“One more unda (roll of rice) and it will be over”
“But Ammachy, I don’t want to eat it”
“Ok. This unda is a Lion. You need to eat it before it eats you”
Without thinking, I gulped it down.
That was just a glimpse of how my “Nalla Ammachy” (Nice Grandmother) took care of me and my sister while Amma was away at work.
She has been strong woman since she was a child. She was the eldest in her family of seven sisters and two brothers. My great grandfather died when all her siblings were young and she was married to my grandfather. She literally gave all the support to my great grandmother which means helping all her siblings to do their studies, get them jobs and find suitable partners for them.
Hearing all these stories, I wondered how Ammachy managed all of this. I know there was this unseen strength in her and it just got passed down to my Amma and me.
I feel her one of her glory days were when she was taking care of her 2 sons and 2 daughters. The time, she spent with them and my grandfather at Bangalore. Whenever, I heard these stories from Amma, it was quite magical for me to know that Ammachy was a kind, caring and always loving person. These qualities happened to come to me and it resonates with me forever.
It was when my grandfather died that my Ammachy’s world fell apart. Though, three of her children had settled down. She was left with my Amma to take care of. She had no other go, but to move from Bangalore to Trivandrum. My Amma had matured by then and understood what Ammachy was going through. They had to go through all kinds of hardships which was emotionally and financially straining. But, they got by. Ammachy told me that she didn’t even how to open a bank account. She insisted that I learn to open one before it is too late.
It reached a point where Ammachy was able to take care of nephews and nieces when they had come to study in Trivandrum. It’s kind of a joke where all my relatives should be saying Ammachy was running a hostel. She taught them how to be independent and how to embrace life as it comes. At times, parents forget to do that these days.
I feel the only thing she wished was to meet her grandchildren of my eldest uncle. After my uncle had passed away, my aunt refused to make Ammachy meet her dearest grandchildren. It was kind of hurtful when Ammachy was made to wait for an hour when my Aunt refused to open the door to her house.
As always, Ammachy was strong and she didn’t let that affect her. In form of inheritance, I was able to get her gift to love and have a hearty laugh. Like people say, she used to laugh openly with her heart. I learnt from her that life isn’t meant to be taken seriously and that, I should always stand strong in life no matter what happens.
I feel grateful to spend time with her during the last days of her life. I had to study MBA in Trivandrum and it made sense to stay with her. She kept saying that she will toughen me up which my Amma and Amma’s sister Nishamma couldn’t do.
She did that for sure. I was able to do things on my own. Opened a bank account, travel to places, communicate very well etc. I was able to figure out things about myself.
In short, she made me realize that I should be independent and not be dependent on anyone. Also, to be strong and “never give up attitude” which is my core strength.
I was able to incorporate those qualities into my drag character, “Mayamma/Maya the Drag Queen”.
I was sad and heartbroken when Ammachy passed away. Her only request was that I don’t distance myself from family. But, I couldn’t explain to her that I am gay and people in family won’t understand me. I think she had figured me out by then, she knew I could figure things on my own.
For some reason, I feel she is my guardian angel. She is watching my back and smiles whenever I am kind and caring to the other person.
I will keep carrying her motto, “Be kind and have courage” throughout my life.