My Other Grandma - Papa's Mom was originally from Kuthuthani village in Kanyakumari District and got married to Thatha from Karinkal, and lived there all her life. I have not seen Thatha as he passed away even before I was born; but Pautima lived a long healthy life till age 87 and was a huge influence in my life.
What mostly influenced me about Karinkal Pautima was her simplicity. If she was proud of one thing, that was her children. Both Mami (my Aunt) and Papa are simply the best according to her. Pautima would go on and on and on telling stories about Papa and Mami's childhood, how Pautima and Thatha gave so much importance to education and how they were able to raise them to get their Masters in respective fields and how they paid for their tuition etc.
Thatha had a government job in the court, all his earnings were spent on education only and nothing else. They didn't need anything else. They had a house, they had food coming in from their land. Fish was a daily dish. Chickens were home raised and on special occassions like when we are visiting, Pautima would cook one. Pautima wore simple cotton sarees and looked beautiful in them. She didn't go out much except to go visit her lands around where yuca and green beans would grow. She would step out to a relative's place to request them to buy fish for us when they went to market. Very rarely she traveled. Pautima's life was mostly spent within the confines of Papa's family village - Kannan vilai. It is a settlement if you will of children of one family. Thatha's father's brothers, their children, their children and now we are the 4th generation of children I am familiar with. A very small world.
When we visit during holidays, from where the bus stops we have to walk about two kilometers to where Pautima lived. We did that with hopping and running on the narrow paths winding down and climbing up through different family properties. People loved their land so much and so nobody came forward to share some of their property to make a common road. But now there is a road, I hear Pautima was a pioneer offering her land for road to come through and also for electricity poles. Sadly only after Pautima's time we have seen roads and electricity in that part of the country.
As we get closer and closer to Pautima's house, lot of kids who are our 2nd and 3rd generation cousins would accumulate around us and we will land in Pautima's house as one BIG battalion. When we got very close to Pautima's house we will be calling out for her 'PAAUTIMAAA...! PAUTIMAAAA...!' to announce our arrival as she would have no clue we are even coming that day. Pautima didn't hug or kiss like my other Pautima. She would greet you 'Pille!' meaning 'my child!'. Mom would share generous eatables she brought from home to all those kids who accompanied us on the way from different homes in the neighborhood. They would be so happy to receive the sweets and ask for more and more sometimes. Adults would also be there. Amma would be so kind and would have packed a lot of stuff just to give away.
It would be a while before they disperse to their home which is usually when the sun sets.I would be so shy shy to get mingled at first. It normally took me a day or two to assimilate with the country cousins as they admired my each movement. They would say my clothes were pretty and my shoes looked like the movie stars' and my hair was nice and long or something of that sort. All the while, I will be admiring their simple styles, care free living, and natural beauty!
Everyday of our stay they would arrive, as soon as the sun comes. They will ask me to come and play with them and would take me around places and show the different pieces of land and say they are ours, would pluck me mangoes, and make me eat it raw, same thing with baby tamarinds and cashew nut fruits. They would even take me to swim in the canal down the lanes. Both boys and girls would be there and there will be lot of jumping and splashing in the water. We would play under the huge tamarind tree that was common to all households or that's what it seemed like then. This was a really huge tree with no low lying branches. So no tree climbing invloved. A long while later we will retrieve to our homes to eat while they all disperse to feed their cows or clean their tamarinds or something like that.
It was a sight to see Pautima making jaggery. Her mud stove was on the floor, above which she had the shelf like thing where her 'akkani' vessels were kept. Akkani means 'payini' or 'palm juice'. Pautima made jaggery from scratch out of the palm juice from our own palm trees. Some people who climp the trees would collect the juice in a container and bring it to Pautima who then cooks the juice to certain consistency and makes jaggery out of it by pouring it in coconut shells like metal bowls. These bowls has a whole in it which she would cover with a leaf from the jack fruit tree. Then she sets the bowls to harden the jaggery. The funnest part is when she gives us all a spoonful of the liquid jaggery on a jack fruit leaf or palm leaf to taste. She would use the shell of mussles as her spoon. For fueling her mud stove, she would use dry leaves and twigs from palm, coconut, mango and jack fruit trees around. For us kids who grew up in the town, her simple ways was such fun to watch.
Pautima's regular cooking was also fun to watch. Pautima kept her salt in a coconut shell. She would use another coconut shell to beat an egg, for beater she would use a twig or her knife itself. First she cooks the rice in a mud pot, sets the water to drain, next she will get up and go to the big 'ammi' grinding stone and grind coconut, red chillie, a piece of turmeric and some tamarind and jeera - she will add each one by one and make a big ball of masala. She would wash the grinding stone very carefully and collect that water in a coconut shell for later use. Then she walks back to the kitchen 'kusini' as she calls it and sits on her usual place in front of the stove, puts another pot on the stove, pours little bit oil from a vintage looking glass bottle, seasons one or two pearl onions, and adds her masala, adds some fish which is already washed and kept aside, and before you know it the beautiful mouth watering fish curry will be ready. To treat us extra special she would make 'marakkari' meaning vegetable dish, like avial and then often made us a nice omlette. That's when the beating of the eggs in a coconut shell comes in. It would be a freshly emptied shell so scrapes of coconut also got mixed with the egg and her slow hands will soon produce the best tasting omlette in the whole wide world!
As we sit around her on the floor and door steps and back yard watching her cook, Papa and Amma would also be around. Suddenly the conversation topic would get focused on Papa. We would start listing complaints about Papa. Pautima was the only person Papa was still afraid of. So, whatever we would think as complaints such as, 'Papa wakes us up so early in the morning for prayer' or something in those lines, we would start telling her. It was very interesting to hear Pautima saying something to Papa to support us, she would mostly bring in old stories of similar incident as Papa was growing up.
As I got bigger I would travel alone to Grandma's house. I would stop by at the best bakery in Tirunelveli - Arasan - and buy plenty of butter biscuits and mint candies and the like for Grandma and take it with me. For distribution among friends and cousins Mom would send murukkus through me. Those times I would sit and talk to Grandma for hours and hours and mostly I will leave the same day. Many times Pautima has requested me to stay back but I would have to rush back to catch my bus or train to Bangalore, Trichy or Chennai wherever I was studying at that time. Though one day visits seems too short now, I would have spent every single minute with Grandma, talking to her, listening to her repeated stories or discussing something from Bible. Those were moments well spent.
When I returned Pautima will walk with me all those 2 kilo meters to the bus stop and usually will find someone to carry a jack fruit and a bag of mangoes or a bunch of red banana or plantains for me to take home. As the bus moves I will be so sad to think if I will see Grandma again, if she will reach home safely, and so many if's. I used to be afraid of snakes and other insects that could be hiding under the leaves she used for cooking fuel. I have never seen a snake but I would worry like that. Then I would beg and plead with God that He should allow me one more chance to go see Grandma again. BIG SIGH....
Pautima was there for my engagement and wedding. When she saw Israel she said, 'He is dark but handsome'. Pautima soon moved to live with my Aunt in Kuzhithurai not far away from her village. She did not like Tirunelveli much as she would call it 'Pondy' and would find it hotter climate wise. She used to write to me letters through my cousins asking me to return to India and why I should remain in some far off land.
Sadly I did not return to see her off at least once after marriage. Life kept me busy in these United States, with children, jobs, green card etc.Now I have everything I had dreamt about as a child. But don't have my Pautima and Papa to enjoy it with. But guess what, they are in a better place, resting. Looking forward to the blessed hope of my truest wish to come true - to meet them again. The Scripture promises:
"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
I am forever grateful to my Karinkal Pautima who taught me so much of life's valuable lessons. Whose life was a testimony to others. At her funeral one of the family members (Papa's cousin) shared how she came to understand the love of Christ through my Pautima. Her slow paced life feels like a dream. Hard to believe life moves on with or without her; but never the same as with her. I am sure Eternity has much more fun in store for us together and guess what there will be no separation after that!