Palamma My Grandma - A True Life Story

My Grandma

This is a true life story of my grandma was born sometime in 1900 as I guess from what my father and uncles had told me. She was married at when she was just12 years old. In those days, people never went to school. They believed that children are God’s gift and a girl child is a burden. I started seeing my Grandma at an age of four onwards, when I was left behind by my father at my Grandma’s care so that I can pursue my advanced studies after my pre schooling and nursery school studies, starting from Class One. From my experience, my grandma even though born as a girl child would not have been a burden to her parents in any way.

My Grandma was the boss of the house. My grandpa had passed away very long ago. I have seen her take charge of the entire house where all her three boys, their wife’s and kids and grandkids stayed in one small house along with half a dozen of cows, goats, ducks and hen each. She used to work the whole day. I had never seen her rest. She is either working herself or making the rest of the gang work. She was the head cook as well in the house. My grandma is said to have given birth to her first child at an age of 13 years, but the baby was still born. She then gave birth to three boys and two girls alternately in between the three boys.

My father happens to be youngest who is now past 80 years of age. His eldest brother was a huge 20 years older than him. Just imagine. All his two brothers and two sisters plus the still born are long gone. Out of the half a dozen born to my Grandma, my father still survives past 80 which the other five could not achieve. Probably God wants my children and probably my grandchildren to see know him and know him well. I don’t know he is lucky to see his great grand kids or my grandkids who are yet to be born, will be the lucky ones when they will see each other someday.

Head Of The Family is A Woman

I was not the only kid of my age. But, I was the only boy in that house. In our part of the country which is also called the The God's Own Country, the sex ratio was 1084 girls for every 1000 boys compared to the sex ration of my country being 940 girls for every 1000 boys. I have seen many a house where the women are old, but were never married off. Males were short my place and thus the Women are the head of the house. Those days women were powerful. Today, the scene is different.

My Grandma Displayed Love with Goat Milk And Boiled Eggs

Women don’t enjoy the power they had half a century back. No wonder my Grandma was the boss of the house and rest everyone would take her every word like an order. Grandma used to be working with everyone, without tiring out, throughout the day and often more than the rest of them probably to set examples and that is what probably gave her the power to control them. She had immense love for me and it was visual to every other child in the house. One of the ways she used to show her love was by giving me goat milk which was considered much better than cow milk.

The quantity of goat milk from our six goats was just a couple of liters compared to the five gallons four six cows used to give. So there was a fight for the goat milk. But I hated even the smell of raw goat milk even thought I used to be in love with all our goats, cows, ducks and hen, all of whom recognized me when I call them by their individual names. Grandma wanted me to drink fresh raw goat milk early in the morning. It was her way showering love on me. So she will call me to a corner and give me a huge copper tumbler full of fresh frothing goat milk and go away.

The moment Grandma is out of sight I would run to the pit where all the waste water flows into. First I would put the brass tumbler to my mouth to get the froth stick to my upper lips like my white mustache and then pour the entire tumbler of goat milk into the pit. I would then return the tumbler back to my Grandma. This happened for a long time till she found out and I had to develop a taste for goat milk. Even today, I hate the smell of raw goat milk.

Grandma's Boiled Eggs Shot into Cow Dung

The next dose of her love would come between 10:00 am to 11:00 am when she would wait for everyone to go away. She will call me to the same corner of the house and slip a nice shining boiled egg telling me to eat it up before any one sees. I used to wait for Grandma to go away, run to the cow dung depositing pit and throw the boiled egg with all my force so that the egg vanishes inside the fresh cow dung. This became an everyday affair.

I don’t remember how many boiled eggs had I shot into the cow dung pit till I got caught a few weeks later when they were clearing the cow dung pit which was almost full. There came dozens of boiled eggs in various stages of decomposition. Grandma was called in by the laborer who was clearing the pit and shown those boiled eggs. Grandma did not even look at me. I think I saw tears in her eyes. But the boiled eggs never stopped. See my grandma's real picture below;

She would keep one boiled egg on the table with orders that it is meant for me. I actually developed a taste for boiled eggs in a couple of days and I actually relish boiled eggs even today. We had some paddy fields where we all used to work. The paddy grew those days in knee deep water unlike today when new hybrid varieties of paddy grows on dry land. So we had to wait for the monsoon rains to start for the water to fill up in the paddy fields for the paddy to grow.

The monsoon starts on a certain date my Grandma would predict. It rains continuously for about 10 days with short half an hour to one hour break throughout day and night. Our 20 meter deep dry well will start getting springs of water flowing into it on the fourth day of the monsoon rainfall. The next day the ponds and the paddy fields are full of water, fish and snakes coming out of the numerous ponds along the paddy fields. It was rainy fun because all our schools are also closed for those ten days of monsoon rains. Eat, drink, play, sleep and nothing else for us for those wet days.

How Mrs Sarah, My Grandma Became PalAmma

It was not that my Grandma was only showering love on me. She had some business propositions also for me. Since she was rearing Cows and Goats, she used to milk the goats and cows twice a day and go round the entire township distributing pure unaltered milk. She was also called PalAmma. Pal in the language Malayalam means Milk and Amma in Malayalam language means Mother. Basically she was known to everyone in the town as PalAmma or Milk Mother. It was only after she passed away and when I grew up I came to know she had a real name too called, Sarah.

The name befitted her more than PalAmma. But the name PalAmma was to stay because she was known to the entire country side and if there were to be an election, I am sure she would have become the Chairman of our Municipality those days.

My Grandma Was A Business Woman

Now my problem was that whenever it is school holidays, she would order me to carry milk to all the households she delivers milk. I did not have any problem doing the Milk delivery job. My problem was that I was in Second grade in the school. And the milk has to be delivered twice daily on all Saturdays and Sundays to the houses she goes delivering milk.

In a few of these houses stayed my class mates. I was a very shy child and was always scared that my class mates will name me Milk Boy in school. So what I used to do was to keep the milk container in front of the house, bang on the door and hide on the side of the house, if it is a class mate’s house.

This trick worked many times, but curious mothers would come looking for PalAmma and used to find me hiding from them. Most of my class mates knew that my parents were away and that I am staying with my Grandma’s joint family. So they would take pity on me and give me a kiss on my cheek, some class mate’s mother would wash the milk can and put something edible into it, some mothers would put some ripe mangoes or some fruit into the milk can.

This became a routine and I started loving this milk delivery job and would look forward to Saturdays and Sundays. More than the kisses and hugs, it was the edibles which I used to look forward to. I could eat it myself and share it with my friends too. I did not have to go back and give any account of what was in the milk cans. Often my Granma would give a five paise with which I could buy a few toffee those days from the local shops. After all, Milk Delivery was such a lucrative job.

PalAmma My Grandma Was Paralysed

One day as I was playing, I saw my Grandma falling to one side. Someone nearby held her and put her on the bed. She was hit by paralysis of the left side of her entire body including her face. She was in bed for long three years unable to move. Only her right hand would move and could hardly speak anything other than make some noise. I was her two hands.

I somehow could make out what she wants by just looking at her face and reading what her lips were trying to convey. But when my distant cousins come home in holidays they would fool her by saying they have sugar with them. When Grandma opens her mouth partially what they put into it was rock salt. She did not have the capability to even spit it out due to paralysis. I could do nothing because all my cousins were older than me by many years.

Finally, my father came back home on leave. By then I was ten years old. My father had come with my mother and two brothers. After two weeks we were all supposed to be going with my father to the new place he has got a transfer. After my Grandma got bedridden, I was without a mother in that house. I was growing up like an orphan. I was told that was the reason to take me along with him even through the plan was to keep me with my Grandma where our entire joint family except my own family lived, till I passed my tenth grade at an age of 15 years.

I Saw My Grandma's Soul Leave Her Body

My father went to my school and took my Transfer Certificate. It was three more days of fun left for me before I go with my parents to North India. That is when it happened. I was called back that afternoon back home. When I came in I saw my father using a spoon made of a Jack Fruit Tree Leaf which is a disposable spoon we all used every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner time. As I stood there watching, my Grandma gulped the first spoon of water.

She looked pale and motionless. There was no smile on her lips and her face did not light up as it does whenever I go near her. My father poured the second leaf spoon of water in to Grandma’s mouth. But, this time the water stayed in her mouth. That is when my father closed her eyes with his hands. My mother wiper her face and immediately broke down. The whole house was in mourning. My Grandma was gone. Her body lay still. I too cried. Even now as I write this true story, my eyes welled up once, as I was seeing my Grandma once again after 48 long years. She was a beautiful lady even in her 75th year of life when she died.

My Grandma is the most famous person I have ever been associated with in my entire life. She never realized her power. She never knew how famous she was. But she lived like a Queen and behaved like a General of the Army who could control over 30 plus individuals of all ages in the house with ease. Her word was law even to her 60 year old son. And I was the only person who she never gave any orders. She would only talk with love to me. I was her six year old grandson. The photo you saw on top of this true life story was a portrait an artist had made when she was just 72 years old because, there were no photo cameras or photo studios those days. Even at 72 she looks graceful. This photo is what keeps my Grandma alive in my heart and my eyes eventhough she passed away, almost half a century ago. This is a true life story.

A True Life Story