As dusk approached, the plump rain drops settled on the thick layer of brown soil akin to glass beads, reflecting light to spread colourful hues around! What a sight!
This is a welcome to the sprawling terracotta roofed bungalow which houses ‘Granny and the brood’. Granny addressed as ‘Patti’* is the formidable yet graceful; assertive yet affectionate matriarch. She has successfully housed four generations under the same roof and continues to take charge of many jobs, the substantive one being passing down the family values through generations.
Every evening, the courtyard transforms into an amphitheatre. The resounding applause lights up the house. Mimicry, dances, jokes and laughter become the highlight. Normally the evening ends with a story delivering a strong lesson in moral values.
Yes…..Patti is determined that phones, laptops and tabs will never take over the lives of her grandchildren. She keeps the onus on herself to transform them into ‘sane’ human beings. Out of the complete brood she is particularly focussed on Aarav as she senses indifference, stubbornness and defiance in his attitude. It is growing each day he steps closer to teenage.
“Aarav, please clear the courtyard of coconut shells”, instructed Aunt Mouni.
“Give me a good reason why I should do it?” pat came Aarav’s reply.
“Because you are the most wonderful child”, replied Aunt Mouni fondly.
“That I know. Think of another good reason”, screaming, he ran out of the courtyard leaving Aunt Mouni fuming. No one in the house dare defy her. She stomped back into the house. Such incidences were becoming gradually common.
Aarav was unwilling to display any level of camaraderie towards his peers in the household. A streak of selfishness was evident in his behaviour.
Patti, was witness to all this from her seat in the courtyard. Her mind, already churning out ideas to shortlist the best way to teach this youngster a lesson.
That evening, after the evening amphitheatre came to a close, Patti called out to Aarav, “Come to me….quick.”
He ran, feeling privileged at being called out. “Must be something exclusive. After all I’m the more responsible one”, smirking, he walked towards Paati unable to resist a long haughty smile.
“Walk along!” “We need to hurry to the mango orchard and get some good green mangoes for the special offering at the temple tomorrow morning.”
“Paati, it is getting dark. Do you think it is safe to go?”
“Of course it is! Don’t you say you are the brave one?”
“That’s the reason I selected you to accompany me.”
Aarav’s chest swelled with arrogance as they started off. Chatting and laughing they made their way to the dense orchard. The sun had set and darkness was gradually engulfing the canopies of the trees.
“Aarav, start climbing each tree that I point to and pick two mangoes.”
After he had climbed up and down four trees, Paati pointed to a big bushy tree with a massive trunk. She knew Aarav wouldn’t be able to make his way down, but that is exactly what she wanted. To prove to him ‘a point’.
Aarav on the other hand was too overconfident to be able to judge his actual might and severity of the task. After throwing down the mangoes he had picked, he shouted “Paati, I can’t climb down. I need help”
Patti, meanwhile had stepped back into the darkness of a cluster of trees purposely and remained there.
Aarav grew desperate. “Patti,…….Patti. Where are you?” “Help me……help me please!!”
Patti maintained an eerie silence.
After continuing cries of help, Aarav quietened down.
It was then that Patti spoke, “Give me a good reason, why should you be helped?”
“Don’t you ask us all for a good reason all the time?” “Well! Now it’s time you think of one!”
This struck Aarav like lightning and he knew he had been brought here to learn a lesson.
“Patti, I have learnt my lesson. I promise I will mend my ways.”
“Are you sure?” Patti roared to make sure the fright was heightened
“Yes Patti, I promise. I will first apologise to everyone at home.”
The experience of the grey head gave her the feeling that the lesson had been learnt. So she whistled loudly and the watchmen appeared. He helped Aarav down the tree, who was visibly shaken with dried tears staining the face. She stepped forward and gathered him in a tight embrace.
“Sometimes, my dear, the finger needs to be twisted slightly if the jar of mango pickle has a tight opening. Implying, that your lesson had to be changed because you did not see logic in learning the straight way.”
Aarav looked up at her and smiled, “I have a lesson well learnt. Now I will be thoughtful while demanding a good reason.”
They walked back fondly holding each other’s hands.
*Patti – grandmother in Tamil
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