My grandmother would have been 100 today.
A feminist before her time, she told me that my first duty was towards myself and I should be financially and emotionally independent before even contemplating marriage.
Married in her early teens, she was fiercely independent. When she found she couldn’t converse with the wives of her husband’s colleagues, she engaged a tutor to teach her English, and picked up the language in months.
She did not study beyond grade 5, but made sure all three daughters completed their graduation before marriage. However her regret was that she didn’t encourage them to get professionally qualified, and she made sure her granddaughter didn’t make the same mistake.
She observed all the religious rituals she was taught since birth, but never forced her beliefs on anyone else. She didn’t find it difficult to worship at churches or dargahs either.
While other grandmothers told stories of gods and goddesses, she regaled me with stories from her childhood. Of life as the fourth of seven daughters in the smaller towns where her father taught. She made me appreciate that everyday life could be beautiful and dramatic too.
She was a perfect wife and mother, kept a beautiful house and served delicious meals. But she always made time for herself- Mondays were movie days, and she never missed her date with herself if she could help it.
While my grandfather was trying to get me to read Dickens, my grandmother slipped me a Perry Mason and said I’d probably enjoy it more. I didn’t, but I did learn that the purpose of reading need not be elucidation, it could be also be fun.
She cooked, she knitted, she sewed. The neatness of her stitches were legendary. Yet, she didn’t mind asking her teenage granddaughter to explain a pattern to her when she couldn’t quite understand the instructions.
Always dressed in timeless handlooms with a white hakoba blouse, my grandmother showed me that style was more important than fashion. That if one chooses the traditional, it remains timeless.
From my grandmother, I inherited the desire to learn and the willingness to fail. I learnt to be independent, and empathetic. Every girl needs a role model, and I was lucky to find mine in my grandmother.