My grandmother was always ahead of her time
My grandmother is not like any other traditional old lady. I say this because she was way ahead of her time. She was a gutsy, modern and progressively educated lady who worked till the age of 82 and did everything that most traditional grandmothers in a conventional middle-class, Marathi Brahmin family wouldn’t. Ajji (grandmother) was a gambler, a businesswoman, a housewife and an extraordinary matchmaker. She got married at the age of 25 when the norm in that era was to get married at 18. Moreover, hers was a love marriage and she dated my grandfather for 7 years before they tied the knot. Here’s an amazing story of a woman who was often called “James Bond” within her family and social circle.
She was always independent and spirited
When my grandparents got married, they used to live in a joint family. My Ajji’s mother-in-law was an old-fashioned strict lady who wore the traditional 9-yard Marathi “Nauvaari” saree. One day my Ajji came out of the shower and left her hair open to dry. Her mother-in-law taunted, “Hasn’t your mother taught you to do your hair and not roam around like this in the house?” My furious Ajji went out that same evening with her sister and cut her hair as short as a man, the then bob-cut which in that era was considered a big no for married women.
Soon after, my grandparents decided to move out and buy a 2 BHK house of their own, giving up all rights on their ancestral bungalow in the posh locality of Deccan Gymkhana in Pune. They worked hard to pay off the loan through EMIs and after much effort, over a period of 15 years that house became their home forever.
Related reading: Here’s how living in a joint family after marriage worked out for me
Life after moving out and with the grandkids
Ajji worked as a freelance marketing consultant and my grandfather was in the central Government. I grew up with my grandparents, as both my parents were working on the expansion of their printing business. They were true lovebirds. They would fight, argue, apologise, throw tantrums, but at the end of the drama everything just went back to as normal as ever.
They would fight, argue, apologise, throw tantrums, but at the end of the drama everything just went back to as normal as ever.
My grandparents used to celebrate every little thing in their relationship; for example, we used to be taken out for dinner on the date when grandpa proposed to Ajji, or when Ajji told her brother about her love affair with grandpa. I used to wonder how they remembered all these dates.
Ajji was full of energy and therefore also an extremely dominating lady. She always made her point and would never shy away from confronting people. My grandpa was very disciplined, as he had served in the Indian army for quite a bit of his time during the ‘60s. Ajji loved playing cards and tambola, but had to leave the game to come home and have dinner with my grandfather. But she would often lose track of time and be late. How furious my grandfather would get at her!
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At 85 my grandfather died
As he aged, he started ailing and at 85 he passed away, leaving my Ajji behind to cope with old age. She struggled for the first few months. It was the loss of her soul-mate with whom she had spent more than 6 decades. Thankfully, my Ajji had us, my dad, my elder brother and his wife and of course I, her favourite grandson. Within a month’s time after her husband passed away she decided to take on a few more projects for work. At the age of 80, companies did not want to work with her, but she insisted and took all the help she could from me for computers, WhatsApp, etc.
She started maintaining a diary, in which she wrote all that she could remember about my grandfather. One night, I asked her, “Ajji, what do you keep writing?” She replied, “I speak to your grandfather through this diary.” I couldn’t resist, so I asked her if I could read it. She instantly said yes and we would sit together in the evenings and write about our memories and all things that we wanted to tell him but could not.
Ajji kept herself busy. She would go to play rummy (cards) in a club nearby and perpetually come back in the red. Every Saturday, she would go to play tambola and on my grandpa’s birthday and their marriage anniversary she would invite all his friends and throw a party.
After 5 years living without her soul-mate, she got a stroke and within weeks she started deteriorating. Finally, she went where her heart always wished to be, with her husband.