My granny is someone worth adoring, mostly for her antics. She is the oldest amongst women in the family, and the most organized, stylish, and fashion conscious. While I am seen mostly in some ragged clothes, usually without makeup, and I don’t even bother to comb my hair every day, she is just the opposite. She is fair (and this is based on societal notion that being fair is synonymous with being beautiful), petite, and is amazing with self-care. Every morning, she will first take a bath, oil, comb, and braid her hair, put some Bath & Body Works lotions I get her from here (she takes so much pride in using US cosmetic products), dab some face powder, and would then go around with the household chores. In the evening, she will take her own time off, go for a walk, take another shower, wear a nice sari, apply more cream and face powder, and would spend time in front of the television watching her favorite shows. Too bad she isn’t seen wearing a gown, glass of wine in hand, wearing her pearls and watching the television. What amazes me is the way she works around her schedule to do what she needs to do with household chores, and still manages to find time for self-care. She would spend some time everyday glossing over fashion magazines and watching the latest stuff on television. She might be old, but far from ignorant. Sonu Nigam is her favorite singer, and she is aware of every latest Hindi movie and Bollywood gossip. She also takes great pride in the fact that her granddaughter can speak fluent English, and lives in America, which is accessible only by airplanes. She seriously thinks I would have done great in Bollywood, so breathtakingly beautiful and talented I am.
Neither my mother nor I have inherited her impeccable sense and taste for fashion. A few weeks before Durga Puja, my mother would be frantically finishing her last moment shopping, not knowing what to buy for herself or for the family. It is then that my granny will smile smugly, for she carefully manages her time and resources throughout the year, and does her shopping year round. Honestly, neither I, nor my mother care about the ritual of wearing new clothes for the Pujas. Granny will surprise us, because she will have something new to wear twice a day, every day during the Pujas. She will never repeat the same sari in succession, and will always wear a different color. With the limited money and mobility she has, I am amazed at how well she does for herself, looking always prim and proper, her wardrobe neatly stacked with saris of every color and make.
These days her eyesight is getting bad, hence she asks my mother to apply bright red nail polish on her fingers every time she visits my mother. We make fun of her, calling her the “beauty queen of the family”. She doesn’t mind, she thinks we are too casual and do not spend any time with self-care. This post is based on a telephonic conversation with my mother a few weeks ago.
When my father underwent a brain surgery, my granny decided to come stay with my parents for some time and help my mother with work. While mother did the outside work, visiting the hospital and taking care of my father, granny took care of the house, cooked, supervised the maid, and so on. Eventually father came home, and there would be dozens of people visiting him every day. The societal support we get in India during crisis is amazing. There hasn’t been a single day when I have called home to see how he is doing, and there haven’t been a bunch of people surrounding him. It is so much work, especially since you have to offer them tea and snacks and cater to them.
So my granny comes with a bottle of bright red nail polish one afternoon and asks mother to apply it on her toes. Mother looks clearly confused, since she didn’t want it on her hands this time. Mother tried her usual trick of shrugging it away, arguing about who really notices the feet. It is then that granny shocks her with her new theory about nail polish on the feet. She argues that since so many people are visiting to meet my father, they always bend down to touch my granny’s feet as a sign of respect. Hence, granny doesn’t want her feet to look ugly, and now wants bright red nail polish on her toes. Can you beat that logic?
Granny is adorable for all her antics and eccentricities, and for whoever she is. It is a virtue, to hold on to someone's values and beliefs even during the most trying circumstances.