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Granny’s stories

- Upama Pant

My grandma owns a great collection of Hindu scripts. Her antique collection of the Vedas, Ramayana, Geeta, etc, at one corner gives her room a vintage vibe. When you enter her room, the rusty smell of the metal rack and the musty smell of the books shelved on it make you feel like you are swirling an aged wine and devouring its aroma before taking a sip.

Hindu culture says that a woman should encompass 32 virtues as stated in the scripts of Atharva Veda to be considered attractive and eligible for marriage. My grandma says I lack at least 25 of them. One virtue that I miserably fail at is maintaining cleanliness—room hygiene, to be specific. With my room always in a mess and me roaming around the house like a lazy, little slob, my grandma thinks I am just the opposite of what an eligible bachelorette should be like.

She insists that I thoroughly read through the chapters of Swasthani and keep fasts every Monday.

I do not live with my grandma now, but I spent much of my childhood with her. During winter, upon sundown, I along with my three cousins would snuggle up beside grandma and demand that she tell us ‘ukhaan tukkas’—the famous Nepali riddles, alongside legendary tales and folklores of her time. We asked her to pass down the oral history that was passed on to her from her ancestors.

She told us many stories, but the story that I remember so vividly is the one that ends in a small poem:

 “Bhannelai phulko maala,

Sunnelai sun ko maala,

Yo kathaa baikuntha jaala,

Bhanne bela turuntaiaaihalaa”

Most of her stories had ancient gods and goddesses, kingdoms and heaven at their centre. Now, after going through ten years of science-centric education system, I think the stories are irrational. But I would probably enjoy them all the same. I feel like her stories were always so full of imagination. Grandma always hid a message for her grandchildren to unravel, in hopes that the messages would make us better human beings. It has worked in our favours. We have turned out to be okay people.

I spent most of my childhood climbing walls like the children in her stories would. I also did other things like tying a towel around my shoulders in an attempt to fly. I tried to replay the stories in real life as if I was living a substandard version of them all. Growing up, my grandma’s words set my mind on fire, like Hanuman set Lanka on fire.

With time, more of us got caught up. Sometimes it was the exams, other times grandma just lived ‘too far’. Vacations were never truly stress-free and there is always some unfinished task to catch up to. We all got engulfed by the city life and its distractions.

It was not until this year that I took a break and got to spend some time with her.

This year I realised that grandma has forgotten most of her stories. She says she still remembers the ukhaan tukkas. I affirm she does. I have been insisting my grandma to stress a little, to remember the stories, to pull out the words from the back of her mind. When younger, I didn’t realise that she would forget the stories. If I did, I would have written them down or recorded it.

When I roam around the bazaar hoping to hear over similar stories, I often meet buwas, who were the heroes of their times, drinking kalo chiya in the local tea stall. I meet dais who were brave enough to swim across Trisuli in the Chautari. They are no inferior to the tales I’ve heard or reminisced. But they are never what I am looking for.

In the last few days, my grandma was able to come up with newer stories. Similar to the ones I longed to hear—about the kichkandi that lives in the forest and the beast that will haunt us if we don’t eat dinner on time. I got to hear that poem at the end. Oh, and the gaau khane kathaas that shall be passed down the family line.

However, I miss the togetherness. All four grandchildren are scattered these days, even when grandmother wants to tell us a story. One is busy playing the new game installed on his phone, another is busy watching wrestling, and the third one is always hanging out with her friends.

I still want to snuggle by my grandma on chilly nights and ask her to test me with her riddles.

Perhaps, she’ll aske me, “Kati sunchhas ho?” And as always, I’ll say, “Aamani budi hunu bhayecha. Aile nai alchi lagyo?”

Pant is an IBDP graduate from Ullens

Published: 2018-03-28 08:44:12