S Meenakshi (1917-2010)

As I sit here, in yet another quintessentially Tambram function, observing several folks busying themselves with rituals, odd jobs and other paraphernalia, listening to brusque orders given by a couple of priests who are constantly interrupted by their mobile phones, with custom sloka ringtones, I almost entirely forget that the event is actually a funeral. Tambrams have a way of turning every festival, every celebration and even every death into a homogenous sequence of homams (havans), coconuts, kalasams (brass vessel), priests and arcane minutiae in no particular order. Somebody who isn’t steeped in this tradition can easily confuse a wedding with a funeral.

I am told that this particular event is called “Kirekkiyam” and that the 13th day after a person’s death is the day that they are finally sent off, with food, clothes and an assortment of fortifying mantras, to their next birth. There is nothing about this function, and every preceding one (the 9th and the 10th days) that brings people’s attention to the person who has passed away. There are no memorials, no remembrances and barring the obligatory entry in the The Hindu obituary column (curiously located on the sports page), no collective declaration of any sort that the person who has died will be missed.

I suppose that an ailing 93 year old’s death is, in a strangely rational way, not an occasion for too much grief. In fact, the person who just died used to tell me that the 2 week sequence of highly elaborate rituals that happen post-death serve the social function of diminishing grief as it keeps people busy while letting the oldest psychological medicine in the world, time, do its work.

This 93 year old was my paternal grandmother, Meenakshi. The gender insensitive customs of her era had forced her to declare herself a widow when she lost her husband by adding “Ammal” next to her name, but I am going to dispense with that for now.

I’ve generally stayed away from personal and autobiographical posts for a long while now, but I am going to make an exception for this lady because as a child growing up in a family where both parents went to work, I (and my brothers) are products entirely of her upbringing, and she is, in large part, responsible for this blog (at least, the few nice parts of it). In the interest of readability, I’ve split this post into several anecdotal paragraphs, each of which can be read in any order at any time.

Meenakshi Paati (or simply Paati as we knew her) was born in 1917 in Nagercoil, then part of the Travancore state in British-India and spent the best time of her life going to a convent school for a brief period till she was ready to be married off. Notice how we Indians say “I got my daughter married off”, with the “off” serving to indicate the transfer of property rights over a human being to the groom’s family. One day, when she as 13, she was asked to serve a not-so-young gentleman visitor some coffee, which she did and then asked her grandmother who the man was. She was told that the 31 year old widower that she had just served coffee to was going to be her husband. She protested but some “bug” in her horoscope meant that she had to get married to a widower.

She had her first child when she was 15 and by the age of 25, her family was complete with 5 children, the youngest being my father. Her precocious younger brother went on to do his PhD at Carnegie-Mellon (in the 1940s) and became a highly respected research scientist. She, on the other hand, ran a household with 20 children as she took into her fold several nephews and nieces who had lost their mothers early. Her husband was an aberration, a not-very-educated, atheist Iyer businessman (ever heard that combination before?) who ran a thriving petrol pump business in Tirunelveli before letting the depression arising from the questionable death of his eldest daughter at her in-laws place run his business to the ground, taking with it all land, savings and towards the end, Meenakshi’s jewellery as well. She finally left Gopalasamudram, where she had lived for over 50 years of her life, and moved in with my father at Madras in 1971.

What I find remarkable about her personality was what she was *not*, despite the rigid orthodoxy of her upbringing. No, she did not sit under a Peepul tree and have an epiphany but she lived her entire life with a sense of wonder at the world that never diminished despite the early loss of her father, the grind of married life, the cruel culling of her desire to study (she loved reading), the multiple tragedies of one mentally retarded son and the suspicious death of her favourite (and pregnant) daughter at her in-laws place and the financial woes of her late husband.

Her greatest strength was the ability to not be rigid about anything, not her beliefs, not tradition or for that matter, her opinions.

I am reminded of a few years ago, when we took her back to Gopalasamudram, her last ever visit to the village where she spent most of her life. We stopped at a distant relative’s house in the agraharam and since there was another 90 year old lady living there, we felt that these two might hit it off, speak about the old times et al. I was eavesdropping on their conversation and I heard the other lady say this (and I translate) – “Nowadays, not many people live in this agraharam”. I didn’t quite understand that. After all, almost all the houses seemed to be populated. My grandmother’s smiling response eventually clarified it for me. She said – “All these folks here are people too”. In case you did not quite understand that exchange, let me “translate”. The other lady had said – “Nowadays, too many non-brahmins live in the agraharam”. Apparently, they did not qualify to be “people” in her estimation. She assumed that a another 90 year old from her generation might share her bias. Her response, without the need to make the situation uncomfortable was – “Aren’t the folks living nowadays in this street people too?”. The other lady quickly changed the topic. She had this unique ability to package profundity without seeming pompously intelligent.

No sane parent would have entrusted their kids to her for the simple reason that she never stopped them from doing anything except the most dangerous things. She sat back and let us creatively (and often highly inappropriately) express ourselves, embarrass our parents, relatives and in general try everything there is to try and getting bored of it ourselves instead of being mollycoddled, pampered and closeted. We grew up without boundaries of propriety being defined for us ahead of time. When we did something improper, she would tell us that it was wrong, but never before we did it.

Uncharitable people might call her naive, but I prefer to call it a constant belief in the possibility of progress. Having seen a light bulb only when she as 60 or so, she did not, like most other people from her generation, close herself from science and technology and live in an artificial world of their own, frozen in time at the moment of their greatest comfort. She continued to wonder at how large objects lift themselves off the ground, how TV works and how operations could fix her cataract problems. About 7-8 years ago when I video chatted with her for the 1st time on Skype from the US, the 86 year old Meenakshi Paati’s immense curiosity and wonder were still there. When I came back to India, she wanted to understand how this internet thing works, and if 7 year olds could have a tenth of her enthusiasm to learn about the brave new world that’s always beyond the horizon of their current understanding, they’d all become astronauts and video game designers.

She once asked me what job I did and I attempted to explain – rather unsuccessfully.

When I got married, despite younger relatives pressurizing my wife to procreate quickly, she was the only one who told her to focus on her career and when she felt like it, have maybe, a kid or two. Having lived an entire life pinching pennies and being a second-class citizen as a result of her gender, her proudest moment was when one of her granddaughters went the IIT-IIM route and landed a job whose starting salary continued to amaze her till the very end of her life. Many women from her generation silently feel proud of their daughters’ achievements but somehow are still reluctant to change the marriage-resign-deliver-kids routine that women are consigned to. When she saw what her granddaughter achieved, she was quick to adapt her advice to girls. Her first question on meeting any young working woman would be the rather inappropriate – “How much salary are you earning?” and would then followed by “Continue working, and don’t be in a hurry to give up all of this for marriage and kids”. When successful career women advice young girls this way, it’s good for them, but it’s only when women like my grandmother, who’ve never experienced financial independence in their lives undergo this shift of mindset that serious change becomes possible.

I’d call her highly tolerant and broadminded, but those are vapid expressions that don’t capture the essence of a complex human being. The best I can do is say that she was alive to possibilities. In the back of her mind, despite what tradition demanded of her, she knew that all of these rituals and customs were obsolete bunkum, frozen in their own time, reluctant to be contemporarily relevant, but she was never brazen in her opposition to them. She played along and was a model, nine-yard-saree wearing woman who enjoyed MS Subbulakshmi while secretly admiring Michael Jackson because in her mind, she still believed that Jackson had overcome the barriers of slavery to be successful. Sometime in 2003 I had discovered a band named System of a Down. I decided to see if there were limits to her ability to find excitement in anything new that she discovered. Now, Chop Suey is unlike anything that a 88 year old Tambram woman is likely to have heard and in general, metal and rock tend to be categorized as industrial noise among elderly Tambrams. I put the headphones on her, and after about a minute or so, she said – “This must be very difficult to play no?”. No criticism. No dismissal as incoherent noise. Just a recognition that there must be something good in things she did not quite understand.

She was a voracious reader. As long as her eyes held out, she had a book in her hand. For someone who studied till class 7 before getting married, it’s incredible that she could read Tamil, Malayalam, English and Sanskrit and while she enjoyed RK Narayan and Sudha Murthy for their simplicity, she never shied away from trying to read heavier tomes in English. In keeping with her philosophy, she never gave up reading anything she did not grasp. She lived her life with the constant assumption that there will always be new and exciting things that she may never understand and, like her response to System of a Down, she refused to criticize things she did not fully appreciate.

Another unique way in which she was different from the rest of her generation was her private belief that “old was not gold”. She was more the “old is mold” sort of person. Her only problem with modern times was the cost of stuff. She preferred the trappings of modern life but wished that gold would cost the same Rs 13/8 grams that it did back when her grandfather made jewellery for her. Inflation is one of those concepts I was never able to convincingly explain to her (apart from the Software industry, of course), but perhaps that reveals my ignorance of economics more than her inability to understand it.

While she was ailing, I decided to shoot a few videos in an attempt to capture a bit of her wisdom for posterity, and this bit, I felt, was worth sharing. Despite her flexibility with rituals and custom, she was a deeply spiritual person and I asked her what exactly devotion meant. “Bhakti”, she said, comes in three varieties. The first one is about praying for material success. Money, land, career etc. It’s usually accompanied by rituals of various kinds, sacrifices in the past, homams and poojas in the present. The kind of devotion higher than that is to pray for one’s own mental strength and the fortitude required to lead a peaceful life. This happens when people read the Upanishads and realize that it’s all really about the inner self and things like that. The last, and the highest kind of devotion, she said, is to pray for the wellbeing of everything around you. And she ended by qualifying all of this with a “That’s the way our ancestors saw it. The rest of the world might see it differently, and they might be equally correct too”

I write this while being interrupted once in a while by a bunch of priests performing the 13th day rituals of her passing away. One of her hobbies, in the last decade or so, was reading the Obit column in The Hindu to see if anyone she knew from her generation had died, and even kept count. Eventually, she had outlived all of them, and in her memory, the rest of the family conducted an elaborate series of rituals she wouldn’t really have cared for.

She was a story teller par extraordinaire. Every lunch of mine from when I was a year old to a shameful 11 years old was accompanied by a side dish of enthralling tales from the epics, stories from Tamil magazines she read (Serialized tales in Ananda Vikatan) and even randomly made up tales featuring me and my brothers as heroes (Yes, we liked hearing those). I would also ask her to tell me tales from the Asura perspective, and she would, without telling me off for preferring the dark side 🙂

Most Tambrams associate their grandfathers with Hindu crosswords, Wordsworth, Test match cricket and a passionate love for intellectual pursuits. Most grandmothers are remembered for their killer Sambar, special avials and delectable snacks. Meenakshi was never interested in cooking. She had managed a household of some 20 kids and her sense of proportion of salt and spices never really re-adjusted to a small nuclear family, but I will only remember her for the vastness of her knowledge (ah, the number of times she has politely corrected pompous maamas’ pronunciations on tradition and custom), and the boundless curiosity that lulled everyone into thinking that she was simply yet another behind-the-scenes denizen of the kitchen.

This blog is dedicated to her. No, not the Lonely Planet rants or the scathing criticism of Phir Mile Sur. That’s not her. She would have said – “Poor guys, Lonely Planet. They just don’t know about Chennai. Leave them be” and “Good effort by the new Phir Mile Sur producers but I don’t think it’s as good as the original” and left it at that. She would also offer angry commenters some filter coffee

ps: I had a bunch of other things to post, but they had to wait because I wanted to do this first

299 Comments

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  1. Respect. And, needless to say, such souls never die. They merely go on to find newer, exciting places and things than there are in this world.

  2. I can actually to a great extent identify with this. Even my grandmother has incredible strength of character. And like you said, she too is like a sponge, absorbing everything and criticizing very little.

    That post could not paint a better picture of the kind of woman she was. It took me on a beautiful journey. If she lived to read this, she would’ve been incredibly proud of you 🙂

    Hope you and your family has the strength to handle this loss.

  3. Truly touching. Some men and women from that generation leave such a mark, being open to changes they witness. I think they are blessed with such wisdom right from birth.

  4. The world could use more people like her. We could all learn something. Here’s to an amazing woman

  5. Really touching post, Mr. Krish. All our grandmothers sacrificed so much for others’ lives, and were content seeing them prosper. I doubt if there was ever an element of jealousy (maybe regret too) in them. Unfortunately the society of those days never gave them their due!

  6. Great post. Eye opener in the sense that I could connect and reflect on my kollu paati s talks to your paati 🙂 . Thank you.

  7. May her soul rest in peace.
    I am glad you took time to pen this.

    Very moving account; Very similar to the story of my grandmother who passed away in 2005 at the age of 88. Those generations had a lot in common and adjusted a lot. Yes, The english aspect was less but she made it up with interaction. Also I was brought up by my grand parents. Yes. I was much more attached to my grandfather but yes the love my grandmother showed was no less.
    Thanks
    Karthik
    Bangalore.

  8. Do accept my condolences. She seems to have been a fantastic paati.
    And you’re bang on about the rituals… absolutely no connection to the dear departed…

  9. I wish more people could be like this great lady whom I wish I had met. What a great place this would be if everyone of us had that enthusiasm and the zeal that she had. *bows*

  10. Such paati’s are indeed rare to find. Hats off to the lady. Wonderfully written as well. Also, thanks for reminding me of my childhood days at my paati’s home !

  11. Krish, I am sorry for your loss. I understand the loss of your grandmother as my paternal grandmom passed in the beginning quarter of 2008. Writing this must have been very difficult for you. Your description of her has changed my idea on how the older generation was. May her soul rest in peace.

  12. Hi Krish,

    These rituals do have some meaning and context. Have you tried to figure out what they mean? Being a tambram myself I recently did all these rituals for my father. All the rituals are in someway for remembering the dead. Ultimately it all depends upon how much you believe in them.

    Magesh
    Ashok: I am not saying they don’t. It’s the way it gets done. Perhaps at some point in the past, it was done the right way. Nowadays at least, they just don’t focus on the individual, but simply on a bunch of steps that are to be followed blindly line by line. The priest in this case also composed a memorial sloka for her and read it out and explained it to us all. Even with my CBSE class X level Sanskrit, I knew he was making no sense. For instance, he called the season of her death “Shishir Ritu”, which means “winter”. Yes, April 2nd in Chennai is apparently “winter”. The least I could do was interrupt him and correct him. He refused to accept and even told me that Sanskrit seasons dont work like English seasons. But then, Sanskrit or English, common sense always works. I later showed him the Wikipedia entry on the 6 seasons and told him that Apr 2 comes under “Vasanta Ritu” and not “Shishir Ritu”. At that point, the entire event was already over, so he saw no point in making any corrections. It’s this combination of ignorant stubbornness and blind adherence to 2000 year old scripture that, more than anything, insults the memory of a lady who was just not like that at all

    1. Krish.. i have had my own confrontations with vadhyaars.. they just change the names in the shloka (charma shlokam) this i found when i attended 2 Kriekkiyams in a week .. rather than reading out the sloka they can ask ppl to say a few words. Thats what my dad did when my grandfather passed away. After the vadhyar finished with his shloka he took a few minutes and spoke about my Tatha.

      1. It’s true that on the Shubasweegaranam day -10 th day, the vadhyar reads of the palan the departed would get as per the tithi on the day of death.
        As Hari said, we have the practice of most of the family members either reading out or giving extempore speech on the departed ‘s good governance, his contribution to the family even if a close member is not present his write up features in the ceremony thanks to the fast communications.
        Even at the time of 60, 80 th birthdays, reading a poem or jovial poems ,anecdotes are read out. Instead of PPP, a collage or display of a collection of photographs is done. what else can a departed find except his departure done decently!

    2. Pardon my ignorance of the particular shlokas, but could the reference to the season be more of a figurative thing?

    3. Recently my patti too passed away and I observed some of the rituals. On the 10th day, there is some time allotted for what is called “Pura Kathanam”, which the vadhyar said was what had morphed into “pilakkanam” in tamil. This was a time specifically for talking about the departed person’s traits and what it meant for the members etc. And my athais especially did recount incidents from the past. And this is the part where we did not sanskrit. I guess if we could understand sanskrit, we would appreciate more.

      Also even with Vadhyars, the level of interest they show depends on the level of interest we show as well.

  13. It is quite unbelievable that a Tambram paati could be as liberal-minded and curious about the world around her. For me, the Chop Suey anecdote alone caused the persona of Meenakshi Paati to skyrocket to legendary status. What a stellar post, man. Much respect, as bigfatphoenix mentioned above.

  14. Excellent Tribute…. My deepest condolences. After reading this post, I feel I have missed something very important in my life. All I know of my grandparents is mostly from my parents, aunts & uncles. I was too young when I was with them leaving very few memories. All my grandparents died before i could get any wisdom like you & I realize how much I miss not having to know them.

  15. Lovely post…beautifully written and captures a beautiful person. The history of our women is the history of lost opportunities, and yet, despite such adversity, your grandmother’s story is a story of such hope and courage.

  16. Krish.. heart felt condolences.. thanks for the post.. paati taught me a lesson -“never criticize things u do not appreciate”. Just remembered my paati.

  17. Wow…Bought tears to my eyes! Your patti is one amazing lady! All pattis are like this no…Simple and admirable… I am reminded of my Ranganayaki Patti, who I lost 5 years back…The person who didn’t think getting her kids *married off* was the sole purpose of having children and who had such modern thoughts even in her age…She was the one who always insisted that life was meant to be happy and that we should do what we like in life and never worry about what others might think of our choices…A lady who lived life in her own terms…and who was brave…brave where it really mattered…I don’t think I even hv 50 % of her braveness in me…

    A big round of applause and salute to all Pattis…We hv a lot to learn from them…

    Sorry for the long comment, I got reminded of my patti after reading this excellent post of yours!

  18. In your patti and my mother i have seen lot of similarities.I could not hold back my tears as I read.My prayers for such a wonderful lady

  19. For someone who has had to endure so much in her childhood, and had her share of sufferings in her adulthood, Meenakshi patti comes across a very positive person who has absorbed all her pain and turned it into positive energy to appreciate and in turn enrich the world around her. Thank you for this insight into her world, it is most inspiring to read about her.

  20. Respect. Grandparents are somehow more tolerant and open to things than people of our and our parents’ generation – maybe it has to do with the fact that they’ve seen all that we’ve seen and much more.

  21. You won’t know it when they are with you..but paatis are perhaps the most loveable souls in the iyer/iyengar family structure..always subjugated to the background….stuffing 100 rupee notes into your playful hands….making delicious murukkus…. scoffing at your parents for blaming you on things you actually did and holding up an entire family on their shoulders without the slightest grimace….life without them is not the same 😦

  22. Bought tears to my eyes. Reminded me of my grandma who had same easy love for life and changed so marvelously with fast changing India, as against we who have changed so much from outside but hesitant from inside. My tribute to Patti.

  23. What a beautiful tribute to a remarkable lady!
    My condolences.

    And the software exchange reminded me of my grandfather who, more than a decade back, asked us what Y2K was. He read it in papers all the time but couldn’t make sense of the problem.

    We tried, but in the end, our ignorance reigned

  24. Such an adorable paati.. a gem 🙂
    And this was such a seriously magnificent post, man. Extremely clearheaded, logical and composed. There couldn’t have been a better tribute to grandma, and something tells me she’d have read this from your heart – it just makes sense that way.

    Incidentally, what did u call her? My grandma was named Meenakshi too and we called her Meena-paatti 🙂

  25. Commiserations… Reminded me of my grandma, who I lost way too early to cancer in 2003. She had a fabulous sense of humor too. She would have liked reading this post of yours. (Probably others too!)

  26. I lost my grandfather in an accident almost 13 years ago at 84. Every occassion in my life since then, I’ve wished he was around to see it. Too bad, they are so much older than us. May your Pati’s soul rest in peace.

  27. Thanks a lot for the post. It made me smile deeply.
    This just reminds me and my sister of our paternal grandmother who brought us up. Like someone has already commented, that generation had something in common. I wonder we ever would have even 10% wisdom they had despite having access to all things around us. I believe that generation learned from other people around them.

  28. My respects to your paati, she sounds like an absolute rockstar. She – as do most paatis – deserve not a Tambram-style funeral but an Irish-style wake.

  29. Respect. To you for putting it down for touching all chords. Respect. To Paatti for obvious reasons. The best in your blog. RIP Paatti.

  30. She was a remarkable woman, wasn’t she?
    And oh, those old Nellai girls had enviable grit and grace despite the lemons life landed them.
    I never had one. Both my paatis died when my parents were children.Perhaps that’s why my first attempts at storytelling were about paatis I’d never known.
    Please accept my condolences.Those gentle souls were rare gems.

  31. My grandma is a progressive woman and feisty too. The part about “Chop Suey” is similar to an incident years back when I was immersed in my walkman listening to Jamiroquai and grannie, having had enough of it, asked to listen to the album. She made her way through 3 albums, even indicating the songs she liked, keeping “taal” with music and humming along with the tunes.

    Fantastic post, brought back memories. Respect and condolences.

  32. Reminded me of my Pati 🙂 Quite different, she was. Traditional and what not. But today, any iota of patience and calmness I have in my life is because of her. Plus, her determination not to give up her madi ( she assumed she didn’t trouble us, but another story) even when she was dying could very well be a lesson in perseverance and determination in school text books!

    This time, when I went home for the first time after my marriage, she wasn’t waiting for me by the door like every single time I’ve returned home. It hurt a lot.

    You are blessed to have been around her and with her for most part of your life. May she rest in peace, Krish. Great post.

  33. Hi ,

    It was so interesting to read a very good post about your grandmother.It is especially so dear to me because just recently i had a very heated argument with my husband , on this gender discrimination that indian woman faced a generation ago.

    Good one.May her soul rest in peace.

  34. Krish, my grandma is exactly like that. And I always thought she is one of a kind. She boarded her first flight after she was well over 75, but she flies all alone from Delhi-Bangalore.. and man you should see her confidence. She carries a hand bag and pushes her luggage with such an elegance. And prefers Dominoes garlic bread over Pizza hut’s who she thinks make better pizzas though. She tasted a pizza the first time at 78 yrs.
    I am sorry for your loss.. it is a real loss!

  35. Well I had the previlidge of meeting paati, what a hair she had even at that age.

    Ashok

    We often make the mistake of looking for heroes around us and forget to realize that the ones around us who have moulded us are the real ones.

    My respects for another being lost but always missed .

    Satts

    1. By that, I meant more personal, autobiographical stuff. Not more grandmothers dying. That would be a travesty. Ok, I shall shut up now.
      Ashok: Haha 🙂 No worries. She would have laughed at it as well

  36. Brilliant tribute Krish.

    As an aside – Though I read your blog quite regularly, this is the first time I am compelled to comment. I will leave my comment to those first 3 words.

  37. Great post. In many my experiences with my paternal grandmother mirror yours even though I hail from a different part of India. She died of cancer the year just before I left for the US and reading your post I was thinking about her.

  38. v. well written! cud actually visualise each & everythin tht u wrote! what a great person yr paati was.. and she is probably smilin @ u frm up ther, fr dedicatng such a nice post fr her! RIP meenakshi paati!!

  39. Great post and may Meenakshi Ammal’s soul rest in peace!!
    It was a great opportunity to also reminisce about my own paternal grandmother who passed away 13 yrs ago. She belonged to the ‘orthodox’ category and literally kept me on my toes for sandhya-vandanam.
    She had a tough life too. Born in a well-to-do family, married into a well-to-do family, endured penury due to business losses, widowhood, and then single-handedly brought up 8 kids. She was a tough-as-nails character, me and my sister used to call ‘Indira Gandhi’.
    Thanks for a great post that also helped me remember my own!!

  40. A different albeit a very nice post. Maybe there is something for all of us to learn about being open minded from her. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences with her.

  41. I’m sorry for your loss

    and i wonder what she’d have wondered at this post.

    probably a humble- ” What a loving grandson” or “How did he manage to get my photos up there?”

    Pattis rule…….and I”m going to try to observe more of my pattis and stop taking them for granted.

    thanks!

  42. My condolences to you and your family. The beauty of a grandmother-grandson relationship can only be felt and cannot be expressed. I already have a feeling that I know her.

  43. My sincere condolences – loved your tribute to her. Like many others have said, it reminded me strongly of my patti…now long gone.

  44. Your blog brought tears. You may call me greedy, but I always wished my ‘Mother Teresa’ lived beyond 94. My GM Kamala brought me up along with my siblings and her own kids (uncles and aunts) right from the time I remember. When I am in pain sometimes I think of her – in front of her Himalayan-sized pains, mine is just, pardon-me, chicken shit.

    Thanks for the great write-up.

    Swaminathan
    Vancouver

  45. Brought tears to my eyes. I now will make it a point to spend quality time with my 90 year old grandfather – more wise and open minded that his own children!

  46. I remember it when my uncle was doing it for my granddad. I was not all that close with my thathaa but to me the entire thirteen day ritual seemed like an occasion for the family to gather under one roof, talk gossip, eat food and more food. I mean out of those thirteen days there would have been hardly half an hour or one hour when people(all the relatives included) tried to remember my thaathaa and what he had done in his 90 years on planet earth…:) Nyways a very sweet post on your paati…

  47. I didnt really get to know my paternal grandmother, but man, Krish, how I wish my other grandmother had been even a little bit like yours…

    My deepest condolences.

  48. My condolences, Krish. I was moved by this post when I read it today morning. But was so choked up that I could nt comment. Came back again to write to you. Reminded of my grandpa who I was/am extremely close to. And my grandma whos in her 90s now – the person who asks “how are you” before asking “how are the kids” unlike my ungrateful parents!! 🙂

  49. Awesome write-up.. Looks like she did leave a profound impact on you that you have come up with this great piece..! A bit jealous though, that my paatis did not live long enough! :))
    The ‘Paati-for-Hindu’ tooltip for the pic brought a chuckle. 🙂

  50. Felt very heavy-hearted on reading this post. My condolences to you and your family.

    I was extremely close to my grandfather and lost him two years back – the void is unmistakable and the passage of time can’t heal such a loss

  51. May her soul rest in peace. I have read many of your post, in this post i saw the other side which is more a nice paeran to your paati than a nakkal nayyandi.

    From what you say she seems to be a remarkable woman and many people of her generation are that way .

    Even my Father used to tell stories which I was a hero and it was like a rajnikanth film replaced by me. I am really surprised how did ask for such lame stuff

    I completely agree with you in the Vaadhiyaar issue. Darn them x-(

  52. Great Soul…. If one thing this generation has to learn from such great souls is that they had far less resource and achieved far greater goals. I have a similar Patti and will follow ur idea of recording her adage. My respects to her and consolation to you.

    1. Spot on with that comment!
      Much closer home, Krish, much closer!

      What an amazing tribute to her! Kudos to you for such a clearly and beautifully written article!
      Huge fan!

  53. Ashok, what a tribute to a great lady! It has resonated with so many people, as is evident from the comments above; there is/has been a Meenakshi paati in every family, but each is/was unique and special.

    About the ritual – your paati got it right. The real purpose is to connect people, by introducing a touch of solemnity and providing a common, focal point to get together. If you get into the nitty-gritties of the rituals you will find them absurd and nonsensical; but if you ridicule them and abstain from them completely, you would lose the ‘social’ brownie points.

  54. “That’s the way our ancestors saw it. The rest of the world might see it differently, and they might be equally correct too”.. It is this openness of the mind that endeared me to your Paati, Krish. A remarkable personality!! If only most of us had the flexibility to respect the alternate viewpoints though they may not agree to it, this world would be a better place, free of all the religious and racial shenanigans!! May He grant such wisdom!!!

  55. Ashok, My condolences on your bereavement. Your narration and your paati’s photos bought tears and tons of memories to me as it reminds me of both my grandmothers who are now no more, having lived their times and who in my opinion had a life well spent, in spite of some hiccups here and there. I never had a chance to see any of my grandfathers. Grandparents are a very broad shoulder to anchor on, even if they are from a generation vastly different. Thanks a lot.

  56. Respects, ashok-sir.. Ur post makes me feel lik i hav met her and knew her, if only slightly..
    She proves that education is not in the letters and degrees, but in the broadening of the mind as a whole.. and we indians, or the world as a whole, are lacking sorely in this (alteast on average)..

    P.S.: U resemble her – in looks and in character.. Not flattery, sincere compliment..
    Ashok: Ah yes. The um..stately nose runs in the family

  57. Meenakshi & the wonderful tale of her wholesome life left me poignant and reminded me of my wife’s grandmother who had an identical personality. Thanks KrishAshok, for a real life story, well told.

  58. KA,
    Felt good reading this post. Qualities of your grandmother remembered with love by you are grand.
    A long time ago I saw a movie ‘shankaracharya’ where he exhorts some villagers to wean away from crude practices this way: ” Accepting and following all old customs is as ridiculous as dismissing all the new ones as ‘frivolous’ ”
    Jai ho.

  59. I see a lot of similarities between my naani and your paati. She was a very curious soul too. I wish I had had more patience to sit and answer her countless questions…

  60. Really touching. A very knowledgeable Lady w/o being overtly profound. Reminds me of my own Grand mother who was also fairly modern in her outlook. Thanks for sharing things abut her.

  61. A fitting tribute, to an awesome woman and to a noble clan(Grandmoms), reminds me a lot of my own grandmom. Good one KA

  62. Krish (or Ashok? not sure what your preferred name is),
    Your paati rocks!
    I think she had her real memorial service through your blog. Naive as this may sound, I am sure she cherishes it as much as we all did.
    My condolences…
    ps.
    And I can completely empathize with your frustration on the rituals. I do think our rituals have deeper meaning that I don’t quite get yet, and I remember my aunts fighting over what saris they were going to get during my grandfather’s (their father’s) rituals – true story – I’m not making this up.

  63. Respects to that wonderful lady…and yeah, am sure i’m not the only one who’d have fondly remembered their own incomparable grandmothers…i consider this a wonderful ode to all those selfless souls from that generation!

  64. Krish, I have started reading your blogs for quite sometime. Sorry for your loss.

    Your blog brought me to tears. Both my pattis passed away before I could realise how precious they are to me . I still have dreams about them every day even 10 years after they passed away. 😦

  65. //She would have said – “Poor guys, Lonely Planet. They just don’t know about Chennai. Leave them be” and “Good effort by the new Phir Mile Sur producers but I don’t think it’s as good as the original” and left it at that.

    🙂

    That is such a vintage Paati statement. My Paati says the same. “Viden. Avalukku avlo dhaan theiryum.” she would say had i narrated the LP incident to her!

    “Ulagatthai thirutha nee porrakala. Un manasaakshi ku correct a nee nadandhuko” is her standard retort. 🙂

    My paati honestly thinks Obama bombarded the world trade center because he was hungry and had not slept well. True Story.

    Nicely written as always! But sadly it also reminds me that Paatis are not immortal! 😦

  66. Gopalsamudram!! We are from the same village (rather our grandparents are!). I wonder if they knew each other?
    Killer post, again. My condolences to you and your family.

  67. Thank you for this post. Meenakshi and Ammini, my grandmother could have been friends. Mine was so much like Meenakshi, down to the lack of interest in cooking, vast curiosity and lack of criticism and judgement. Even lack of rigidity in her opinion. Add to that a wholly irreverent sense of humour, and it was very easy to understand why Amminiamma was such a rockstar. She died 18 months ago and I still think of her every single day. A most excellent post.

  68. This is an incredible blog post. For the 5 minutes I spent to read it, I forgot about the world around me. It reminded me of my Grandmothers and the fun times I shared with them. I am going to send this out to all the people I know. Great work! Looking forward to part-2.

  69. A wonderful post, Ashok. For some reason, paternal grandmothers are the ones grandsons are really close to, I think. This post reminded me of my own Ammani Paatti. She had eight kids and supplemented her husband’s income by maintaining a bunch of cows and doing “paal vyaabaram” (in an orthodox Triplicane, no less!) to pay for the education of her sons and daughters. You could replace the “iyer” bits in this post with “iyengar” and this would be a pretty close description of her as well. I am truly sorry for your loss. And thanks for writing this.

  70. thanks for sharing, i am glad you wrote this. as i read, it reminded me of my paternal patti. she was from nagerkoil/krishnankoil as well. and passed away 10 yrs ago at the age of 85. she would have lived longer if not for bad docs..mmmmm…but i digress…she had a similar life..very young marriage, five kids, lost her husband early, was an ammal as well, one wayward son, daughter and in law issues…

    have passed through nagerkoil, have promised myself that i will spend some time in that area and trace some of the landmarks if they are still there..from the stories patti used to tell.

    i do miss her after reading this, i am extremely thankful for her presence in my life.

    cheers.
    AK

  71. hi…
    I am sorry for your loss. She sounds like a tremendous lady and would’ve been wonderful to meet her.
    I hope she will always serve as an inspiration to you.

    Regards,
    Leia

  72. Very touching post. Pattis of her generation had that strength in them
    and are more rational thinking ladies than we can ever think.

    May her soul rest in peace.

  73. Reminds me of my own Paati and you have moved me to tears with this post of yours. Thank you so much for making me feel that little bit closer to my own Paati.

  74. Dear Krishashok,
    A bunch flowers to you with Kudos I wish to send, for your wonderful and thought provoking post on your (great) Paatti.Salutations to the great lady.
    The write up amply displays the greatness of your Grand Ma and also your unbounded love for that great lady to whose memory we all bow down because of your fitting post..Her life reminds me of my Periyamma (Mpther’s eldest sister) who brought up at least some 12 of us in our maternal Grand Pa’s house. I have great a regard for such ladies and their selfless contributions (amidst several constraints) to the family . I am happy that at least one of themcould get the due recognition through your affectionate pen picture.
    Pardon me dear, if I have to differ with you, in some of your comments / observations on certain matters.. Let me list a few.
    1.”Ammal” does not desreve the punch that it had to take in your post.” Ammal” (which literally means mother) is just a honorific suffix to a lady’s name (not necessarily to a widow;s name). It is an old tradition to address / denote a lady with the suffix ” Ammal”, Such address leaves no room for any other bad / wicked thoughts / feelings about the lady.
    2. I agree with Shri Magesh’s observations regarding the rituals performed. They are a few more thousand years older than 2000.Had we tried to know what is done , the ‘Why & How’ of them our reactions /responses would have been different. I agree that there have been lapses and shortcomings in the conduct . performance of the prescribed rituals. But Why ?
    Most of us dont care to know them. We on most of such occasions are or prefer to be only mute spectators not caring to learn the rationals behind such rituals The blame should be equally on the elders in the family who seldom care to tell / teach .Our inability to eradicate the inadequacies /lapses / short comings in the performance of such rituals stems / flows out of our lack of basic knowledge in them. Let us all ponder for a second, to know for ourselves as to what has been our interest / knowledge/contribution to keep our culture /traditions /rituals, ( be it related birth / wedding,/ death,) alive & kicking.
    3. Regarding the “Ritu” on April 2 I wish to add the follwing.
    While, the West / Europe / the English, divided the year into 4 seasons, our system divides the year into 6 ‘Ritus’ of 2 months each. Hence a mis match is possible. According to our system, the winter is from Diwali (or Kali pooja) to Shivrathri (.or Holi) For those of us, who follow the; SOWRAMANA (based on the SUN) system ‘Sisira Ritu’ (covering the months of Maasi and Panguni) is upto Mesha Vishu ( i.e first day of Chithrai month (correponding April 13 or 14 or 15) every year.

    Pardon me, I couldn’t be briefer.
    Thanking you for the opportunity

  75. My heart felt condolences first. Let God bless your life with enough joy to fill the void left behind by her. People like your grandmother, who will without any reservation let others pursue their happiness are hard to come across. And such people always seem to lead long and healthy lives. May be that is God’s way of putting things in perspective for us.

  76. An awesome post about an inspiring human being. Every paati is special in their own way and your post reminded me of mine. May her soul rest in peace.

  77. Kris.. Roomba kuduthu veechavangu neenga.. grand mothers are always special.. Reminds me of my paati.. A very touching post..

  78. Respect and deep condolences to your patti , may her soul rest in peace , reminds me of my / patti who brought me up and recently lost her ;

    she is extremly hyper active and braod minded wiht her thoughts juz like your patti ;

    ther is so much to learn in the world from all of them ;

    nicely writen post

    cheers
    santhosh

  79. open to new things, knowing that opinions keep changing, believing in fairy tales, and in goodness…. If I manage to learn some of it, I think I would be cool.
    🙂

  80. Now, Chop Suey is unlike anything that a 88 year old Tambram woman is likely to have heard and in general, metal and rock tend to be categorized as industrial noise among elderly Tambrams. I put the headphones on her, and after about a minute or so, she said – “This must be very difficult to play no?”. No criticism. No dismissal as incoherent noise. Just a recognition that there must be something good in things she did not quite understand.

    I kept reading those lines again and again…your patti is simply amazing and I fail to understand people commenting “every patti is special that way”…(my association with paatti s have always been “narrow minded/pessimistic yet sweet people”)

    Classic post. Kudos.

  81. A great soul. A wonderful person. Most of the people who are in their 40s may have a person like your ‘Patti’ in their families, as mother,or ‘periamma’,or ‘chithi’ or ‘athai’. I suggest that they start spending more time with those elders and cherish later the time spent with them.

    Excellent write up. Your ‘patti’ must be proud of you and shower her ‘asirvathams’ upon you.

    VT

  82. You know what I feel ? In a way, getting married so early kept them still young at heart. My paati passed away 2 years ago … i was so stunned … but, when i started looking back, i realsied she was one of the few relatives who never really tlaked about marriage

    she encoraged me to learn swimming when my mother was hesitant

    her first qn when we met/spoke over the phone was always ‘how are your classes’

    she knew everything …. she really listened to people , and knew so much …. about the IT sector working, about stuff in the US etc.

    My grandfather passed away very early, but she never gave up the interest in life …. she continued to dress in superb cotton/silk sarees , never failed to wear the ‘kumkma’, and was always the lady of honour at each and every 1 of our rituals

  83. Brought a tear to my eye. My grandmom passed away a couple of years ago too and I identified with a lot of what you said. However, a lot of stuff about your ‘paati’ is distinctly broad minded.

    May her soul rest in peace.

  84. Thank you.. A very touching post.. and something I can relate to .. thank you..felt like I was reading about my grandmother… I know everybody who read this.. stopped for a while.. and thought about their grandparents too.. and looked at themselves.. the openness that your grandma had..is something we all need.. It was a nice walk down the memory lane.. 🙂

  85. U usually make one laugh…today u almost made me cry…guess many of our pattis considering the times they were in were very avante garde…your patti was truly exceptional… can imagine what a loss it would be for a person of acute sensitiveness, reflection, empathy and consideration such as you. My condolences…

  86. Your simple words (your’s often arent, Thank God!) brought tears to my eyes..very very nice. Condolences may sound trite, but Im truly sorry that you had to lose her.

    I hope you don’t let her go in the ways that really matter..

    Poornima

  87. I totally relate to you on this, as i was blessed with grandparents with the same open bent of mind…
    here’s wishing the new generation turn out to be the best of both worlds…!

  88. Quite moving; I salute the lady who has affected you so! Grandmas are a fantastic species, and such ones as yours are, if you’ll pardon the inappropriate expression, becoming extinct. Your description of her tolerance, nay, openness to new experiences and change is a slap to my own oft-closed mind.

    I’m quite sure that while she may have gone on the outside, she’ll never go from inside you.

  89. A beautiful and touching tribute to your Paati, and I think, to all Paatis like her, who lived a life beyond the close boundaries drawn by society. Its very rare to see people like her, who could be broad-minded, above petty things, and just so full of zest and simplicity. Nice post, cute pics 🙂 God bless all Paatis around the world :-)))

  90. This is a touching and beautiful tribute.
    May her soul rest in peace.

    Reminded me of my own grandmother, who passed away at the age of 94. Just as young, at heart, always open to new ideas. She loved to go to the cinema, and hoot like the youngsters there!

  91. Ashok: Very sorry about your loss. Reminds me of my grandma too (Born: May 6 1917 and passed away on feb 12 2002; my grandfather owned a petrol bunk, lost all his fortunes; she could converse well in english, tamil and sanskrit and eagerly welcomed Danes and Irish into her family while everyone else was critical.), and having been her dearest grandchild among 22 cousins, I am moved by the post. The picture also reminds me of her– I always liked her without her dentures.

  92. Condolences Ashok.
    Looks like a lot of paatis evolved to something akin to perfection towards the finish.

    I recall that the first cousin to marry outside the Tambram circle enlisted the support of my (maternal) paati straightaway. There was no real resistance after that 🙂

    Re the rituals, assuming you are Yajur Vedis, could I suggest you cast your open minded eye over the ‘Yajur Apara Kriya’ (Giri trading, Kapaleeshvarar).

    Your bhaashyam would be of benefit to all of us.

  93. Hi,

    This is one of the appreciation comments, as usual. I guess there wont be a reply. After all, it will be extremely difficult for a person with a huge fan following having the time to reply to every bouquets you receive. I have been following the blog for quite a while and I could not help but shower you with praises for the diverse topics you blog on. There is not a single topic that is boring. I consider myself updated if I am able to understand your blog. Seriously your vocabulary is stunning and you engage the interest of the reader right from the beginning till the end and make her/him crave for more. My dad follows your blogs through the articles published in The Indian Express and relishes them to the core. This blog made me bring tears to my eyes. No, my grandmother is still alive. What moved me was the way you had written about her brushing aside the rituals and brought her personality as a whole as the crux in your blog. Keep writing, Ashok. Keep up the good work. A blogger like you is really really rare among the people who write nothing but crap.

    Regards,
    Nigarika

    1. //I have been following the blog for quite a while and I could not help but shower you with praises for the diverse topics you blog on.//

      Same here…

  94. My beloved, beloved Mylapore Thatha and Patti were pretty much of this generation. Pure asal brains, of Royapettah High Road fame. Totally kick-ass, sohisticated and soooo darn wise and learned, cultured…

    Haven’t read the entire write up but hey. I can empathise. Your Patti and others of her generation are a very rare sort who I miss every day

  95. Hope you too are blessed with perceptive and eloquent grandchildren

    //she wanted to understand how this internet thing works//
    Lovely post. I took the liberty of printing this out for my father – he refuses to read anything off a computer screen and the least I can do for him is to clear some rainforests.

    Father: ivarum unga computer-la ezhudharavarA ?
    Me: aamaam
    F: yaar pOduradhu ? (as in who is publishing all this)
    Me: um….avanga avangaLE pOttukkaradhu
    F: Oho…nallA vandhiRukku…Hindu-kku anuppa sollu

  96. Very well-written. I believe it’s difficult to describe human nature and character and words fall short of making full justice.. but your tribute was truly touching and brings alive the person your grandmom was..May peace be with her..

  97. Beautiful. I have been thinking about the value of “spiritual master” ever since I read about it in the happiness project blog, for, the imitation of one “as a way to gain understanding and discipline” supposedly works. Your description of Meenakshi paati, makes me realize I want to be like her, as a way to gain more from my experiences. Being alive to possibilities is one thing that my cynical side sometimes kills and each time, I realize it only after the fact. Maybe keeping your paati in my mind, will make me see more and see well.
    And, as a practical first-step, I suppose she would not continue listening in from the shadows, when she should go out and thank.
    Thanks very much for sharing your precious memories of her with us. And for the many other great posts.
    (ps: No, I don’t like the term spiritual master)

  98. Amazing post. I came across your blog only recently and I really like the way your write, so much so that i sat and read your archives recently. I can therefore honestly say this is the best post in your blog. Keep writing.

  99. Nice Tribute. May her soul rest in peace. Many humbling lessons for people like us who think, we (almost) know it all :). Reminds me of my grandma. Grandparents are always special……..The manner in which they evolved given the many constraints of the 1900s is commendable…..

    Also i think there was less of “I/me/myself” in their approach as against our approach of “only I/me/myself”. That is a big shift (latter to former) which could make our lives lighter and perhaps better.

  100. Hi Krish
    i have being a religious follower of your blog and whenever i get the time, dig into your archives and savour each gem..i always thought to comment and let you know how highliy i think of your writing but somehow cldnt…
    But this post, did that for me…(as in de-lurked me)

    your most is moving, to say the least..had read it on Saturday but was so choked up that couldnt write…
    your vivid accounts of your Patti, bought memories of my Aaji (marathi for Grandmom)..The comfort and reassuringness of a Grandmom in uncomparable to anyone/anything in this world and i sooo miss her…

    thanks a ton for this very very fitting tribute..Not only to your own Patti, but to all those beautiful women who have touched each one of us…

    Please keep writing more such stuff…!

  101. actually brought back memories of my grandma, wid whom i had spent my entire childhood…it was such a wonderful time for all of us…man, u really moved everyone’s heart by this touching one abt ur paati..

  102. i just stumbled on your blog for the first time and am amazed.

    your paati sounds like a fantastic woman! (and a role model for some of us girls who need to learn to appreciate the smaller things).

    thank you for this eulogy.

  103. “When successful career women advice young girls this way, it’s good for them, but it’s only when women like my grandmother, who’ve never experienced financial independence in their lives undergo this shift of mindset that serious change becomes possible.”

    Very well said. I think you have paid the best tribute that any one can pay – by writing down the poignant and inspiring life story of your Paati and then choosing to share it with us. I’m sure Paati must be smiling up from heaven.

    May her soul rest in peace and may her tribe increase.

  104. Lovely, lovely eulogy brought tears to my eyes…reminded me of my own paati who was also a similarly resourceful woman.

    May your grandma’s soul rest in peace~

  105. Great to know about a woman who has stood out from all the rest for good reasons. But sad to know she is no more… She has stood as an example for all – and that aspect of not criticizing anything but to look for the good bits in anything – is so kind of her, I feel inspired to learn from her way of life…

    This is the best tribute she could get and could easily be said the most inspiring article I had seen in your blog…

    Being a silent admirer of your works so far, this time I couldn’t resist posting this… You’ve been a versatile genius sir – I enjoyed each post you made in this blog. I felt bad when I missed the occasion when you were the chief guest for an event in my college.

    Your paati’s thirst for knowledge is admirable and her politeness and kindness are very evident from the things you’ve said. She’d be very proud of you (more so than her granddaughter who took that IIT-IIM route) if she could still follow your blog, read your post and take a look at these numerous comments here.

    These are not just our comments. This is the respect we pay to her. Let her admirable soul rest in peace…

  106. Meenakshi Paatti lives …. right here! Long live! Her stories will live in you 🙂

    You have probably created a “Grandmoms’ Day” with this post …. reminded me of both my paattis – full of zest and Thanjavur humour and always wanting to learn anything new … in fact they were called “style paattis” for wearing goggles, carrying handbags and thoroughly enjoying the North Indian style Baraat during my cousins’ weddings 🙂

    Methinx the most irritating thing about the vaathiyaars: thappu-thappa mandhiram sollittu, punctuated by the stentorian order “maami konjam sooda kaapi kondaango” every 5 minutes!

    Tribute. Respects.

  107. Thanks for that post. Reminded me of my patti and the good times with her. Always amazes me that the older generation is more open minded and less conservative than succeeding generations!

  108. Condolences, Krish.

    Your blog post is a more magnificent tribute to her memory than any kirekkiyam or sodhakumbam can be.

    Reminded me of my mother’s mother who died last year. A liberal, modern wonderful old woman who was young at heart, with an always-sharp mind, never too keen on rituals but with an abiding sense of pure bhakti, with an insatiable appetite for life…

    Thanks again for the post, because it made me pause and jot down a few words about my own paati, made me remember her, and how much she meant to me, and how much the presence of such paatis and thathas enrich one’s life.

    By the way, you look a lot like her.

  109. Hi there,

    Firstly my deepest condolences. After reading your post I felt a sense of completeness of life that a person can achieve. I really felt how wonderful it would have been to meet a person like your grandmother.

    Thank you for a wonderful read. Keep writing.. you have a new follower.

  110. krish, my condolences. i lost my gran 2007 and felt pretty much the same way. he is also an agraharam guy, just the difference was he never adjusted to newer ways of life. nevertheless two generations previous to us I think had the most contended lives. I dont think we will be able to match that.

  111. Krish, best wishes to you and your family to recover from this loss. I lost both my pattis very young, but my paternal grand father did it for me. I am what I am today because of that liberal broad minded man. thank you for re-kindling a lot of old memories. – Ramya

  112. Hi
    I felt emotional reading this post. It is because my patti’s name is also Meenakshi and Your patti’s life description matches almost my patti’s. She is still alive but in Chennai with my parents. I am living in Us. Sometimes i feel i am staying away from her wasting her last years of life from which i could learn some more things from her as well as be a part of her last years of life.

    Thanks for a lovely post

    Regards
    Lakshmi

  113. I could truly relate each word captured in your post with my maternal grand mother. It is extremely inspiring the presence of such elders in one’s life.

  114. Mashallah! That’s a real treasure of a lady you had as your Grandma.

    My condolences.
    Yeah, rituals (for each community -religious and/or geographical) DO provide a grieving mechanism, mostly by means of a distraction.

    Here’s to a life truly well-lived….. !!

  115. Good that you superseded this post over the others you have, since this post is a touching and absorbing portrayal of your grandmother.
    In a few families one finds women who have battled the forces of nature and society with grit and determination. These are people with an immense strength of will and capability. Being blessed to be born in such a family and being able to benefit from their wisdom is a boon not many people have.
    I am glad you have been blessed with the boon and more importantly you have the ability to share your learning and experiences in such a poignant post.
    Thank you

  116. I’m sorry for your loss and I know how huge it is. It is bizarre how similar all of it is to my life ( including even the tragedies). Made me cry.

  117. very touching.reminds me,as im sure it does many,of my grandmother.it makes me wonder how these women who lived lives that i can scarcely comprehend have adapted,no are triving in 2day’s world,thr abilities to accept the world and look at its new trappings with enthsiasm is amazin!thank you for cronicallin her life n sharin it with us!

  118. Not sure if you would be reading this after around 217 comments. The article reminded me, like some many others here, of my grandparents who were prominent in my formative years. If my grandma made me read ‘Ponniyin Selvan’, my grandpa made me read ‘The Hindu’ everyday. They were a conflict in the classical sense but they both saw a common ground in bringing me up. They passed away in 2007 and 2005 respectively. Wish I had given them back more than I had, which was next to nothing.

  119. I lost my grandma two days back, after a long illness. And that makes this blog post spooky. I was trying to say much the same thing to a friend yesterday, about my grandmother. That she was one of the most wonderful people I have known – brilliant and unassuming at the same time. And how the world lost so much by not giving her the kind of opportunities that I received. She was married at 16, to man who had his virtues, but definitely did not match up to her intelligence and broad-mindedness. Had 10 children, and also took in anyone who needed help – a habit she passed on to my mother.

    Sorry, I’m unloading on your tribute to your grandmother. Just found the similarities amazing.

  120. I am very sorry. I cam completely understand how you feel. I lost my grandparents who brought me up a few years ago and there is always something or the other that reminds me of them everyday.
    My grandmother was quite similar to yours and had very clearly told me how her funeral had to be ‘celebrated’. She was one for grandeur and wanted the house decorated with flowers and the band played 🙂
    She clearly told me that there should be no ‘giving the last bath’ ceremony and that all guests shd be seated and served an assortment of refreshments including chilled tender coconuts.
    Luckily I brought her to live with me for the last few years of her life and so had complete control over what had to be done for her funeral. So despite the relatives giving me strange looks I had the fortune of carrying out her wishes. I did not perform elaborate ‘paal’ etc etc rituals as both my grandmother and I belived that its better to visit and take a few sweets or fruits to the elderly when they are alive than to display elaborate ‘padaiyal’ after their demise.
    I really cld relate so well to this post and thanks for sharing it with us.

  121. I read your blog regularly, but this post prompted me to leave a comment. My sympathies to you and your family. You are very fortunate to have had her in your life and I’m sure she’s still looking after you and guiding you.

  122. Nice Post, Krish! I am a regular reader of your blog. My condolences to yourself and your family. Like so many readers, I am also reminded of both my grandmothers. They were both broad minded and wanted next generation females to be well educated. They approved of widow remarriage and did not approve of any ceremonies associated with widowhood. But they were also traditional in many other respects. That is what they passed on to my parents and hence myself – observing a judicious combination of relevant traditions and discard the one that are no longer pertinent to the current circumstances.
    So I think, in the spirit of such open minded grandmothers including yours who graciously listened to Chop Suey, we should also try to make the rituals more meaningful by understanding the meaning of the mantras and all the components involved. This will help us keep the relevant components and discard the ones that are not simply relevant to present day circumstances.

  123. Made me remember my Paati….they seemed to be such rocks amid the storms, didnt they? I miss her too…

    Excellent post! Condolences on losing your grandmother, but glad that you were so eloquently able to describe her life…

  124. Liked this one post particularly ..

    Came across this eulogy:

    You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left. Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on

  125. Hi. Very nice post. This reminds me of my great grandmother – who was spunky enough to attend school with her son, my grandpa and do her masters eventually – just because she wanted to learn. In those days ( 1930’s ), that was odd. She’ll always be my inspiration .. She lived till 90 too..

  126. Its very nice of you to share memories of such a wonderful person in your life.
    Just one thought… I know..style of writing etc…but instead of writing about her in most places in the third person using her name, you could have used the word Paati… its a personal post anyway!!
    Other than that…thanks for a lovely read, and this was a great way to pay respect to your Paati.

  127. Such a moving post. I lost my Paati this year myself, and by the end of this I have tears in my eyes. For teaching us that spirit is the most important gift. Angels don’t deserve to die. 🙂

  128. She reminds me of my late grandmother…contrary to the general assumption, there were so many liberal women from the 1910’s suppressed by society.
    A beautiful tribute to a truly beautiful woman.

  129. That just brought heaps of tears to my eyes. How lucky you must be to have had such a wonderful paati. And what a sincere post on her. I cant decide which of you is the lucky one.

    1. Ash! Good to see you on the blogosphere. Also, this was a wonderful post about a truly amazing woman.

      -Sid

  130. Nice tribute. Reminded me of my mother, who passed away on June 6 last year at the age of 75. She was also one for travel, trying out new things and I do not recall her criticizing anyone. Being the youngest of ten children, she was deeply attached to her sisters and brothers.

  131. Hi

    Thanks for a lovely post – could relate a lot to my mother who clocked 96 !

    I feel their longevity and enormous wisdom had a lot to with their attitude to the environment they lived in.

    As regards your observation on the rituals – Tambrams of today relate more to it like those certification programs – CMMI – ISO !! of course with non compliance to the major processes.

    Wish we at least cherish and enjoy the “meenakshi Pattis” living amidst us today…

    Regards,

    Vasan

  132. I can’t recollect how I happened upon your blog but having read it, I must tell you this post was amazing! I wish I had written a tribute to my grandmother when she passed away; hope to write one someday.
    By the way, what is Jilpa?

  133. package profundity without seeming pompously intelligent” – this phrase totally explains her attitude. Hats off to her. Physical world will really miss her.

  134. I should say this. This is the first post in your blog that I have read without taking any breaks. Well articulated and Hats off to her.

  135. Condolences.

    To see this thought provoking story in a lucid narration just in the same krish style, is moving and certainly is a dedication to your grandmom – well commended piece of literature that has to be frozen in time.

    This is the first time I am seriously encountering how an astrologer’s ‘predictions’ has implications of seriously screwing up a person’s life. The act of people approaching astrologers for their counsel is not going to stop, but atleast astrologers can consider things in their clients best interest and not say anything that can screw up a persons life, if they believe is in their horoscope. Hope some new age astrogyanis will read your post and use the gyan.

  136. I am so lucky that I could read about such an amazing woman…. You must have loved being around her…
    My condolences
    Do write more about her it would be a pleasure to read.

  137. Dear krishashok.. I’m not sure whether u’ll read this comment… I’m not too much into blogging though i open ur blog once a fortnight to check out for new posts… Today @ 1am i opened the blog as the nocturnal me was sleepless and i started reading this post.. I’m in tears now… My paternal grandmom who was 93 passed away exactly a week back and i find striking similarites in their “barathi kanda unorthodox pudumai penn” characters.. U have inspired me to write something about my grandmom with whom i spent a major chunk of my 21years on earth… Lost for words… Just wanna end off with a BIG thank you! 🙂

  138. hey,

    nice post. “most tambrahms associate them with the hindu crosswords, test match…..”.
    Hope you are relating the term tambrahms with the people living in tnagar, adyar, mylapore and co. There are also many tamil brahmins who are living outside chennai down tambaram to kanyakumari who lead a poor life because they cannot enjoy the government benefits.

  139. i may have been under a rock all this time because i just discovered your blog… i loved this post…beautiful remembrances of your paati and i wish i could have a fraction of non judgmental attitude. …my deepest condolences.

  140. It’s been quiet sometime that I read your blogs..I jus happened to today and found this beautiful piece..my condolances on ur loss…n somehow this particular post stirred something in me…thnx for that beautiful piece, ur grandmom seems to have kinda answered a few of my questions abt life………..

  141. This blog nearly brought a tear to my eye. Reminds me of ammas words ” Patti irrundudral” to raise and watch you grow.
    My interactions with my patti was limited to the summer vacations in chennai.
    I still remember patti telling me krourandhai computer le mail amchudu , nee letter ellam eradhavenadam. Mama paddichutu sollava.

    May your patti RIP.

  142. Condolences on your loss.
    Your blog bought back memories of my grandma, who I lost a few years ago. Thank you for that

  143. Wowww, just woow. It was so emotional and wonderfully written. It related more to me, as I was brought up primarily by my maternal grandmom who has 9 children. So many tales are so similar and it amazes me on how people from that generation could ever be open minded. The thing I feel so bad about till today is the fact that she could never come to the USA. When we were younger me and my bro would promise her on how we would bring her to the USA and she used to be so enthralled. She was a true Sachin Tendulkar fan till her last days. She was her ‘peran’. So much to write, this has motivated me to write something about the lady I admire the most!

  144. Lovely tribute to a lovely paati! Looks like your paati was way ahead of her time. I loved the part where she asked young women to concentrate on their career. That sure must be motivational, coming from the mouth of a wise woman who must have seen pitfalls in her own life and the lives of other women of her age.

  145. wow what a beautiful write up about a beautiful soul. Here is a woman who’s life dealt her lemons and she turned them into lemonade. She found beauty where there was ugliness and sunshine where there was darkness. Had she been born in a different time who knows what this woman could have achived….a Nobel Prize, a Prime Ministership, the sky would have been the limit….May she rest in peace. It was a privilege reading about her. Peace.

  146. I generally refrain from commenting on blog post and prefer to be a silent fan. But when I reached the part about your grandmother living in Gopalasamudram, I could not stop myself. In my 20 years of existence I never thought I would hear of anyone else other than my family knowing of such a place.

    Although I am an Iyengar, and since it is a timeless custom for us to follow condescending demanour when referring to an Iyer (:P), I am quite proud that someone else other than me has also posted, somewhere on the web, a hyperlink called “Gopalasamudram” that leads to the eponymous google results page.

    All hail the “G” in my name which incidentally is the only evidence of the existence of such a place in our lineage (It was removed from the names of all other cousins of mine)… 🙂

  147. Long time reader and lurker. Caught up on your posts after a hiatus. Lovely tribute to a woman who was so ahead of her times. Reminded me of my paati.

  148. Good Post. I can’t stop myself from crying. Nowadays I am seeing people of kinds, one says old is the only good, some says present is the good. Very few manage to live in the old and present to leave a better tomorrow. Your Grandma is one such person.

    People now are believing that the world is revolving at the sight of Obama or Chinese premiers. But I feel that it is been run buy the people who wish good for everybody and everything. Once I saw a old man standing in a corner and wishing passers-by “Theerkaayusa Irukkanum”. What a humans these people are?

    Thanks for introducing a Perfect Women/Human to us. And also for kindling our memories of our grandma’s.

  149. total recall.. reminds me of my paatti….another reminder to how important our roots are… thanks for writing. They will always be in a good place.. 🙂

  150. So good. I don’t remember how I found your blog, but ever since I found it, I started reading your posts just for fun….but this post is so good….Appreciate you for your clarity of thought and ability of expression….

  151. What a beautiful soul..reminds me of my grandmas who are still around..bless them and another dear older lady who is now no more.

    Very evocatively written.

  152. …the tears welling up on reading this prevents me from posting anything else. Thanks for a wonderful piece, Ashok.

  153. My condolences to you and your family. That was a good write-up. Your paaTi’s name reminded me of my maternal grandmom. Lost her decades ago. I was quite young at that time and so do not remember her much. Her name is also Meenakshi. The present tense is not by oversight. Someone has said (dunno who) that: ‘Grandparents and children are very close. Guess why? Because they have a common enemy’. These days very few old people are taken care of well in their children’s houses. Mostly they are ‘footballed’ from one child’s house to the other’s as no one seems to have the time or patience for them. Here’s to all those households who take good care of the aged family members, in their own homes and not commit them to old-age homes or the likes.

  154. May Meenakshi paati’s soul rest in peace. Rituals and customs should be to remember the person whom we have lost. Many anniversaries are also dealt with the shear fear of generation split or fear of going to hell. Who cares to think about the person who left this world… ?

    I felt very bad when I read from your post that paati got married at age 13 and had a child at 15. India would have lost so many great intelligent minds who in the name of custom got married at a tender age..who knows had they all got a chance..we would have found another plan in the universe where life could have existed… a cure to cancer… what man thinks…and so on…

  155. Ashok,

    Great Respects to that Noblest Patti.

    What a tribute. Could not be better. This post makes your Patti more noble.I lost my mother a year back and almost similar Noble woman she was.

    All these comments from people prove that you have touched every one’s heart.

    Krishna

  156. Firstly, _/\_ to Paati – Amazing lady.
    Its so sad and disappointing that a chauvinistic society crushed the intellectual and career prospects that such a brilliant woman could have had. Having had the opportunity for higher education, I can say that to find such a curious and open minded learner is perhaps a gift to the teachers themselves, and the fellow students; and rather rare.
    Coming from a Brahm family myself, I can very well appreciate the idea of having such a broad minded, tolerant and (to express myself wholeheartedly) absolutely kick-ass Grandmother.
    Here’s to an awesome Paati.

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  158. This makes me remember my grandmother. She is 83, and all that your grandmother was. But that is not what I want to say. I pick quarrels with my grandmother on a daily basis, not because I don’t love her. I do. She means more than both my parents put together and trippled. but because I don’t stop to think what she means to me. I wonder if you would have written a similar post had she been alive..

  159. This was a touching tribute. She sounded wonderful. And you were truly fortunate to have had her influence in your life. It’s a pity most elders aren’t more like her.

  160. This post moved me to tears. Not the kind that come out of sympathy or mixed emotions but that of respect. Have followed you blog since I was a kid. God Bless.

  161. My humble Salutations to a Great soul…
    wish i had met her… reminds me of my paati…
    they wud ve been gud frenz… had they met…
    my Rajameenakshi paati from gopalasamudhram… 🙂

  162. Phenomenal writeup for a phenomenal person. I’ve felt for a long time that they dont make people like they used to. This one just proves it.

  163. I’ve come to think that, our habit of slipping into a “homogenous sequence” of rituals and things, particularly with death, is in a way a mechanism put in place to take the edge off from our loss … to have the family doing ‘something’, rather than falling into intense grief …. to take a step back and put some emotional distance between the dead and the bereaved. (And I’m not saying this is a bad thing, at all). The rituals are put in place, not for the ‘soul’ of the dead, but the minds of those left behind – that is what I think.

    The reason I stopped to read this post was the pictures of your grandmum, btw. 🙂

    Nice blog! and I loved this post. Keep up the jalsa and jilpa. 🙂

  164. What a wonderful patti you have had . . . My paternal grandma passed away shortly after my birth. I only knew my maternal grandmother–also named Meenakshi, like your patti.

    My Meenakshi patti was a quiet, gentle, introverted woman who kept to herself and to her routine of poojai and samaiyal, so I remember little about her. I still associate her with the aroma of a really superb rasam . . .

  165. It is simply completed that you just libido doing what you attain since your crave authority be observed in intact your enterprise. Don’t ever let the zeal go on by the use of we’re proper right here always anticipating what you take it in aliment whereas us. Thanks since your willingness to receipts your lovely masterpieces.

  166. What a read! Felt the essence of your grandmother in every word. God bless her and your family. You reminded me of my own dida who got married at 13 and had 5 children before she touched 25. It amazes me how they were so forward inspite of hailing from a gender biased era. Great read esp for bringing back some warm memories.

  167. This reminds me of my own kollu patti. The most scarring day of life was when my mom called me on phone and told she had passed away. Strange thing is me, my brother and my great grandmother always were at each others throats but no one took care of us like she did. I am completely indebted to her. Like same respect for your grand mother man. Maybe we people will never have the zest for life and agility of mind they had.

  168. There is nothing wrong in telling not many people live here nowadays.. Agraharams were far better when it was occupied by brahmins.. now it is too filthy. And there is nothing wrong in what the other old woman told.. don’t try to act smart bugger

  169. I never really knew either set of my grandparents. One, I’d never met and two of them passed away before I could remember them. My maternal grandmum passed away two years ago and my only regret was that hadn’t spent time with her at all, as she had never lived with us. Us, being the daughter’s house and all that.

    This was such an absorbing read and it made me wish, yet again, that I knew my grandma better. Thank you for this little slice of grandma-ness.

  170. I remember my awesome Grandmom often (about at least once a day I think) and your tribute to your awesome Grandmom made me think on why I did not also write about her…I will I guess…Thanks

  171. your post reminded me of paati … guess both the paatis shared similar traits…you were truly lucky to have lived with her for a long time.. i lost mine in 2006… paatis truly rock and continue to live !

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  173. Hi, I just stumbled on your website, and this blog, today.Very nice. It reminds me, among other things, of the lady in Mookkajji’s Visions (Mookkajjia Kanasugalu in Kannada) by Kota Sivarama Karanth.

  174. Salute! I have heard the same comment from people when I visit my Dad’s village and have always wondered and today after reading your blog I understood the meaning of, “nowadays,not many people live in this agraharam…” I was introduced to your blog by a friend. I have enjoyed reading your articles in The Hindu!

    People move away from the agraharam as it gets very claustrophobic in there and then try and force one wherever they land! Sad…

    May her soul rest in peace! Having lost my father last year at the age of 93 I fully understand the sentiments.

  175. Moving account of Paati. But let me tell you, its become fashionable for youngsters like you to scoff at tambram rituals and practices as though it is totally irrelevant to US retd intellectuals like you. Like your Paati, please learn to restrain from commenting negatively about things you dont know/havent learnt. Read Garuda Purana if you care, understand it fully before trashing age old rituals from your high pedestal. You dont sound “kewl” at all when you do so……you only advertise your ignorance!!!

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