some rice and alu from the biryani along with her more simpler dinner.

Didu is fiercely independent. At the end of the meal she has her routine sorted. She washes her hands in a bowl kept on the table for that purpose and then reaches for the door of the fridge while sitting on the chair, opens it and puts back the food that is left in it.

I checked for deliver apps such as Big Basket and they too seem to deliver here. These appas which seems so obvious to us are intimidating to the elderly but figuring a way to use them would be great and I plan to do so.

Didu went off to sleep immediately after dinner. She sweetly told me that I can watch TV. 

I don't watch TV anymore though so did what I used to do on Mondays at school after I spent my weekends with my grandparents. 

Write a diary note on what I did when I was here. 

I was walking past the hall in my granny's house when
I saw this frame which was just waiting to be clicked
PS This is a very personal post but if you still do read it and spot typos then do let me know as it is rather late at night right now