Day 18 – Of summers gone by

19 Jan

I think all my summer vacations  from the age of 8 to 19 were spent at both my grandparents’ houses in Chennai. As my parents both worked, I was often shipped off alone after exams to spend time with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Thinking back , I don’t think I really looked forward to the time much due to a few reasons. For one, there was much scrutiny on what I wore. My shorts and ratty tees were never allowed to be packed and instead I had to take the pants , longer skirts and dreaded few salwar kameezes that I owned. Secondly , I never enjoyed being away from my parents , especially those first few years from age 8- 12 when they started this for me. My parents were also a protective shield for me from mean, nosy relatives in the extended family who I invariably had to meet when I went to Chennai. The summer after I started wearing glasses was especially painful as I endured a lot of questions on what my number was etc that pissed me off no end. Then another year ,I remember begging my mom to have me back in Bombay by the time class 10 board exam results came out, as I couldn’t bear the humiliation of having to find out my results in Chennai as they might be lower than those of cousins from eons ago.( Of course, no one would take into account I was in a relatively tougher board where getting “centum” is almost impossible).

Anyway , despite these few depressing moments that I associate with my Chennai trips, I now look back as special time I got with my grandparents.I now have only one surviving grandmother and  realize my time with that generation was so limited and I am honestly thankful for those summers.

So here are the happy things I remember. At my paternal grandparents’ house, my grandfather would always have a small bar of chocolate ready for me, usually a five star. He continued doing this well past me being in college. My sister who is 9 years younger to me, got one and I did too despite being 19 years old. He would also have my favorite orange cream biscuits ordered and in a tin for me.The old guy who sold puffed rice ,( pori in Tamil) who went from house to house since the time I was two yesrs old,  would be summoned specially for me. My grandmother would have her special ginger lemon squash made for me and I actually tried to get her recipe as I grew older but almost fainted when I heard how much sugar was needed for the sugar syrup! I had full access to a mini library of Enid Blytons and Tin Tins that my dad and his siblings had amassed over their childhood memories . I simply lay on the Diwan in the hall  for hours each day with my cousin’s dog at my feet and devoured the books and the goodies alike.My holiday homework which always involved drawing would be assigned to my older cousin who would grumble but do it eventually. My grandfather insisted the swings be brought out of storage and installed in the garden and balcony during my visit and I spent a lot of the day on those as well. I walked the dog with whoever was taking him and often got ice cream.My grandparents always insisted on giving me money during my visit for a special something – sometimes a dress, once a calculator when I started engineering , the Oxford dictionary when I was in high school. 

At my maternal grandparents’ house , I got the remaining of my summer homework completed by other cousins. One was an awesome pulley system for my Science project on simple machines that blew my teacher’s socks off. I used to love sitting by my grandfather and listening to stories of the freedom struggle.I wish I had written them down. He also taught my rummy and we played game after game of this each day.  My grandmother never sat for a minute, she was on the go from 4:30 am to 9 pm. My grandfather however had one big role in the morning , bringing in the milk and making the morning coffee. After that it was all my grandmom. Tiffin twice a day , a scrumptious lunch and dinner to boot. Every evening my grandparents had some fixed Tamil serials they watched. I remember making them a time table each time I went there , so that they didn’t miss a show and blame each other. My grandmom always commented that I looked grubby , so once she brought in the ends of a coconut and scrubbed me well at the bathroom, especially my black knees and elbows. She also insisted in giving me the best oil massages twice a week . My grandfather instilled in me a sense of financial responsibility. He explained the types of accounts to me and after accompanying him once , he sent me off to handle bank transactions on my own – at the age of 8 / 9! The bank was across the street and quite safe. As I grew older, I helped him organize his financial investment files and typed and printed out cover pages for each file for easy reference.There was an apartment building next to my grandparents’ house and ever evening I crossed the wall ( never through the gate) and went over to play with my friends. Every floor had kids my age and I was pretty much gone 4 pm to 9 pm. Occasionally my grandfather’s younger brother brought his granddaughter over to play and we had a great time despite minor fights. My grandmother fed an army of stray cats each day and one summer was particularly adventurous with one wild kitty entering the house and jumping on everybody and everything . My grandparents were the most hospitable people I knew and were forever hosting a bunch of relatives. So sleeping arrangements each night were in different rooms for me. I ensured though that my grandmother was close by each night, irrespective of whoever else was around. I remember being a bit of an insomniac most nights and listening to chimes of my grandparents’ hall clock every 15 minutes. My cousin who was in medical school was usually studying late and I would lie awake till she wrapped up. She would then come to bed and tell me a few stories before I drifted off to sleep. Gifts each summer from my maternal grandparents and aunts was customary too. I remember going shopping with my aunts for dresses and coming back with bagfulls to show my grandparents at home. Their eyes would light up when they saw the purchases. The vacation between class 4 and 5 when I graduated to ink pens was especially fun. My aunts and grandfather all got me a beautiful fountain pen each! 

Phew ! What a truckload of beautiful memories. Going to Chennai is not the same now after my grandparents’ passing. The houses stand, partially let out, partially occupied by family but sadly the warmth and joy is gone. My parents ask if I will send Bandar over for summer vacations to India and my answer currently is a firm no. I cannot bear to be separated from her by miles for days on end then I wonder if I am denying her and them and my in laws special joys of a lifetime and I need to reconsider as she gets older.
What are your favorite memories with your grandparents? Do you send your children to visit their grandparents without you ?

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8 Responses to “Day 18 – Of summers gone by”

  1. anisnest January 19, 2017 at 1:42 am #

    I have beautiful memories of my summer vacations spent at grandparents home.. Last year we tried something new. M and I took turns and kept kids at India for 7 weeks. That way they got to spend the whole summer at India and one parent is with them all the time. But, I said no to that plan for this year. Like you mentioned, I couldn’t stand staying away from kids for 3 weeks. It was his close to living in hell.. May be they can go when they are older and if they like. The other practical problem is by the time they go (July/August) the schools in India reopen. So, they get to spend only weekends with cousins and relatives. On weekdays it is only grand parents and I saw that they were getting bored..

    • popgoesthebiscuit January 20, 2017 at 11:30 am #

      Love your solution of staying with the kids there one at a time. I hate to deny them and the grandparents those rich vacation experiences and maybe this is a partial solution.

  2. Greenboochi January 19, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

    Oh I have fond memories of my grandparents. In fact this post made me feel so nostalgic that I am slightly teary eyed. I dont have grandparents from either side alive now, so I miss those times terribly when the memory waves start hitting. As you said, my grandparents place is now occupied by an extended family and the last time I visited, I couldnt imagine staying in the house without my grandparents. The joy and warmth were lost. Strange how some things have so many memories associated with them that they become as important as the people we loved.

    • popgoesthebiscuit January 20, 2017 at 11:32 am #

      Yes, after grandparents have gone, I felt the same sense of loss. I never even realized how important those relationships were to me when they were alive , mainly as I saw them only over the vacations. But I hate going to their homes now without them there

  3. princessbutter January 20, 2017 at 1:15 am #

    This was so nice. I started reminiscing my times with my grandparents back in Rajasthan. I wish I had spent more time with them and could change some things.

    • popgoesthebiscuit January 20, 2017 at 11:32 am #

      Yes, in my case I wish I had made better use of the time together. Wish I had written down anecdotes and stories and recipes . And wish I had taken more pictures.

  4. Bhavani January 20, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    Wonderful memories. I loved my summer breaks at Tveli at my grand mom’s place. The back door opened out to a Railway track and fields. We were friends with the kids on the street and they would wait for us to come every summer. We cousins would go together and it was too much fun!!

    I always feel super guilty about sending my kids to Summer Camps.

    I have never and dont think I will send them by themselves for summer.

    • popgoesthebiscuit January 20, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

      Wonderful memories , B! I can totally relate to the neighborhood kids waiting for us to arrive for the holidays . I feel the same about sending Bandar off alone to India.

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