Balmy and hot, I cannot sleep. The fan creaks as the spokes move in a circular direction, but even after continuous momentum the air is still stagnant. Outside I hear a cacophony of sounds, the horns of taxis and Marutis beeping every two minutes, the hollow high pitched voice of the man selling spintops on the crowded street, and the latest Bollywood songs coming from the rikshas. My thoughts are interrupted by my grandmother, my Nani, who offers me comfort by bringing me three things: a bowl of sitaphul fruit, a single tulsi leaf, and a kiss on my head.
The summer time always stirs memories of my childhood. The months of June through August weren’t spent planning exotic vacations at other locations, but for my parents, it was a chance to go home to India. When my parents migrated to the United States over thirty years ago, they left every single family member behind. And left a large part of their cultural identity in limbo. Even though the distance was daunting, my parents were determined to facilitate a connection between my sister and I and our grandparents. I probably spent a handful of hours with my Nani, but I carry those experiences. Her soothing voice, the smells of her sari, and the softness of her skin still are fresh, even though it has been over twenty years since she has passed. My Nani. My comfort.
* * *
“Nani, Nani, you are so cuddly. I love you so much.” My daughter bellows this across the room. She storms my mother and wraps her in a bear hug. She says, “You are my grandma. Do you know that Nani?” Then she leaves the room, fast, only for a second and rushes again to the same place. “You want to play Memory, Nani?” The game is already set up because she didn’t wait for my Mom’s response. She assumes that she will always play. They play almost five games of Memory and in-between sets, my Mom cuts some strawberries and places them in a white bowl. My daughter talks, laughs, eats the fruit and hugs her Nani again. She fixates on the white skin under my Mom’s arms, fascinated with the jiggle as her finger moves the excess back and forth. “This is so cool Nani.” I don’t think Nani appreciates this humor, but she goes along.
They move to the kitchen and begin making rotis, a popular homemade Indian bread. The rolling pin moves over the dough. My daughter holds up her creation and says, “Is this right, Nani?” With a nod of a head, they both roll their pins in unison while laying out each roti like it is a treasured jewel. “You did a great job.” I hear my Mom say to my daughter. In response, a giggle comes out from her mouth and these words, “This is so much fun. I love you Nani.” Her Nani. Her comfort.
What are some of your fondest memories of your grandmothers? Did they offer you a sense of comfort?