“Naani (Grandma), can you please just sit down? I know what I am doing.” I snapped at her yet again. In my defense I had come back from college and seeing her in the kitchen trying to make tea, I volunteered to make it for her. Little did I know that it will become a “how to make GINGER Tea” tutorial worthy of being posted on YouTube.
Growing up I only saw naani on vacations. More than anyone in my family, I believe my naani was a “badass”. My very traditional saree wearing widowed Naani had learned to read and write in English when her grand-kids had begged her to do holiday homework. And with no other adult paying as much attention to us, she had finally given in. She was tough and never took our hyper-annoying teenage behavior sitting down. We were always put to shame with her ‘no-nonsense’ allowed rule. She was also the most stunning one, clearly, none of us got her beautiful skin or features not even her own daughters. I remember her as the one who would quietly sit in one corner without asking or adding to the daily chaos of a family. She always seemed to be comfortable and poised even when everyone around her was screaming like a nutcase. I now believe she had honed the art of zoning out. For a long time, her sad and tough life story had defined her for me. Naani who was widowed at a young age with 3 little daughters, relying on the goodness of her in-laws. She had done her best to raise them as best as she could. But this afternoon, something changed between us.
Now coming back to the afternoon. After my yet another horrific experience on the local bus, I was too angry to talk to anyone let alone do any work. It was like this every day. You would climb into the bus, hoping and praying, “Please Lord! today, I would like NOT to be pinched, touched inappropriately, poked or stared at.” Yet it was like this every time. I had promised myself that the day I start earning I will never look at a bus ever again in my life.
I was climbing up the stairs letting my sweaty palms make a stronger grip, helping me pull up each step. Today I felt more tired than angry. I was ready for a breakdown in the shower. It was quite a normal outcome after a day I had. But when I heard Naani trying her best to put the pot on the gas stove for her evening tea, I turned my way. Somehow my polite gesture of making the tea was mistaken for a lesson on ‘how to make tea’. She made me boil the ginger with water until the color changed to hues of yellow and brown and the aroma of ginger engulfed my senses. She was always very particular about her ginger tea. And today I was going to learn why was that. Naani kept explaining the importance of every step and ingredient in making a good cup of tea. And the importance of having patience and not rush the process, for tea needs time to boil in the flavors. Honestly, I was quite bad at making tea so I thought why not take this opportunity to learn from a pro.
She spent the whole time I was trying to make the tea, asking me about my college and classes along with detailed instructions. She asked about the bus ride and if I was alright. But all I could say was, “I need a shower naani. And I am throwing out this t-shirt today”. It was enough for her to know that it had been a tough day. She now quiet down and I noticed the disappointment on her face. I asked her quickly, “Are you ok, Naani? Chai is almost ready.” She replied with her calming smile, “Thank you sweety.
When she sat down to drink the final product, I am not going to lie, I was nervous. I wondered how will she rate my attempt of making the tea. Instead, she held my hand gently, not squeezing it at all and looked at me and said, “Now you go take a nice long shower and I will get you a snack. Go now!” I just smiled looking at her.
I came back to a bowl of Apples, perfectly sliced for me to much on. I looked at her irritated complaining, “Naani, I am not a baby. Enough with the Apples. You have been feeding me those since I was a kid. After school, tuition classes or just playing outdoors; you have fed me enough Apples for a lifetime. I want to eat something else now.” This time she gestured her hand like telling me to sit down and replied in her soothing voice, “Apple is good at any age and any time of the day. So just sit and eat.” “You can even watch one of your English shows,” passing me the TV remote “I don’t mind”. I smiled at her with tears in my eyes. I ate the Apples crying, letting all the frustrations and anger out and my teary-eyed naani sat there without a word, watching and listening to me. And the TV remained shut the whole time.