Sunday, 23 April 2017

Granny and Europe

Source :

My granny is a typical Indian grandmother. Refusing to go for anything apart from what she has been used to since the beginning of time.

"It's not possible. I have too much work."
I could have laughed at the ridiculousness of her statement. Work? Really? She would give that lame an excuse?
"And pray tell me what may that be?" I turned to look at her, my face all smiles.
She gave me a stern look and said, "You have no idea how much work a home requires. You won't understand. You are way out of it all now. Always outside for work and studies. You won't understand. "
"At least tell me, no? I will try to understand."
I was so looking forward to this conversation. It was going to be so much fun.
"Please, please, please. Pleaseeeeeeeeee…" I began ranting the way I used to when I was a kid and wanted some particularly stomach-upsetting delicacy.
"Well, it’s not rocket science. The house requires maintenance. The daily puja, cleaning, washing, cooking... "
"Which is all done by the respective maidservants.” I cut in. “But go on.”
She glared at me.
"You leave them women alone and they will flutter about, sit all day in front of the television and do nothing. They are the biggest shirkers possible. They-"
"Okay okay! I totally agree. But nothing will happen if we seal the house and go for one month. No need for cleaning. You will be free from any responsibility. At least for some time."
Granny clearly wasn’t convinced. "Listen. I will tell you what to do.” She began. “You go to Germany. Do that cun-convection-whatever thing and come back and then we will go to Sagar Ratna and have a huge party.”

It was all I could do not to burst into laughter. Only granny could place a meal in Sagar Ratna over a Europe trip.

I knew this would be both entertaining and exasperating. But I had only so much time. I had to get my point across.

"Convocation, granny. It is my convocation. And you know how much I want you to be a part of it. I won't accept any of your reasons. You must come. You have to come. I assure you, you will love it. I will be wearing the graduation robe and the special square graduation cap. Don't you want to see me awarded? In front of so many students and teachers and their parents and well-wishers? Please please please don't say no. I have been planning this for ages. And didn't you say you wish I hadn't gone to Germany alone? Now I'm taking you. I wouldn't be alone anymore."

Granny's face was working furiously. I knew in her heart of hearts, she wanted to be there. But she just didn’t want to leave the country where our family had lived and perished. She saw herself as a custodian of that legacy. And she wouldn’t give it up. At any cost.

“You know I would love to. But seriously I can't leave everything and just go. It doesn't work that way. And you are talking about this chilly country. The temperatures go negative. You yourself said that. How will I manage?!”
“Oh granny granny granny! It will be spring this time of the year. It won't be cold. Winter is gone. And summer will be here soon. There will be flowers and sunshine and sparkling lakes. It is all very pleasant indeed. You will love it. "
"But beta... I'm not used to the environment. I don't even know the language. What will I do there? "
"But I will be there with you, all right? Just come. You won't regret it. I promise.”

For a long time, she busied herself with putting things here and there. Cleaning the spotless vase. Wiping the photo frame and staring at the family photograph. Tilting the clock. Smoothing the cushions. In short, doing anything she possibly could in order to avoid answering me. There was no need for any such work but granny has a habit of fussing about things. It was not that difficult for her to come. But the real reason she didn't want to go was -

“I don't like the idea of living in a foreign country. This is my birth place. I want to live here. I don't want to live anywhere else.”

I knew this was the actual reason. She just hated the idea of being in a ‘foreign’ setting. She was a woman who was born in the pre-independence era. Although by the time she grew up the tensions had ceased, she was still not very comfortable with the idea of settling in a different country.
I respect her choice. But I wanted her to witness my convocation and experience the joy and pride on having raised her granddaughter single-handedly into a winner. I had just finished my graduation and had come top of the class. And I wanted gran to witness this achievement and feel proud of her own efforts. I wanted to tell her how much her toil, struggles and sacrifices meant to me. Without a family and no one except granny to call my own, I had never imagined reaching where I had reached and achieving what I had achieved. To convince her to let me study abroad was a gargantuan task in itself, but she had agreed eventually and had extended whole-hearted support. It had been tough though to leave her here. All alone. But it was turning out to be tougher to take her abroad. 
But then I had to give it a try.

Source :

“I am not asking you to live there. We will come back next month. It is only a matter of a month. You will see me convocated and we will tour a few places in Europe. Germany. France. Eiffel Tower, remember? And Italy too.The Leaning Tower of Pisa! It really leans to a side, you know! And there are beautiful cathedrals and so much more that you would love to see. It will be a nice break. "

Granny's eyes were shining. She was feeling proud already. But the doubts lingered inside her.

"Let the butts go into the ashtray. Here is your ticket. We are leaving next Friday."

There went my master stroke. I had carefully chosen the date so she wouldn't have any cause to protest. Only a stubborn unchangeable stance could help me win this battle of negotiation with grandma.

Source :

And so on a sunny Friday morning, I stowed our bags into the cab and waited for grandma to finish staring at the door of our flat.

"It's locked. The lights and gas are off. The maids have been informed. The milkman and the newspaper guy have also been instructed. The neighbors have been told. It's done, granny. Time to leave."
"This is the first time I'm leaving the house for so long." She said, staring wistfully at the boarded doors and windows.
"Oh heavens!" I sighed. "I should have taken you away ages ago!" 
Saying so, I ushered her into the cab.

As the cab zigzagged its way towards the airport, I felt light. Much lighter than I had ever felt on leaving India. Because most of the times, I felt guilt overriding me that perhaps I was selfish to leave granny all alone in that flat. 
But then I had my ambitions. And I know granny wanted the same for me. 
But no such feelings that day. I was feeling happier than ever. I couldn't wait to take her to my university, and sightseeing across Marienplatz and Deutsche museum and maybe Lake Starnbeg where we could do some boating...

"I don't much like these stuck-up air hostesses, acting all polite full of lofty words..."

There went granny and her complaints!
We had barely gone through the security check when granny had come into her element. 
Oh well, it was just the beginning. I was expecting this.

"...and mannerisms like some robots or dolls. No genuine feeling-"
"Namaste!" A woman greeted us as we boarded the flight.

I almost choked with laughter when I saw the surprised expression on granny's face. Despite herself, she smiled at the air hostess. Being an Indian, you can't not smile or return the greeting when someone says ‘namaste’ to you. It’s kind of hard-wired into your being.
Thank you, Lufthansa. I chuckled to myself.

We stowed our handbags in the luggage area and sat. I made granny take the window seat.

“You will see Lotus Temple from above.” I pointed towards the window. That cheered her up considerably.

"2 Veg meals," I answered the air hostess as she asked for our meal preference.
She smiled and went away.

Next time when she came, I was ready. Our tables were down and I had convinced granny that if she didn't like the food, we could send it away and get something else instead.

“What else will they have? Apart from bread and cheese and wine?" she said aloud, rolling her eyes.
I blushed a little, hoping no one would think we are stereotyping Europeans.

"Here," the woman came again and handed us our meals.
"Any drinks? Tea or coffee?"
"One tea, and one orange juice," I told her.

She promptly handed out the drinks, gave us a winning smile and went on ahead.
If granny didn't like the burger, I had decided that I would swap it for some instant noodles. One can't go wrong with noodles, you know.

Before I had finished my thoughts, a delicious scent wafted up. To my utter surprise and delight, I saw granny uncover chapatti, rice with palak paneer and raajma. A tiny curd sat in the corner as well.
Wow. That was decidedly Indian. Since when though, I wondered.

"Indians have gone everywhere, haven't they?"
Granny asked me while mixing the rice and curd together, once she was done with the other dishes.
I chuckled.

“Was the food to your taste, granny?" I asked her after she had finished.
“Not bad,” she said, wiping her mouth neatly with the tissues.
“Well, shouldn’t be since the likes of Kunal Kapoor and Vinod Saini prepared today’s meal.”

I gleefully watched granny’s expression change to astonished admiration as I showed her the facts written in the airline magazine. I had often seen her hunt for Kunal Kapoor’s recipes on Youtube and watch similar cook shows on TV. She definitely held these culinary giants in high regard. After all, they were the pride of the food in Leela Palace. 

The best part was post this incident, granny was all praise. By the time we land, I was sure she will give her best smile to the flight attendants. Because, and I was so happy for it, she was really enjoying the entire experience.

Her fears of everything foreign had thankfully been hugely quelled, thanks to Lufthansa's homely care. Later, as we laid back, granny watching a Bollywood flick on the entertainment TV with earphones plugged in, her expression all serious and her eyes earnest, I couldn't help but feel proud that the airlines and perhaps the world was turning out to be more Indian than I thought.

Dreaming of the impending graduation ceremony and laying my head on granny's shoulders as she flicked back and forth through the various things to watch, I dozed off contentedly. 

The flight had been a good start to our Europe trip. It was then that I decided to write something for Lufthansa Airlines. After all, the airlines managed to cheer my granny up! What could be a bigger achievement? 

As my eyes closed of their own accord, I started dreaming of all the places I would be showing to granny- all the beautiful mountains, lakes, palaces, museums, castles and cathedrals in Europe. Aah...that was a pleasing prospect. Germany, wir kommen!

~This post is part of the #MoreIndianThanYouThink activity by Lufthansa in association with IndiBlogger.~

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