My grandmother was fondly referred to as Bayyu by one and all. A lady who was slightly stooping probably due to several pregnancies and osteoporosis was a lady who could hold the family together. This tough lady who appeared thin, small – all of 4 feet 10” , frail had an impact on me as a child.
I called her Mamama – mama’s mama. Mamama with the baby in arms – ME.
Summer vacations were spent at Kallimar house and my memories of her are fresh and nostalgic. As far as I remember, she would spend her time in the kitchen. However, in the afternoon, after the daily chores were over, she would sit in the front room called ‘chavadi’ take out her ‘padipan’ box – the box with betelnut and betel leaves and sit alongside her husband, cut the betelnut with the cutter, make the pan and give him and eat it herself. A frail lady had the strength to cut the betel nut with the cutter! I don’t think I could use the cutter to cut anything other than a sheet of paper!
Mamama would make the best ‘ramdhan’ for breakfast for me. This is a kind of uttappam cooked on a slow fire with mustard seed seasonings. The taste of it still lingers in my mouth. I don’t know if it is her culinary expertise or the unconditional love that she had for her grandchildren that made it taste so good!
There is an incident that was narrated to me by her which was later corroborated by my mom about my getting lost in the backyard. Kalimar house had a huge backyard and it had a hillock with mango, jackfruit trees going up the hillock. At the bottom were bimbul trees, banana plants, custard apple, chickoo among others. There was a tiny stream that ran alongside. One day, baby Pramila was not to be found. Mamama, mom and my uncles kept calling out and the search party went around the sprawling premises looking for the toddler. Mom thought I had drowned in the stream. Fortunately, those days, it was still safe and there were no kidnappers around! After a long search, I believe I was found under the bimbul tree. Bimbul also referred to as bilimbi yields fruits which are extremely sour.
The tree itself is a tropical short tree which branches out quickly unlike the papaya tree.
I was found to be busy collecting bimbuls in the frock and standing up only to find that the bimbuls fall down. The whole process would begin all over again and the engrossment was such that the search party’s calls were not heard. On hindsight I realise that I still go hammer and tongs at a task and don’t leave it half done.
Mamama introduced me to the game of ‘gurupalle’ . It is a game played with conch shells. She was a pro at this game and would willingly lose the game so that I would be thrilled about the win. She gifted the ‘gurupalle’ to me when I was about 10 years old.
Mamama exhibited amazing GRIT. There are couple of occasions that I remember to prove the point. It is probably her legacy that I have inherited which makes me a fighter.
Ganesh Chaturthi at Kallimar house was an event that is etched in my memory. The grinding stone would start rolling in the wee hours of the morning to get food ready for the puja. Coconut graters would be grating tens of coconuts. We believed that ‘Ganapathi bappa’ loved to eat and it was reflected in the number of items that had to be cooked for the festival. There would be typical GSB delicacies like Pathrado, appo, phodi, Karathe ambade gashi among other things. Puja would be performed. The tillers from the fields would line up behind the house. They would refer to mamama as ‘Dethi’. Each of them would be served a meal after the puja by mamama. After everything was over would she settle down to eat. I have not heard her say ever that she was tired.
During WW II I believe the cloth business that Ganapathy Kudva was running, folded up. Suddenly, a well to do family found itself on dire streets. This frail lady took it upon herself to hold the front. Every summer when I visited Kallimar house she would be busy making god happolu [sweet pappads] for children, white pappads, red happolu [pappads], pickles and shevai [semia] to be dried and stored. She would toil for hours on a daily basis making these. These things would be stored in airtight containers to be used during the monsoon.
She was an environmentalist. An eco-friendly person who believed in conserving water. The place for washing clothes was next to the well. The water after washing clothes would feed the coconut trees at the back yard. She served two purposes here – conserving water and energy – there was no need to water these coconut palms. The cow dung was used to make dung cakes that would serve as manure for the plants. Organic manure is not a new concept at Kallimar house!
She was a learned lady although she had studied only up to grade 4. She had taught herself to read Marathi books. She encouraged her children to study. She and he eldest daughter Swarna. Would have book reading sessions every evening at 5pm where all neighbours would assemble at her house. If I have a love for reading you know where it comes from.
All memories were not happy memories for me. There were some moments that I dreaded. During monsoon, to step out of the main building to go towards the bathroom, one would use the ‘kidanjal’. which was made out of the coconut leaves and provided a handsfree cover from the rain. This might have baby lizards hiding in them and I dreaded using these. Umbrellas were not commonly used for these purposes in those days.
Finally a photograph of Bayyu and Ganapathy Kudva.