‘AMI ODRISHYO HOSTO’ [THE INVISIBLE HAND] | portraits of my grandmother

One fine day, he said, “Juthika, your daughters and their daughters are like Durga with ten hands.” She blushed and as an afterthought said, “Ami odrishto hath [I am the invisible hand]. I am however of the thought process that it is a curse to be so, the goddess with ten hands. It basically boils down to serve others and do not have a life of your own. She would not share this school of thought. My grandmother is fiercely independent, loyally idealistic, with a tingling arrogance, she clings to objects, memories to somewhat preserve a time gone by. Her sense of space is chaotic but it is her own. Colours scream at you from different directions, a plethora of smells creates an aroma that only her home creates. For the obedient eye trained under societal norms, it is seemingly a chaotic existence. But mind you, you want a pin out of the hay stack and she would know exactly where it is. She goes about her chores, choosing to do things her way and by herself. She clings to a definition of her space, her own space. It is gratifying in so many ways, to not succumb to societal standards. She tends to pray a lot but the gods span across religions. There is great discipline to her daily life. She strongly believes, ‘Kaaj lokkhi (work is worship). One will stay healthy that way.’ She is simple in a very complicated manner. I aspire to be like you someday, dearest Dadi.

The familiarity of space. The nuances of habit.
The daily chores and one’s own discipline of book-keeping. Often they are just chits tucked away in folds of forgotten diaries.
The rhythm of daily life. The penchant for familiarity.
I remember this being around even when I was little. A basket of handkerchiefs. Oh the fading nuances that are oh so practical.
Her weapons of self preservation. The day starts with Akashvani blaring and ends with a handy war on mosquitoes for a good night’s sleep.
The powder has been her faithful make-up tool. One is not ready to step out of the house unless that powder puff gently caresses the face.
Why don’t they make extra-small version sarees for short people?
Her trusted mode of transport. No matter what the advancement in public transport.
The fish ain’t as fresh when they ferry to your home. What is a week without paying a visit to the local fish market at least once.
That familiar view of winter sun and extra amounts of snacks when I visit. And some more snack tucked away to take away with you upon return.
Some things you know best. Be it the simple task of soaking the clothes in the right amount of detergent and water.
One’s space to enjoy solitude. Fiercely spiritual, she looks forward to her time dressing up the space and breathing a little of her to a space she takes pride in.
To be able to love oneself and enjoy one’s own company is a blessing.
Her little touch and the denial to part ways with the old. Hers is a system that recycles like a boss!
She believes she has green fingers. Oh the joy she has every time she spots some interesting plant when she crosses the vendor selling saplings on the footpath.
She is particular about the winter sun being her alarm and that cross ventilation happens effortlessly in her home.
Phone calls on the landline may be a thing of the past now. But her mobile phone wrapped in a cover with a teddy bear sits next to where the telephone used to be. Every time the mobile phone rings, you will still see her standing by the table and talking at length.
She sincerely prays to the sun before her tea ritual.
No matter what help exists, she is particular about doing certain things by herself and the way she deems fit.
Her daily chores seem like it is meditation to her. May be it is. At least it appears that way to me.
In her own world, calculating what goes where so the line is straight. You know an artist when you see their obsessive compulsion towards straight lines and matching colours even in the most banal things.
Red is her favourite colour.
I don’t know why her dressing table has a grater next to it. But it has been there forever. She is a hoarder and may be she ran out of space. Or she just likes how it looks against a green wall.
An independent woman in every ways. She is unapologetic about her stubbornness to protect this about herself. I adore her grit.
Big city life is too in her face. She enjoys how slow her surrounding is and how calm it is to listen to birds calling instead of horns blaring.
The change of seasons and the change of lifestyle patterns.
She scolds the vegetable vendor every day for rising prices. The vegetable vendor looks forward to her blabbering every morning for a much needed laugh at her expressions and choice of phrases. He appreciates that she has built a relationship with him over the years and chooses to have a conversation with him. She acknowledges him. It is not so common, mind you.
Menu planning for the day while hovering over what is fresh.
A little for the fragrance, a little prayer perhaps but mostly for the mosquitoes breeding in the river next to her house.

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